Frisken, Frances: The Public Metropolis: The Political Dynamics of Urban Expansion in the Toronto Region: 1924-2003.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Bunce, Susannah
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: The Public Metropolis: The Political Dynamics of Urban Expansion in the Toronto (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Frisken, Frances
Accession Number: 229218950
Full Text: Frisken, Frances

The Public Metropolis: The Political Dynamics of Urban Expansion in the Toronto

Region: 1924-2003.

Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 2007. 363 pp.

ISBN: 1551303302.

The Public Metropolis is a detailed, nuanced history of politics, policy, planning, and growth in the Toronto region. Frisken's intensive qualitative and statistical research produces a sophisticated chronology of how multi-level governmental politics, individual actors, and demographic changes have woven together to form the processes of change in the Toronto region since the post-World War I period. As stated in the introduction of the book, Frisken presents the history of these developments in order to inform and assess the "options for addressing challenges facing the region at the beginning of the 21st century" (30). This active notion of historical accounting, one where history informs analyses of and speculations on current and future urbanization practices, is a core benefit of the book. Frisken's skillful use of interdisciplinary approaches to present and decipher urban transformations over the course of the mid-to-late 20th century and onwards results in a book that is fulfilling and relevant for academics working in a variety of disciplinary environments, as well as policy-makers, planners, and other urban practitioners.

However, her central argument is quite a short one--that the interventions of the government of Ontario in Toronto's central and regional growth has created the city's consistent development over the course of the twentieth century. Although a helpful argument in addressing a myriad associations, tensions, and compatibilities between the province and different levels and scalar arrangements of lower tiered governance, it does serve more as a broad framework for encasing the abundant data rather than function as a richly developed theoretical argument.

The sheer abundance of this data and density of details often overtakes the general assertion presented in the introduction; so much so that the reader is often compelled to return to the overall framework at the start of the book as a reminder. As such, the structure of the findings could have been organized in a different way--perhaps as a thematic rather than a chronological presentation of empirical information and analysis.

As it stands, the book's chronological organization, although tied to topical issues such as the example of "Chapter Four: 1975-1985 Provincial Retrenchment and Local Inaction," concentrates the reader's attention on sorting through the chronological developments of multi-scalar government associations in relation to time periods documented in the other chapters. This presents a thematic disconnect and detracts from fully focusing on the development of urban issues such as the ones presented with close attention to specificity--housing, transportation, utilities infrastructure, planning policy and legislation, and growth management, for example. If the book's chapters were organized thematically, with a chronological approach to each chapter, the details in relation to a theme or issue would appear less fragmented and also provide an easier format for accessing information.

Despite this drawback, the book serves as an outstanding reference for academics interested in the history of growth, development, and transformation in Canada's largest urban centre and urbanized region. For teachers and students, it provides a helpful resource for factual information, as the data is comprehensive and compelling. The tables of data are helpful, well-organized, and user friendly. For urban policy-makers and planners, the book also acts as a rich reference guide due to its sophisticated presentation of the interrelationships between politics and planning. The Public Metropolis is a recommended read and an excellent Canadian scholarly resource--making written notes on the abundant data while reading is advised.

Dr. Susannah Bunce

Department of Social Sciences,

University of Toronto at Scarborough
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.