Symposium poses solutions to governance gridlock
December 21, 2012
Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Special Advisor Anne Golden brought together top urban thinkers to tackle Toronto’s city-building challenges.
Golden recently held a symposium on Governance Gridlock: Solving the Problem for 21st Century City Regions to talk about the issue of creating sound governance. Golden is nationally renowned as a public policy specialist and was the former president and CEO of The Conference Board of Canada. Her duties at Ryerson include teaching graduate students, leading an annual conference on a contemporary topic, delivering a guest lecture, conducting research and providing advice and support to advance the university’s agenda related to the development of public/private partnerships.
The symposium, co-hosted by President Sheldon Levy, aimed to develop, refine and propose new governance solutions that not only fit the city’s present needs but also provide a framework to carry city-regions into the future. Each participant submitted a 500-word essay outlining reforms to be considered during the symposium. The essays will be edited and published as part of a monograph to be shared and used by students, politicians and educators.
Participants included a diverse panel of experts such as David Amborski, School of Urban and Regional Planning professor; Paul J. Bedford, principal, Paul Bedford & Associates; Alan Broadbent, chairman and CEO Avana Capital Corporation and chairman of Maytree; Geoff Cape, CEO of Evergreen; David Crombie, former mayor of Toronto; Ester R. Fuchs, professor, director of the Urban and Social Policy program, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University; Shirley Hoy, CEO, Toronto Lands Corporation; and Adam Vaughan, Toronto city councillor. Mary Rowe, vice-president and managing director of the Municipal Art Society, facilitated the event.
“I thought the timing was right to re-visit the issue of governance,” Golden said. “There’s been a lot of frustration about gridlock, not moving forward with the transportation plan, insufficient revenue. It was timely to start a new conversation.”
Some of the challenges that city-regions face include infrastructure deficits, transportation and land-use planning, economic development, environmentally sustainable growth and housing. The symposium delivered four points that many agreed were key aspects in building successful city governance. They are:
1. Articulating a vision for the GTA that inspires, promotes prosperity, livability, fairness and elicits a willingness from the general population to pay for and invest in the future;
2. Urban literacy. People don’t understand all of the issues or messages. It’s important to partner with and further empower civic partners who are involved in big and small areas;
3. Leverage all sectors – media, education, arts and culture, and traditional and new media – so that young people are engaged;
4. Make the role of government more transparent and accessible. Create an office at Queen’s Park that integrates all levels of government and city-regions and convene an annual assembly of elected officials in the GTA to discuss issues.
“It was an exceptionally thoughtful meeting,” Golden said. “There’s no appetite for major structural reform. The whole tone of the meeting was to do what was achievable. We were discussing things that participants have spent years thinking about in their professional lives. That gave it a certain tone and deep level of knowledge. It was a real privilege to be part of it.”