Canada's Constitution Fuels Urban Crisis

Formed as a primarily agrarian nation, Canada is now seeing its cities crippled by constitutional arrangements that leaves its cities underfunded and with only minimal support from the federal government, writes John Macfarlane.
February 8, 2011, 1pm PST | Michael Dudley
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Walrus Magazine editor and co-publisher John Macfarlane argues that Canada's cities are facing a crisis of governance and are unable to keep up with their own infrastructure needs or support their growing populations and, as a consequence, cannot compete globally:

"[Canada is] an overwhelmingly urban society struggling to pay for pothole repairs and garbage removal because the Fathers of Confederation gave taxation rights exclusively to the federal and provincial governments. Then, as now, cities were an afterthought.
Where does that leave Canada? Fall municipal elections in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island produced unwelcome reminders of the plight of our decaying, underfunded cities.

The problem originates with the Constitution but is sustained by politics. The country's electoral map has not been redrawn to adequately reflect this new urban reality. In the House of Commons, politicians representing rural ridings still hold a disproportionately large number of seats (138 of 308). This distortion of representation by population persists at the provincial level as well, compounding the problem. At the senior levels of government, then, there is little or no immediate advantage in addressing the welfare of cities."

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Published on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 in The Walrus
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