Bunting, Trudi and Pierre Filion. Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Broadway, Michael J.
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Bunting, Trudi; Filion, Pierre
Accession Number: 229218947
Full Text: Bunting, Trudi and Pierre Filion.

Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives.

Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. 2006. Third Edition. 532 pp.

ISBN: 978015422191.

Canadian Cities in Transition is the third edition of an edited volume that first appeared in 1991. Like its predecessors it attempts to provide a state-of-the-art view of urban Canada. The book is targeted at geographers and planners with most of its contributors drawn from these two disciplines. But its intent is to reach a wider audience and "provide information that will both help readers understand cities and assist them in making judicious urban-related personal and collective decisions," and "help the next generation of citizens, consumers, experts, business people and politicians in their efforts to solve the urban problems they will inherit" (p.vi). By these measures the book is a success.

Each chapter is clearly written and largely devoid of theoretical considerations that might deter the non-specialist reader. The book's perspective is deliberately broad both topically and geographically with examples drawn from across the country, although the Toronto region receives more attention than most, and Quebec's urban areas seem underrepresented.

The editors introduce urban Canada in Chapter 1, which provides essential background information on how the country's urban areas have evolved, and introduces three principal themes that permeate the book: sustainability, uneven development and uncertainty brought by about global competition. The remainder of the book is divided into seven parts. Part 1 considers the mega-trends affecting urban Canada; the features and parameters that shape Canadian cities are examined in Part 2; the processes behind the changing characteristics of downtowns, inner cities and suburbs are considered in Part 3; patterns of employment, housing and commercial activity are reviewed in Part 4; the processes behind public decision-making in urban areas are dealt with in Part 5; pressures that urban areas place upon the natural environment are summarized in Part 6; "pressing urban issues" including slow and rapid population growth, the challenges of accommodating thousands of new immigrants in concentrated areas and homelessness are covered in Part 7.

Chapter 27 concludes the volume with a summary of key policy issues confronting Canadian cities in the first third of the twenty-first century. One of the biggest policy issues is the unsustainability of Canada's continued suburbanization with its attendant environmental, economic and social costs. Yet as Smith observes, the vast majority of "ordinary" Canadians see "suburbs as providing their best choice of living place" (p. 229). Reconciling the academic assessment of suburbanization's negative consequences with the desire of most Canadians to live there is at the heart of a planning dilemma common to most democratic societies.

How does a society maintain its citizens' freedom of choice while at the same time ameliorating the worst effects of those choices? This issue may be resolved by the market, when the price of gasoline forces metropolitan area residents to shorten their commuting distances.

Uneven development within and across Canada is at the heart of another key policy issue. Despite the role of cities as job creators, they remain desperate for revenue to meet service demands. For Toronto this has meant facilitating the construction of high-rise condominiums for upper-income groups in and around its downtown. This process has produced "islands of wealth" (p. 447) in areas that used to be diverse, and accentuated the social and economic polarization common to post-industrial societies.

If there is one omission from the collection, it concerns the fate of small to medium-sized metropolitan areas located in resource hinterlands. What should be the appropriate urban policy for Thunder Bay, Saint John, Sudbury, and Chicoutimi-Jonquiere, whose populations are either in decline or stagnant and which face rising service demands from an aging population?

Economic uncertainty brought about by globalization is likely to threaten the economic base of many municipalities, and while none of the authors proclaim clairvoyance, Simons and McCann come closest with their prediction that four mega-regions, Toronto, Montreal, the Georgia-Basin and the Calgary-Edmonton corridor will form the "strategic growth points in Canada's future urban system" (p. 63). And it is within these areas that the issues of environmental, economic and social sustainability will confront policy makers. In the remainder of the country slow growth and population decline will provide a different set of challenges.

In sum, the book provides an excellent survey of the many challenges confronting urban Canada. Out ability to meet these challenges will determine the overall quality of life for most Canadians, and as such the book deserves to be read beyond its core audience of urban planners and geographers, h is highly recommended.

Michael J. Broadway

Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Northern Michigan University
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