Canadian cities frequently appear in the top positions in global rankings for the cities with the best quality of life, and they are equally challenging in terms of vibrancy, enterpreneurial spirit and creative and civic culture. Yet, there is no guarantee that this will last. In an age where the urban environment changes very fast, canadian cities face the challenges of managing growth, improving livability, becoming more sustainable and making city living more affordable.
The cost of maintaining this high standard in canadian cities is by itself staggering: $123 billion per year for fixing worn-out infrastructure. In order to face new issues, like rapid growth, carbon pollution and an aging population, new solutions are required.
Yet Canada doesn’t seem up for the challenge. The relationship between the cities and the provincial and federal governments still follows an outdated model that has been virtually static since 1867. Despite being one of the more urbanized countries in the world, Canada’s cities receive a lower share of tax revenues than those in nearly every developed country. This problems slows down the growth and evolution of Canada’s urban centres into the smart cities of the future. Canada can only prosper when its cities thrive. A modern partnership with provincial and federal governments is needed to achieve this.
The growth of cities is an aim that does not necessarily require large expenditure from the cities and governments. A number of smart solutions that can produce a beneficial effect without imposing a large burden upon taxpayers. Housing is a perfect example of this. Due to the extremely low vacancy rates, the cost of rentals and real estate is pushed up, making it nearly impossible to find an affordable home at most cities. A number of low-cost high-leverage solutions are proposed to support rental housing and create new jobs, such as: Injecting recoverable funds into the construction sector by underwriting low-interest loans to finance new rental construction. Reforming the tax system to encourage owners to renovate and renew rental properties. Providing support for landlords to retrofit homes and make them energy-efficient.
In a similar manner, best practices from around the world can offer sound approaches and affordable solutions in other issues as well, in order to prepare Canada’s cities to embrace the future, through the sound and mutually beneficial cooperation between the cities and their provincial and federal partners.
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