Toronto's Outspoken Chief Planner Ruffles Feathers in Quest for Change

Jennifer Keesmaat is "on her way to becoming modern Toronto’s first celebrity bureaucrat," says Marcus Gee, who profiles the city's new chief planner. Can she succeed in her quest for change without offending those whose support she'll need?
March 6, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Ms. Keesmaat, 42, seems to be everywhere these days – giving speeches, tweeting up a storm, leading public consultations and heading up high-end talks. York University’s magazine put her on the cover, asking: 'Can urban planner Jennifer Keesmaat help Toronto make a comeback?'”

"Her high profile has raised eyebrows at city hall," notes Gee. "Some city councillors complain privately that she is getting ahead of herself and freelancing city policy."

“'I think they would be more comfortable if she would concede that the final arbiter of the public good is council,' says Councillor Adam Vaughan, who stresses that he himself applauds her for speaking up about how critical good planning is to the city’s future. 'If she deliberately excludes politicians from the process, she will find herself alone on the floor of council and alone in the city. The people make decisions, not bureaucrats.'”

"Ms. Keesmaat herself has no intention of fading into the wallpaper. 'As radical as it may seem here,' she says, the trend is for major-city planners to be a 'big voice' on urban issues. She points to New York’s dynamic Amanda Burden – no 'shrinking violet' by any means."

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Published on Friday, March 1, 2013 in Globe and Mail
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