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2007 02 08
Toronto Is Important: Conference Board Of Canada

The Conference Board of Canada made some waves in the Canadian economic policy world this week when it released its report on the global competitiveness of Canadian cities. It turns out major cities like Toronto are falling behind in their ability to compete with other major cities. "Mission Possible: Successful Canadian Cites" puts forward the case that the provincial system that equalized representation between rural and urban constituencies is failings us. The system worked 100 years ago but in today's global economy cities are playing a much greater role on the economic prosperity of their host countries.

While not advocating city-states, the report concludes by saying Canada must give "major cities the power and resources they need for success." Anyone who spends time travelling the world for business or pleasure understands how international cities are pouring money into infrastructure in recognition of the growing role those places play in regional economic prosperity. Toronto has suffered -- ask the TTC -- because of our political mandarins have ignored the shift.

Here are some excerpts:
We are becoming less competitive. In just two years, we have slipped from 3rd to 12th place in comparative measurements of macroeconomic and microeconomic performance, according to the results of benchmarking by the Conference Board. Canada lags behind most developed economies in productivity growth. Our resource sectors require significant new strategic investment if they are to meet global competition, and our biggest cities are starved for investment in comparison with global cities elsewhere. In vital sectors of our economy, we are not keeping up with our competitors.
The Conference Board makes clear in this report that strategic investment in our major cities is urgent. Nowhere is the gap between Canada as a global society and our political, fiscal and regulatory architectures more apparent than in our largest cities. Canada, like other societies, has transformed itself from a rural to an overwhelmingly urban society, but we are living with architecture built for our earlier rural past—an architecture that fits badly with the new urban Canada. Urbanization is likely to accelerate. Immigrants who bring valuable skills with them and compensate—at least in part—for our aging population, generally settle in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Yet these cities have little voice in settlement policy or immigration policy. Indeed, Canada’s cities are not officially recognized in federal–provincial discussions and are considered creatures of the provinces. This may have made sense a hundred years ago, but it makes absolutely no sense today. Not only do cities have no official representation, they have no access to taxes that grow as the economy grows. Less than 12 per cent of total government revenues goes to municipalities.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 02/08 at 01:46 PM

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