I have lived in about 17 cities/town/villages across Canada in addition to several international cities. I won’t touch upon the international cities – I will save that discussion for another post. The common denominator for the smaller Canadian centres and the reason I believe they are not nearly as successful as they could be rests with 2 key factors:
1) a lack of urban intensity or the inability to take advantage of the multiplier effect. For instance, the regional hospital, the public library, government offices and colleges and universities are all situated at great distances from each other. Each has a web of threadbare services situated around them due to the sparser population of a smaller city. If they were within walking distance of each other you would see a multiplier effect. Markets, niche stores, walking neighbourhoods, clubs, bars, galleries would all benefit from multiplier effect. Good, medium-to-high density affordable housing in the vicinity would add to the multiplier effect with those on fixed incomes having access to services within walking distance which increases their disposable income. Older metropolises have this figured out (Montreal for example) while many smaller European centres have this. Victoria, Moncton, Quebec City and Kitchener-Waterloo, St John’s and Halifax also demonstrate some aspects of the multiplier effect while towns like Saint John, NB, and Sydney, NS spring to mind as example of the failed potential to take full advantage of being regional centres.
2) A poor return on investment for capital poor but creatively rich individuals. Queen St. in Toronto, Commercial Drive in Vancouver and the Plateau Mont-Royal in Montreal are prime examples of this. Many of the early residents who made these areas ‘creative destinations’ were forced out as these areas became more attractive to those with the capital to purchase the appreciating properties. While a certain turn-over is healthy in any community and attracting capital is necessary, there needs to be better financial rewards for those who are injecting intellectual and creative capital into the community. Rewarding only those who bring capital to the equation to the exclusion of all others seems to defeat the purpose of intensifying the creativity of a community. The problem is more acute in smaller communities because of the smaller population.
Sent by Franz from Vancouver