Making the Case for Regionalism
Canadian cities face a growing list of challenges: lack of affordable housing, the need for more transit, aging infrastructure, the impact of climate change, income inequality, and more. These challenges all cross municipal boundaries and thus need to be addressed on a broader, regional basis. As municipal governments contend with the ongoing recovery, rising inflation, and mounting fiscal pressure, what coordinated actions can be taken at a regional level to build more equitable, economically competitive, and livable regions for Canadians?
On January 17, 2023, Don Iveson, former Mayor of Edmonton and Chair of Canada’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus, made the case for regionalism. He talked about the need for coordinating structures, tools, and resources that cities can use to act regionally, compete with other global city-regions, and improve the social and economic outcomes of residents.
Don was joined by two academics – Jen Nelles from the Oxford Brooks Business School and Zack Taylor from Western University – who discussed ideas around regional coordination, provided case studies from other global city-regions, and highlighted some of the findings from their research.
Don Iveson served as Mayor of the City of Edmonton from 2013 to 2021 and chair of Canada’s Big City Mayors from 2016-2021, and has come on board as the first Canadian Urban Leader at the School of Cities. Don worked to drive a ‘metropolitan mindset’ in the regional land use and growth plans at the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board, and through the creation of Edmonton Global – a collaborative organization bringing together 14 municipalities in an effort to promote the economic growth of the region. He currently works part-time with Co-operators Insurance on climate change adaptation finance and co-chairs the board of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Don served as an Honorary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and implemented the first trauma-informed all-staff Indigenous awareness and reconciliation training program at a major Canadian city.
Jen Nelles is a Senior Research Fellow with the Innovation Caucus and co-director of the Oxford Regions, Innovation, and Enterprise Lab (ORIEL) at Oxford Brookes Business School. She is also a Visiting Research Professor with the Networks and Governance Lab at the University of Illinois Chicago. She specializes in the areas of innovation and productivity policy, urban and metropolitan governance, regional economic development, infrastructure, and system dynamics. Her work on cities and metropolitan areas focuses on regional governance organizations and their abilities to coordinate policy across jurisdictional boundaries. Her recent book, Discovering American Regionalism: An Introduction to Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (co-authored with David Miller, Routledge 2019) highlights the multitude of multi-functional regional organizations that bring together local governments to solve regional issues. Her forthcoming book – Mobilizing the Metropolis: How the Port Authority Built New York (co-authored with Phil Plotch, University of Michigan Press 2023) – profiles the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to understand how entrepreneurial intergovernmental organizations succeed and fail in fragmented political environments and emphasizes the importance of collaboration in achieving regional aims even when organizations are institutionally powerful.
Zack Taylor is Associate Professor of Political Science at Western University, where he teaches and researches on urban politics and local governance, with a particular focus on the governance of urban regions. He also pursues parallel interests in municipal campaigns and elections, local public finance, and political geography. Professor Taylor was the founding director of Western’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance. He is a Fellow at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and a non-practicing Registered Professional Planner. His book Shaping the Metropolis, which compares the historical development of metropolitan governance in Canada and the United States, was published in 2019. He is also co-editor of the journal Territory, Politics, Governance.
Karen Chapple, Ph.D., is the Director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, where she also serves as Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning. She is Professor Emerita of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as department chair and held the Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies. Chapple studies inequalities in the planning, development, and governance of regions in the U.S. and Latin America, with a focus on economic development and housing. Her most recent book is Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities (with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, 2019).