Strong cities

Today, more than 80 per cent of us live in cities. Canada’s cities are the principal economic, social and cultural drivers of the country; however, our cities are struggling to meet the 21st century challenges we face.

At Maytree, we invest in efforts to strengthen our cities because we believe that if we can build a city that works for people with low incomes, it will work for immigrants and refugees, it will work for people living with disabilities, and for the young and for the old. In short, it will work for all of us.

We envision a “Strong City” to be one in which:

  • Human rights principles and laws are respected and built into the local decision-making process;
  • Local governments are empowered through appropriate fiscal and legal tools to solve local challenges; and
  • Residents from all walks of life are able to participate in shaping the city they call home.

Learn more about Maytree’s work in this area:

Human Rights Cities. Governments at all levels have a legal obligation to fulfill human rights, yet the function of local government remains overlooked. In upcoming research, we will explore the crucial role cities play in promoting and protecting human rights, based on recent developments in Canada and around the world.

Canadian Urban Institute (CUI). Maytree is supporting CUI to deliver a series of “Urban Residencies,” which will provide local city builders with opportunities to highlight to a national audience what’s working, what’s not, and what they see as next – their most pressing issues and promising opportunities. The Urban Residencies are part of CUI broader agenda to build new forms of connective tissue across cities, create platforms for learning and exchange, and build a compelling new narrative for urban Canada.

The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the University of Toronto. IMFG explores how cities fund their activities and govern themselves through extensive research both in Canada and globally. It also holds an ongoing series of events to present and debate the ideas that influence how are cities are run.

Relevant publications


Published on 14/12/2018

2018 might be the last year we coast by without deliberate ambitions to strengthen our cities.

Canadians have gotten used to seeing their cities rise in global rankings of best places to live. Earlier this year, in keeping with a ten-year trend, the Economist’s Global Liveability Index again awarded Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto spots in the top ten best cities for overall quality of life, based on their performance in categories […]

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Published on 29/10/2018

Our politicians must raise their game to become dramatically more effective in creating and implementing stronger public policy in our cities.

“Canada is rich by nature, poor only by policy,” Goldwin Smith told the New York Chamber of Commerce 130 years ago. Smith was a professor of history residing in Toronto, and in his speech he commented on the natural and human capital that abounded in the country, but lamented how little had been done with […]

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Published on 24/08/2018

We need to create a new governance system that enables Toronto to truly govern itself, act on its strengths and address its many problems and challenges.

It’s not every day of the week that one of the world’s great cities turns into a political football. But that is exactly what is happening in Toronto. Late last month, newly installed Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced his plans to cut the size of Toronto’s city council in half. Mayor John Tory pressed the […]

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Published on 26/04/2018

It's time to make the case for cities, and a city-building lens, to create a stronger, more equitable, and more resilient province.

As the Ontario provincial election draws near, here’s one prediction we can make with a high degree of certainty: the role, powers, and livability of our cities will not be high on the agenda of any of the major parties. Beyond the political sparring of the party leaders, the campaigns will likely focus on a […]

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Published on 29/11/2017

With the departure of Jennifer Keesmaat from Toronto’s Chief Planner chair, Toronto is looking for her successor. Alan Broadbent suggests choosing someone who sees city planning through the lens of human rights.

With the departure of Jennifer Keesmaat from Toronto’s Chief Planner chair, Toronto is looking for her successor and is no doubt considering what attributes it wants the new Chief Planner to have. Our suggestion is to choose someone who sees city planning through the lens of human rights. The City’s description of the role of […]

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Published on 28/06/2017

Does the City of Toronto really need to control all of its social housing? City council should be open to new ways of thinking and not be paralyzed by the idea that it has to maintain control over the entire social housing portfolio.

Social housing in Toronto is at a turning point. After years of underinvestment, years filled with reports, task forces, and much talk but less action, we might finally get to answer the question: does the City of Toronto really need to control and manage all of its social housing? Could it transfer stewardship of some […]

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