Open letter to the leadership of Canada’s Federal political parties

March 31, 2011

Open letter to the leadership of Canada’s Federal political parties:

A federal election has been called, and all Canadians are discussing critical issues regarding the future of our country. The Council for Canadian Urbanism (or CanU) is very pleased to contribute to this national discussion, and submits this 10 point “call-to-action” to the major Federal political parties for consideration in your evolving platforms during this election.

Canada is an increasingly urban country. Over 80% of Canadians live and work in urban settings, and expect the major political parties to address the pressing needs of Canadian cities in their platforms. CanU and our many partner organizations across Canada, understand well the critical role our cities and urban areas must play in addressing many of the country’s largest challenges. These include challenges involving economic resiliency, climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy security and self-sufficiency, traffic congestion with few alternatives to driving, changing national demographics, and the growing costs of health care and preventable health issues. Well planned, designed and funded cities and communities are increasingly seen as the “convenient solution” to a convergence of national issues. In order for our cities to be able to meet these challenges, they require new support and tools from the Federal Government. Investing in healthy sustainable cities and regions will deliver a strong and resilient future for Canada, while keeping us globally competitive.

Given the above, the Council for Canadian Urbanism calls for the following:

  1. A progressive and influential National Urban Policy, that recognizes the critical role of the success of cities in Canada’s future.
  2. A National Housing Policy that addresses the acute and growing need for affordable housing.
  3. A National Transportation Policy that particularly addresses the need to expand active, cost-effective and sustainable forms of transportation, such as transit, rail, walking, and biking.
  4. Effective Federal programs that will make us a world leader in combating climate change. There is a need to align the above three national policies in achieving this goal.
  5. A national dialogue involving the Federal Government, Provinces and Cities on the development of new sustainable, long-term funding and legislative tools for urban resiliency and success.
  6. Future Federal funding and stimulus programs focused on spending that supports urban resiliency and “smart growth” (i.e. complete and compact communities, expanded transit and rail, renewing aging urban infrastructure, enhancing cultural and civic amenities, etc), rather than on “shovel-ready projects”. A corresponding de-prioritization of, or halt to, stimulus funding that promotes auto-dependency and urban sprawl.
  7. Tax reforms that support full-cost accounting of housing choices (which would reveal the well-researched and well-understood economic advantages of compact, walkable communities and sustainable transportation modes that require less infrastructure and lower public expense).
  8. Federal tax incentives to promote the construction of purpose-built rental housing.
  9. Reinstatement of the long-form census to enable reliable planning to better understand, and meet, future needs.
  10. Electoral district reform that addresses democratic and fair representation of the population in urban areas, and recognizes the increasing urbanization of Canada.

These 10 points in the call-to-action are highly interconnected, and thus require a highly integrated approach.

We urge all federal parties to address these calls in their platforms, discuss and debate these issues during their campaigns, and work to address these critical needs in their future work. We respectfully request a response to these calls from each party, and we commit to sharing such responses with our membership across Canada, as well as with our many partner organizations across the country. CanU intends to be part of the national dialogue during this election, promoting and advocating issues of importance to the success of Canadian cities. We would be pleased to discuss these calls with any and all parties, lending our nation-wide expertise on urban and community issues, while again stressing our non-partisan status.

The Council for Canadian Urbanism (CanU) is a national non-profit, non-partisan, information and advocacy group incorporated in 2009, made up of many of Canada’s leading urban experts, from the fields of city planning, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, land development and related disciplines. Our National Board of Directors is comprised of key public, private and academic sector leaders from major cities across Canada. CanU’s role is to actively promote more resilient, sustainable, economically vibrant and healthy Canadian cities and urban areas, and to strengthen the role and ability of cities to address Canada’s critical urban challenges.

With deepest respect to those who seek to serve the public through the democratic process;

The Board of Directors, Council for Canadian Urbanism

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