Marco Campana

Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.
Sep 24 2013

jazzplayerMusic is a great cultural adhesive that brings diverse communities together. Attend a local music festival, and in many cases the audience reflects the rich diversity that makes up your local community. The love of jazz, in particular, is shared across many different cultures and countries.

No other form of music has generated such a variety of subgenres, influenced and adapted by a variety of communities creating many distinctive styles. From New Orleans Dixieland, big band style and swing to a variety of Latin, Afro-Cuban, jazz fusion and acid jazz, further influenced by funk and hip hop, the popularity and creativity of jazz has spread throughout the world. There is no better place to celebrate the diversity of jazz than right here in Toronto.

Starting next month, JAZZ.FM91 takes you on a cultural journey, with Toronto at its centre, profiling seven jazz musicians from around the world who decided to make Canada their home.

In its Identities: The Documentary Series, a project supported by Maytree, the musicians talk about starting over in a new place, about deciding what part of their past to keep and what part to let go, and about using their talent to create a new community. But most of all, they talk about how they influenced and were influenced by the music that existed in their new home.

Robi Botos is one of the musicians being profiled. Jazz lovers know him as one of the finest jazz pianists in Canada.

But it almost didn’t happen.

Botos brought his family to Canada in 1998 to escape the harsh realities that Roma suffer in Hungary – only to be threatened to be deported. Following wide-spread protests from fellow musicians and the intervention of one of Canada’s most high-profile immigration lawyers, Botos and his family were allowed to stay. Today he continues to produce music, winning several prestigious international piano awards over the last few years.

Listen to his story and six other one-hour documentaries running as part of JAZZ.FM91’s “Documentary Sundays” at 4:00 pm on the following dates:

Sunday, October 6, Robi Botos
Sunday, October 13, Sophie Milman
Sunday, October 20, Qiu Xia He
Sunday, October 27, Waleed Abdulhamid
Sunday, November 3, Anwar Khurshid
Sunday, November 10, Roberto Lopez / Ivan Tucakov

Tune in to Identities: The Documentary Series for some compelling stories, and some fantastic music. Experience a different side to the story of Canadian jazz.

Aug 16 2013

If you’re subscribed to many email lists, you’ve probably already received a message like this multiple times (sorry if you’ve heard this before).

We thought we’d give you a heads-up if you haven’t already heard (and if you send email newsletters out, you’ll want to think about creating a message like this to send to your subscribers).

Gmail has made some changes in your inbox, creating tabs like Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, even Forums. They look like this:



Here’s Google’s overview of the changes:

The idea is to declutter your Primary inbox so you get the most important emails without having to filter through other messages. But some marketers and nonprofits are very concerned about their emails not getting to you since their messages will generally show up in the Promotions tab.

Since you may well consider our newsletters, and those of other nonprofits, as important emails, you can do two things:

  1. Make sure you check the Promotions tab when it shows that you have new messages, since that’s where our newsletter will likely appear.
  2. Move a message from one tab to another and tell Gmail to always put messages from that sender there.

Google describes option 2:

If you see a message in your inbox that you want in a different tab, all you have to do is drag and drop it into the other tab. Another way to do this is to right-click a message while viewing your inbox.

After you move a message to a different tab, a message above your inbox will ask if you want to undo that action or choose to always put messages from that sender in the tab you chose.

So, in the case of our newsletters, if you want them to show up right away in your inbox, drag and drop or right-click to move it to your Primary tab. Then click yes to always put messages from us in your Primary tab.

Our newsletters will then be delivered directly to your Primary inbox.

Here’s a bit more background from Google about the tabs and labels.

Here’s a longer overview of what it’s all about and how to move a message/list to your Primary tab:

Thanks, and, oh, don’t forget to subscribe to the Maytree newsletter!

Apr 04 2013

For the last 20 years, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy has played an essential role as an independent and critical voice, providing rich, evidence-based research and analysis to inform public opinion and policy. Its recent 20th anniversary celebration presented a look back, with a look forward, at Canadian public policy.

Caledon’s three principle policy consultants – Ken Battle, Michael Mendelson, and Sherri Torjman – presented a look back, with a look forward, at Canadian public policy. Speakers also included Caledon’s founder Alan Broadbent and Environics President Michael Adams. A wrap-up address by Caledon Board member Tom Barber ended the day.

Videos of these powerful presentations are now available below.

Alan Broadbent: Welcome and Introduction


Ken Battle: Architecture of Federal Income Security in Canada, with a commentary by Ken Jackson


Sherri Torjman: Social Policy Challenges for Canada, with a commentary by André Picard


Michael Mendelson: Is Canada (Still) a Fiscal Union? With a commentary by Richard Simeon


Michael Adams: Datacide: Policy in the Dark


Tom Barber: Wrap-Up


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Mar 22 2013

The Bottom Line—Spur’s Toronto editionDiaspora Dialogues has launched Spur, Canada’s first national festival of politics, art and ideas. The festival is designed to engage Canadians in a feisty, cross-country search for ways forward on pressing issues.

In the first year, the festival will include Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver with more editions rolling out in 2014.

Spur Toronto runs from April 11 to 14:

“Now that the economy has become a water-cooler subject, The Bottom Line – Spur’s Toronto edition – looks at the intersection of money, politics, art and ideas, and asks how we might reimagine their connections in our society.

Spur Toronto’s eclectic mix ranges from panel discussions with The New Yorker senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg on vested interests in politics to politically hot theatre with playwrights Hannah Moscovitch, Michael Healey and Guillermo Verdecchia; debates from political operatives Chima Nkemdirim, Jaime Watt and David Herle on electoral alchemy to breakfast with first-time author Ayelet Tsabari with her brilliant short fiction collection and Ins Choi’s (Kim’s Convenience) brand new theatrical walking piece. There will be discussions, town halls, readings, performances, walking tours and funky late-night music at the Pilot Tavern to tempt you – and much more.”

Book early so you won’t miss out! Tickets can be purchased on the Spur site. Festival passes get you in to all events, as well as a private reception.

Visit Spur Toronto for the complete lineup of sessions and presenters.

Here are a few sessions we think might be of interest to our community:

The Yes Lab (April 12)

Calling all political artists! Hosted by Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men, The Yes Lab is a three-hour workshop designed to generate ideas and get groups of people thinking creatively. Social justice organizations can take advantage of all the Yes Men have learned, including how to use humour to open minds and share ideas, figure out which culture-jamming activities are effective, understand “laughtivism” and collectively brainstorm potential project ideas.

Political Advertising: Electoral Alchemy (April 13)

Political messaging has become increasingly refined and tightly targeted. But do the subtle arts of political communication actually serve democracy, or seduce voters into abandoning rational or practical choices? A panel of distinguished political strategists, consultants and advisors discuss their personal favourite pieces of political storytelling and the quantifiable impact and ethics of artful spin.

Strictly Canadian = Doomed to Fail? (April 13)

In a town-hall- style forum that bridges the blogosphere and conventional media, Spur challenges journalists across genres to debate whether labelling something as “Canadian” builds our society or dooms our cultural industries to failure. Be part of the debate: join a local columnist and some of the city’s most-followed culture bloggers in an energetic conversation.

Who Should Own an Idea? (April 13)

Canada invests significant amounts of public money in the arts and sciences through institutions such as hospitals or universities or through extensive grant programs. Who benefits from the commercialization of ideas generated from all that activity – and who should?

The Theatre of Politics (April 14)

Playwrights – like politicians – have powerful roles in society, shaping and reflecting back to us relevant social issues and crafting persuasive stories in ways that may move us into action or news ways of thinking long after we turn from the stage. But is some content too hot to handle? Join Canada’s top political playwrights as they discuss the intersection of politics and theatre.

Vested Interests in Politics (April 14)

Do people with money have an undue influence on our political system? Well-informed panelists bring their expertise and experience to discuss comparative models of political campaign financing in Canada and the United States.

Join Diaspora Dialogues for what promises to be a fun, informative, irreverent series of presentations and discussions.

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Feb 08 2013

walkingcities(with notes from Bonnie Mah)

We know that immigrants overwhelmingly choose to settle in cities and metropolitan areas. This is confirmed by the latest Statistics Canada numbers. Between July 2011 and 2012, census metropolitan areas (CMA) received 92% of immigrants to Canada.

The numbers also tell of a different trend. While Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver MTV continue to be the main magnets for immigrants (in 2011-2012, approximately 60% of all immigrants to Canada settled in one of these CMAs), immigration has become increasingly important for smaller cities. Yes, the number of immigrants settling in smaller cities is still relatively small, but the proportion of immigrants going to smaller cities has increased from 5% in 2001-2002 to 8% in 2011-2012.

This trend towards smaller cities is even more prevalent in many small CMAs in western Canada and the prairies (e.g.Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton) which are attracting a large proportion of immigrants. In fact, between 2001-2002 and 2011-2012, the share of immigrants settling in these five CMAs nearly tripled, from 7% to 20%.

This trend to smaller cities isn’t entirely surprising. We’ve seen reports about immigrants moving out of Toronto, for example, to smaller centres.

Not all regions are experiencing the same trend. Economic regions in Western Canada (especially Alberta and Saskatchewan) are experiencing the highest population growth, while Atlantic Canada recorded the lowest growth. According to the latest numbers, immigration is the main driver of population growth in more than one-third of economic regions – e.g. Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto, Saskatoon-Biggar, Regina-Moose Mountain, Vancouver, and Halifax.

What does this mean for cities?

This confirms that cities are critical integration actors. It means that all cities, small and large, need to take a look at how they attract, welcome and include newcomers. In Ontario, small and large municipalities have been creating immigration portals to ensure that newcomers find, choose and stay in their cities.

Municipal_Report_Main_Report_coverCities of all sizes need to understand the importance of attracting, welcoming and have immigrants grow roots in their communities. And we can help.

Our Cities of Migration site focuses on sharing good ideas about integrating immigrants in cities. We’ve just completed a series of publications, Good Ideas from Successful Cities: Municipal Leadership in Immigrant Integration, that all cities should read.

The series highlights more than 70 promising practices from cities in Europe, North America,Australia and New Zealand. Some of the featured cities are old hands at integration – such as Toronto, London, and New York. Others you may find more surprising – such as Newport News, Richmond Hill, Valongo. The final publication applies a policy lens, looking at what good practices can tell us about the role of local governments in immigrant integration. Four international experts have contributed analysis and policy insights on the range of municipal levers available to promote both immigrants and city success.

It’s also practical. We’ve made specific recommendations for local governments and community partners. We think you’ll find them useful.


Statistics Canada glossary notes:

What is a CMA? A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core. Slightly more than two-thirds of the Canadian population live in CMAs.

What is an economic region? An economic region is a group of census divisions (counties and their equivalents) that are grouped together to analyze their regional economic activity.

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Jan 15 2013

Recently, Maytree was honoured with an Excellence in Community Service Award from the Intercultural Dialogue Institute of Toronto. In his acceptance speech, Alan Broadbent reflected on Maytree’s mission and what our priorities continue to be.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing some additional posts reflecting on our work in 2012, as well as our priorities for 2013. For now, please read Alan’s remarks on why we do what we do at Maytree.

AlanBroadbentFor our 30+ year history, Maytree has worked on issues of equity and equality, focusing on bringing people in from the margins of society to the centre. Through the creation of The Caledon Institute of Social Policy twenty years ago, and the Tamarack Institute ten years ago, Maytree has worked through policy and practice to reduce the terrible burdens of poverty for Canadians.

And through Maytree’s own work, we have focused on the immigrant and refugee communities in Canada to accelerate their settlement and inclusion in the life of our country. Through our work in developing leadership in new Canadians, in effectively connecting immigrants to the labour market, and in helping society develop its skills in including newcomers, we have sought to collapse traditional timeframes to create success for everyone sooner.

We can be proud that Canada has done a very good job for over a century in developing the instruments and investments to welcome and include immigrants and refugees. As we travel internationally, we are consistently told that Canada has created a model for the world.

From our work at Maytree, we believe this to be true, but we also know that there is always room for improvement. In the process of building a great nation, there is no room for complacency.

Nor is there room for attempts to rewrite history as many in Canada do when discussing immigration. To characterize our immigration practice as a failure, as turning a blind eye to terrorists, as being unconnected to the labour market, or as being replete with bogus claims and fraudsters, is an attempt to rewrite history. Such claims may make interesting political tactics or sell some media, but they ignore our comparative success among nations. Worse, they divert us from the steady improvement of our practice, from the regular maintenance and improvement that anything worthwhile requires.

Immigrants and refugees have proven to be one of Canada’s great strengths. As we sit tonight in the middle of Toronto, which has risen in the last quarter century to be consistently ranked among the world’s great cities, we realize that much of this has been driven by immigrants, and by our region’s ability to embrace them, to change as needed to make them succeed, and to play host to the millions of daily interactions across religion, culture, and language that are so commonplace they go almost unnoticed.

We are grateful for this recognition of our work. We salute IDI Toronto for the power of its work and the example it sets.

Thank you.

IDI Toronto created this great video celebrating Maytree, enjoy:

View more of the IDI Toronto annual Dialogue and Friendship dinner.


Nov 02 2012

For the last 20 years, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy has played an essential role as an independent and critical voice, providing rich, evidence-based research and analysis to inform public opinion and policy. At its recent 20th anniversary celebration, Caledon’s three principle policy consultants – Ken Battle, Michael Mendelson, and Sherri Torjman – presented a look back, with a look forward, at Canadian public policy.

Here are their presentations:

Architecture of Federal Income Security in Canada
By Ken Battle

Ken BattleA brand new study from the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, The Impact of Redistribution on Income Inequality in Canada and the Provinces, 1981-2010 (PDF), written by our colleague Andrew Sharpe and his associate Evan Capeluck, has arrived just in time for Caledon’s 20th anniversary event. It adds valuable evidence on the redistributive role of the Canadian state – which is the topic of my talk today.

Contrary to what many people believe, government – by means of income taxes and transfers – significantly reduces market income inequality. At last count, 2010, taxes and transfers reduced market inequality by close to one quarter (by 23.7 percent), mostly (70.7 percent) as a result of income security programs, with 29.3 percent due to income taxes. Looking over the long term, from 1981 to 2010, government has made a significant difference, offsetting rising market income inequality by 44 percent.

But Canada could do a lot better.

Read Ken’s complete remarks (PDF).

Disability and the Aging Society: Social Policy Challenges for Canada
By Sherri Torjman

Sherri TorjmanOver the past two decades, Caledon has focused on several aspects of disability including poverty, disability supports and participation in society. Our work will continue to address those issues. We have broadened our scope in recent years to include some distinct, but related, issues around an aging population.

I will discuss disability and the aging society separately. While these areas are linked, they are clearly distinct. The disability community has always warned against confounding disability issues with seniors’ concerns. But there are a few crossover points, especially with respect to community supports.

Read Sherri’s complete remarks (PDF).

Is Canada (still) a fiscal union?
By Michael Mendelson

Michael MendelsonIf the economic commentators are to be believed there is at least one lesson from the never-ending Euro crisis: monetary union without fiscal union is unsustainable. Canada is a monetary union, but are we still a practicing fiscal union? Or has our fiscal union become so weakened that we are now more like the Euro-zone: ten more or less sovereign provinces tied together in a monetary union without effective programs to compensate adequately for fiscal imbalance between the provinces?

Canada is among the most decentralized federations in the developed world. Unlike most federations, our provinces are sovereign in their own areas of jurisdiction, meaning that the federal government cannot override provincial laws. Perhaps more importantly, the provinces also have sovereign taxing power and the ability to tap all significant tax sources. The original Constitution, the British North America Act, intended to give the federal government fiscal supremacy by according it the sole right to levy indirect taxes – mainly customs duties, which at the time were the overwhelming source of government revenue. But things did not turn  out as planned. Custom duties have become trivial in the modern world. In contrast, provinces have sole access to most revenue derived from selling the rights to exploit natural resources. Natural resources have turned into such a significant source of revenue that provinces in aggregate likely now have greater fiscal capacity than the federal government. But provincial resource revenue is extremely unevenly distributed. This uneven distribution of a major source of revenue compounds already unequal economic levels among the provinces, making it doubly difficult for the federal government to address fiscal imbalances – even if it had the will to do so.

Read Michael’s complete remarks (PDF).


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Oct 31 2012

In early October, Toronto Community Foundation (TCF) released its yearly Vital Signs report. It provides a great snapshot of how our city is doing in a number of important measures of city livability.

How are we doing?

The answer from TCF’s President and CEO, Rahul K. Bhardwaj, is: not too bad. But, those living the most precariously among us are not faring well. There is still much to do to make our city a better place to live for all of us.

As TCF’s message states: “Knowing what we know, we must plan for what’s coming. We would be wise to reject simplistic solutions and short term fixes for our complex problems, and trade in short-term spending for long-term investment. We must move beyond old patterns and embrace new voices and new approaches for the challenges ahead. We have what it takes to be so much more than a city that is just ‘not too bad.’”

You can, of course, interpret the data for yourself. And you should.

View highlights of Rahul’s speech:

What is to be done?

Rahul K. BhardwajToronto’s low income neighbourhoods have increased, and we are experiencing a disappearing middle class and unbelievable inequality in the city. We’re looking at a city that has 43%, or 1 million people, living in low or very low income neighbourhoods. Two-thirds of them are visible minorities.

Rahul suggested that we need to change our idea of what success looks like.

Given that we’re not moving forward on issues of economic inequality, TCF is advocating we change our definitions of success. At the report release, Rahul suggested that we need to replace GDP as our only measure of success, and include livability and happiness indices. While economic progress is critical to alleviate poverty, he suggested that solely focusing on GDP is not helpful.

Using a predominantly economic lens hasn’t brought us happiness and equality. We need new models. We need a balance and need to move from a paradigm of “winner take all” to one that recognizes “we’re all in this together.”

Rahul recommended that we look at the idea of creating a livable city and borrow the model used in the World Happiness Report.

While we have much work to do, we also have much to celebrate and share with others. According to Rahul: “We’re at a turning point in history when many cities of the world are turning to us to provide the example of how they can become more livable. Now that the world is taking notice, I believe we’ve got an obligation to show them not only what we stand for, but what we are prepared to stand up for.”

Building a happy Toronto means a city that moves, works and lives


  • Focus on transit and infrastructure, commuting and moving goods and services.
  • We are moving others by our example – visiting experts want to know how we do it (we’re a “petri dish” for diversity).


  • Our productivity measures are positive, let’s also look an ingenuity.
  • We need to work well and collaborate with each other. MaRS and Regent Park are emerging examples.


  • We need to be committed to sustainability. The city has made environmental progress with green jobs, eco schools, etc. – we can’t let up.
  • Having fun is important, with cultural events, parks, recreation, arts, etc.

We have to move quickly on our challenges, focused on the long-term. Too many are not sharing in Toronto’s prosperity. Too many of them are racialized and newcomers.

According to Rahul, we have the tools, talent and traits to be a top city. We need to adopt a new attitude towards each other and the city. And he left us with a to-do list. One that Maytree is already hard at work on:

What do you think? Do these ideas about how we measure our prosperity make sense to you?

Rahul expanded on his ideas at the recent Yonge Talks panel:


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Sep 10 2012

What are the key issues facing the vitality of the voluntary sector in Canada?

If asked you would undoubtedly have strong opinions. If you asked others, you’d get a diversity of opinions, insights and ideas. If you were looking for evidence-based research to help your answer, you could probably rhyme off a few think-tanks, academics and websites where you know you could find some of that information. But you’d likely find as much diversity there as you did when you asked your peers. Could you find the definitive source? Or are we missing something?

Enter the Mowat Centre’s Not-for-profit Research Hub. This hub was recently established to provide evidence-based research and analysis on structural, foundational, and systemic issues facing the voluntary sector in Canada. Working with strategic partners like the Ontario Nonprofit Network, it will be looking for solutions to the issues and challenges that impact our sector

Elizabeth McIsaacI spoke with Elizabeth McIsaac, Executive Researcher at Mowat, to find out more about the project, what its goals are, and how we can participate.

According to Elizabeth: “We’re going to be looking at the critical issues that are impacting the not-for-profit sector and crafting a research agenda to look at evidence-based research to support a stronger, more vital sector. In plain language, this means we’re going to look at questions like: how can we better understand the sector’s economic and social impact? What are the financial tools and strategies that will make the sector stronger? How can the sector become a stronger voice in shaping policy? What are the new approaches, and innovations to solving common challenges facing the sector? And how can we document and understand these ideas and trends and get that information back out into the sector?”

Mowat has been talking to a variety of voluntary sector representatives. As a first step, it is conducting an environmental scan of current nonprofit sector research, including academic and community-based research. This will become a baseline and a place for it to understand where its research can add value. Mowat is looking at our sector in its broadest definition, “the voluntary sector writ large:” from nonprofits to charities, service-based human service organizations to cause-based advocacy groups; from the formally funded to the grassroots, volunteer-driven start-ups run out of someone’s basement; from organizations that have provided decades of service to the new cadre of social entrepreneurs.

As the hub crafts its research agenda, it will be “convening partners and stakeholders to ensure that the ideas we put forward are relevant, resonate with the sector and can be adapted to inform strong public policy going forward.”

The Research Hub is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. Elizabeth believes that this support “is part of a larger investment in the capacity of the sector… a signal from the province of their commitment to strengthen the sector itself, and to strengthen the partnership that exists between the public and the not-for-profit sector. Our challenge and ambition is to advance ideas and recommendations for policy solutions that will contribute to a strengthened relationship and to a stronger sector.”

You might be wondering, why Mowat? Mowat is considered a thought-leader in public policy in Ontario. In 2011, it released the study Strengthening the Third Pillar of the Canadian Union: An Intergovernmental Agenda for Canada’s Charities and Non-Profits which took a high-level view of the regulatory and legislative issues impacting the sector.  Partnering with the ONN, the Mowat Research Hub is also supported by the Metcalf Foundation, The Atkinson Charitable Foundation, United Way of Toronto and Maytree.

Mowat CentreWill Mowat succeed in moving the sector forward in a cohesive direction to address the myriad of issues facing us? Will we ultimately create the strong sector voice needed at the policy level? Clearly, it’s too soon to tell. But the idea is a good one. The approach (talking with, convening the sector) is the right one.

One project alone can’t revitalize the voluntary sector or even create a consensus on what needs to be done. A public policy approach can ensure that informed change might come from our funders.  However, that’s only one part of the puzzle. Mowat’s discussion and consulting/convening approach may just get us talking more actively to each other. Will Mowat succeed in starting and facilitating a discussion not just with sector leaders, funders and academics, but also with practitioners, and, ultimately, among all these groups? If so, perhaps we’ll see the sector’s valuable tacit and practical knowledge more actively define the kind of sector we all know we can have.

A call has already gone out to the sector through the ONN asking for input (PDF). They’re interested in getting your knowledge and expertise into their project, into their thinking. There is a wealth of insight, information, experience and passion in the nonprofit sector. Make sure your voice is heard.

Related links:

  • Five things business can learn from non-profits – we asked what businesses can learn from non-profits and received advice from acrossCanada.
  • Five Good Ideas – a lunch-and-learn program where industry or issue experts discuss powerful yet practical ideas on key management issues facing non-profit organizations. The sessions are most useful for management staff and board members at small and mid-sized non-profits.
  • Maytree Leadership Conference – we believe in the power of leadership to create social change by investing in those who work and volunteer in the non-profit sector. We also place emphasis on building relationships among our program participants.
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Jul 24 2012

Alan BroadbentAlan Broadbent, Maytree’s Chair, recently presented at the Vancouver Urban Forum. Video and a text summary of his presentation are available below.

“Cities have been left with constitutional arrangements, with insufficient powers, with little fiscal resilience, and with weak governance structures… They rely on the kindness of strangers. But very often these strangers, which very often are the other two levels of government, the provinces and the federal government, have different agendas and they have different priorities and they have different pressures. And this really leaves cities in the state that they have no real control over their destinies… The new deal for cities has to not be about handouts, but about taking some control of our destiny and some responsibility for it… If not, Canada will continue to pay a high price for having governmental arrangements that are so comprehensively out of step with our future challenges.”

Watch the video and read the notes below for some of Alan’s ideas, solutions and what we can learn from other jurisdictions.

(Summary notes by Jennifer Giesbrecht & Michael Wallberg)

“Every time I’ve met him, my life has changed,” said host Sam Sullivan of the next speaker, Alan Broadbent. Founder of the Maytree Foundation and Caledon Institute of Social Policy, and author of the book “Urban Nation,” this longtime advocate for poverty and immigration challenged the VUF audience to re-conceptualize the modern Canadian city.

He began by reminding everyone that one hundred and forty-five years ago, Canada was 80 percent rural. Now it’s 80 percent urban. Unlike the old days, Canada’s metropolitan areas are now responsible for the wellbeing of sizeable and diverse demographic groups — a situation that no longer suits traditional government arrangements.

According to Broadbent, the strongest evidence that the current system is extremely out of date is the gross overrepresentation of rural areas in both the federal and provincial legislatures. With representation of certain rural areas reaching an alarming ratio of 50-1, Broadbent lamented that urban issues are frequently brushed aside in current political debates, even though they require some of the most urgent attention.

Broadbent also stressed that, due to the current constitutional arrangements, cities are much too over-reliant on property taxes, a relatively inflexible revenue source that leaves them prone to economic distortions.

Another imbalance Broadbent pointed out is that Canadian cities today carry great burdens in the areas of health care, education and immigration yet enjoy none of the associated decision-making power. Broadbent stressed that, to properly support the urban population, these arrangements must change.

Although Broadbent acknowledged that new powers would also come with new and difficult obligations such as increased municipal taxation, he also described a number of success stories in Europe and the U.S. where urban communities provided overwhelming support for municipal projects. While these stories were quite inspiring, however, Broadbent still warned that if Canada does not upgrade its constitutional arrangements, these may be the very cities that leave us in their dust.

Related links:

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