Politics, coming to a city near you

David Seymour
June 19, 2013
Politics, coming to a city near you...

Politics, coming to a city near you

David Seymour
June 19, 2013
Politics, coming to a city near you...
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

In 1800, 95 per cent of the U.S. workforce was engaged in agriculture. That figure plummeted to 40 per cent by 1900, and it sits at around 2 per cent today. The figures for Canada are similar, and the parallel emptying of rural areas is palpable. Fly over Saskatchewan and the thought of every 640-acre section being occupied by four prolific families on their 160-acre quarters seems as remote as those sections.

But Canada was like that for some time after its constitutional arrangements were put in place. Canada did not reach 50 per cent urbanization until 1921. Giving municipalities a single terse line in the Constitution Act, 1867 probably did not provoke much thought. Since then, political reality has left constitutional geography behind. The mayors of Toronto and Montreal preside over constituencies greater than those of all but four premiers. Culture and politics are overwhelmingly urban, and those of us who like open markets, free societies and limited government find the battle shifting from the field to the street.

Arguably, municipal decisions on infrastructure and land use have a greater effect on everyday life than those made at the federal and provincial levels.
This edition of C2C interviews market-oriented urban expert Joel Kotkin of NewGeography about his long-running battle with urbanista Richard Florida of The Rise of the Creative Class fame. Steve Lafleur meditates on the reportedly dying relationship between Millennials and the car, concluding that, if anything, government intervention is retarding this trend.

Urban consultant Richard White argues that recreation is the new religion, with stadium domes replacing cathedral spires and personal trainers replacing pastors.
MP and former Penticton city councillor Dan Albas tells war stories about reining in the haphazard spending habits of a wayward city council.

Brianna Heinrichs tackles the fashionable trend of public consultation at City Hall.

One-time Montreal resident Olivier Ballou rounds out the edition, reviewing a newly published (April 2013) history of the city that, like Montreal itself, fails to grasp the importance of markets and commerce.

If Canada were established today, its constitutional arrangements might be somewhat closer to what certain big-city mayors advocate: Cities hold the whip hand on revenue sources and regulatory decisions, and provinces govern the spaces in between. In theory, world of greater subsidiarity, where decision-making is closer to the people and more jurisdictions are competing for taxpayers and capital, would be a boon for a free society.

Persuading other levels of government to abandon power, though, is much harder than persuading municipal politicians to take it. Moreover, because cities have been so neglected by market-oriented politicos, no level of government is less ready to take on more responsibility, with ownership, spending and regulation by city councils being woefully unrestrained and arbitrary.

Canada is far closer to its sesquicentennial than to its founding, and there will be no such constitutional shift. Nevertheless, the role of municipal government will continue to be one of the big stories in 21st century politics.


David Seymour

Love C2C Journal? Here's how you can help us grow.

More for you

The First-Past-the-Post Way of Voting is Better-than-the-Rest

To hear proponents tell it, proportional representation is the cure for all that ails Canadian democracy. It’s fairer, less divisive, more diverse, makes voters happier and is less prone to “strategic” voting. About the only thing it apparently can’t do is make childbirth painless. But could replacing our traditional first-past-the-post voting system really improve how Canada is governed – and how Canadians feel about their government? In his grand-prize-winning entry to the 1st Annual Patricia Trottier and Gwyn Morgan Student Essay Contest, Nolan Albert weighs the arguments for and against replacing first-past-the-post with proportional representation, and in doing so uncovers the real cause of voter dissatisfaction.

The Runaway Costs of Government Construction Projects

Ottawa’s post-pandemic $300 billion spending orgy was coupled with the pompous claim to “Build Back Better”. As it happened, most of that spending was recklessly borrowed – stoking inflation – while Build Back Better was a dud, was discarded in embarrassment and, if recalled at all today, is told as a sick joke. Far too many planned projects now sink into a quicksand of political haggling, regulatory overkill, mission creep, design complexity and, if built at all, bungled execution. Looking at specific examples, Gwyn Morgan presents the lamentable results: far less is actually getting built across Canada, nearly everything takes forever and – worst of all – costs routinely soar to ludicrous levels. Added to that, Morgan notes, are woke-based criteria being imposed by the Trudeau government that are worsening the vicious cycle.

More from this author

The (phony?) generation wars

The past few years have seen a flurry of commentary about intergenerational fairness. There are substantial underlying issues that have led to this, perhaps best


What is it about rank-ordered lists that capture our attention? We appear helpless before the Siren call of any list promising the “greatest”, the “biggest” or “the best.” Given Canada’s urban nature, it is unsurprising that Maclean’s magazine – famous for its ranking of Canada’s universities – just days ago released its list of the “Best Communities in Canada 2019”. It’s good fun ridiculing this list’s absurdity for, as everyone knows, Toronto is hands-down the “best community.” In this interview/essay, David Seymour looks at two prominent urbanists – Richard Florida and Joel Kotkin – and examines their competing visions for what, ideally, makes for a prosperous and flourishing city.

Share This Story


Subscribe to the C2C Weekly
It's Free!

* indicates required
By providing your email you consent to receive news and updates from C2C Journal. You may unsubscribe at any time.