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Summer Conference 2002

Shirley Hoy and James Knight

Session Three – Globalization and Local Autonomy: Why There’s Never Enough Money
FRANCES FRISKEN, Professor Emerita/Senior Scholar, York University (bio)
DR. ANNE GOLDEN, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Conference Board of Canada (bio)
SHIRLEY HOY, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Toronto (bio)
ENID SLACK, President, Enid Slack Consulting Inc. (bio)

JAMES W. KNIGHT, Member, NRTEE’s Urban Sustainability Task Force & CEO, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (bio)

Synopsis by Zaria Shaw

Moderator – James Knight, NRTEE’s Urban Sustainability Task Force & CEO, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

  • Standard of living depends on competitiveness of cities.
  • Canada needs new partnership with private and public sectors, and between different levels of government.
  • Urban regions and government need to address rapid urban growth in an environment of limited resources and often insufficient infrastructure.
  • Municipal governments are overloaded with responsibilities, and so urban growth is prioritized among various other concerns.
  • Municipal leaders can implement policies that realize social and economic benefits and increase public awareness on urban sustainability issues.

First speaker – Dr. Francis Frisken, Professor Emerita/Senior Scholar, York University

  • Urban issues are policy issues.
  • Awareness of globalization and effects on cities is increasingly important.
  • Opportunities for cities need to be created by the residents; ideas need to be generated on a continual basis.
  • There is a difference between cities and city regions, in that city regions are amalgamations of a variety of areas.
  • Money and governance are not the same thing.
  • The argument that globalization has weakened nation states while strengthening the capacity of city regions to enter into national affairs is not strong enough.
  • Local, regional and national development are intertwined, so that a national mandate must first support initiatives taken at the provincial and municipal levels.
  • An emphasis should be placed on the outcomes versus the process of sustainable urban development.
  • Outcomes such as, infrastructure developments for cities, quality of life improvements (garbage collection, air quality, street cleaning and clearing, overall pollution levels, community relations, etc.).
  • Cities cannot achieve these outcomes alone.
  • Competition to make cities better should not increase social disparity and polarization, but seek to harmonize a variety of economic, social and political aims.
  • Local governments should be encouraged to address regional issues in a cooperative and consensus-based manner, for example the Greater Toronto Initiative did not work long term because the leaders did not have enough time to strengthen/ solidify relationships among them, so they viewed each other as competitors.
  • Local government should be given the ability to achieve financial independence – this will not happen if the country as a whole (at the national level) does not make urbanization a key area of concern and delegate real powers to act to the local level.
  • Toronto has the added burden of constant high levels of urbanization which makes change constant and therein the process of adaptation less constant, which in turn makes integration difficult for all people in the city.
  • Bonn, Germany is an example of a city that has had a .2% increase in urbanization over the last 10 years which has facilitated true integration of new people and programs.
  • The rate of urbanization makes a difference.
  • What is the likelihood that municipalities will be given funds with no ‘strings attached’ by the Federal government? Slim – the Federal government seems to want a say in urban development.
  • There is a need to address the potential municipal imbalance and the question of whether or not the provinces should give additional income to municipalities, as to whether or not more taxes should be raised/ put towards strategic urbanization, and how much input the Federal government should have with respect to city planning?

Second speaker – Shirley Hoy, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Toronto

  • Toronto is a case study in urban development.
  • The basic problem is the issue of social, economic and environmental sustainability.
  • Recent statistics illustrate the growing complexities in dealing with the diversity in cities and urban development that effectively accommodates communities.
  • Toronto has an exceptional workforce – strong stock market, profitable industries and a knowledgeable, skilled and entrepreneurial labor force.
  • A strategy for the city has been to develop a plan for regions of the Greater Toronto Area to become truly competitive with Boston, LA, NY, and other model cities.
  • Cultural diversity has developed according to suggestions presented in the 1995 UNSWD in Copenhagen.
  • The aims of the report from this conference also promoted democracy, equity and equality of opportunity for all people living in a city.
  • The main governance issue is to promote, through effective governance, civic participation and responsibility in municipal events.
  • If participation in community development projects is increased, then urbanization will be ameliorated, and its effects tempered.
  • Sustainability and the state of the community finances (e.g. no debt) are two other main issues of urban development.
  • A new way of thinking is required for the further growth of Toronto – thinking that changes the mind set of every level of government.
  • Municipal governments should aim to not only provide services for city consumers, but also to more adequately assess the its role vis-à-vis the health, social welfare, and community needs of the citizens.

Third speaker – Enid Slack, President, Enid Slack Consulting

  • City of Toronto must deal with: fiscal challenges, sustainability issues and powers of various levels of government.
  • In order to be competitive, city needs to attract skilled laborers, good business ventures and pay adequately for these services.
  • Off- loading of services by the Federal government to municipalities to realize local services is imperative.
  • One main problem is that at the same time that there is an increase of the services being offered in the city, there is no corresponding increase, nor diversification of revenue sources.
  • If the Greater Toronto Area attempted more compact development initiatives, the city could save much more money, but the challenge here remains - to accommodate growth while making better use of existing funds.
  • Additional funds could be raised by property taxes, user fees, federal and provincial grants and other miscellaneous municipal grants
  • Property tax is a good way in which to lend autonomy to municipal government.
  • There is a connection between local services and property value, in that the value of one’s property increases when street lights work, when streets are cleared and cleaned, and when garbage is properly and regularly collected.
  • Municipalities must balance budgets, but infrastructure is eroding and investments are not being maintained in terms of capital investments.
  • Cities must be fiscally more sustainable today, but in the future more money must be allocated to municipal governments – what if there is a down turn in the economy?
  • Cities do not have the necessary resources for any economic, social or political upheavals.
  • One solution is to charge service fees for water use and garbage collection – this would not only increase money for redistribution, but would also make consumers more aware of where their money is going, how much each service actually costs, and what they consume on an individual level.
  • If service charges were re-structured and a marginal cost added for real usage distortions among households, municipalities could legitimately justify collection for sustainability objectives.

Fourth speaker – Dr. Anne Golden, President and CEO, Conference Board of Canada

  • A sense of urgency is growing with respect to urban development
  • Now is the time to worry about city development.
  • Connectedness is crucial – Toronto is the second most connected city in the world with respect to information technology, online banking, bandwidth and online government business.
  • In order to achieve this position, Canada has adapted and benefited from technological advancements.
  • Conference Board is bullish with respect to short-term prospects for sustainable urban development, but concerned for the long-term implications of non- sustainable practices.
  • Cities may not do well in the long term because of the rising costs of services and general living expenses.
  • The importance of the human mind as a driver for innovation cannot be understated.
  • To create and use services in the market place in a sustainable manner is crucial - creative aspect and savvy use of these aspects.
  • Innovation in the economy primarily happens in the cities, so it is worthwhile to invest time and money there.
  • The fiscal imbalance over the next 20 years will be a challenge – to balance budgets and decrease debt is first and foremost on the financial agenda.
  • The dynamics of innovation are in: human capital, innovation, quality of life, productivity, wealth and wealth creation.
  • Businesses at all levels of government and the third sector must negotiate a new deal for cities for the sake of the Canadian economy and quality of life to which we are accustomed.
  • A better performance on innovation is Canada’s best strategy for boosting economic productivity and thus the wealth of individuals and the country.
  • Cities are Canada’s new economy, the cradle of innovation and wealth creation.
  • With 80% of Canada’s population Canada needs to look at a range of public policies, health care, education, immigration, and trade and investment, primarily through an urban lens to see how well they are enhancing Canadian quality of life.

Most innovative questions of this session:

  1. Are property taxes regressive?
  2. Are provinces obsolete?

    Answers: Unanimous NO’s to both questions.