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Planning for an Urban Future: Calling for a National Urban Strategy in Canada

Canada typically supports city-regions in a piece-meal fashion, but support should be geared towards national goals rather than individual projects.

Vancouver’s skyline as seen from the waterfront.


Cities tend to be limited in their power, largely due to the lack of authority given to them within Canadian federalism. As a result, they are often reliant on financial support from the federal government.  

However, the federal government typically supports city regions in an improvised and piecemeal fashion. Most federal resources earmarked for urban challenges are invested through top-down programs which must be applied for and approved on a project-by-project basis. 

This approach creates a system which prioritizes busywork, such as announcements and processes, over deliverables and capacity management. This dysfunction harms cities and makes it difficult for them to secure resources that are appropriate for their challenges. In contrast, governments in East Asia and Europe take a bottom-up approach to federal funding that is more responsive to cities’ actual needs. 

A better system could be created if city-regions developed long-term plans for their urban and social infrastructure, which could then guide federal investment in conjunction with national objectives. This shift would create a more regionally-sensitive use of resources and more specific goals and outcomes. 

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Vancouver’s skyline as seen from the waterfront.

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