March 4th Information Event

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Part One of a Series on The Conference Board of Canada Report – “Mission Possible”

While others may do some occasional “light reading”, the transportation and development fact-hungry folks here at SFOT eat large research reports like they were our favorite breakfast cereals.

Yesterday I snuggled up in my corner at Starbucks sipping mass quantities of coffee and consuming a report titled “Mission Possible: Successful Canadian Cities” that was published by the Conference Board of Canada in 2007. I started my journey with a 2008 Conference Board Report Card entitled "The Road Less Traveled". SFOT would like to share a bit of detail from both of these works. You can find the complete four volume "Mission Possible" report here.

These reports are part of The Canada Project, which is a three-year program to research and dialogue issues that should help decision-makers shape policy that will improve Canada’s standard of living and position within North America and the world.

The reports are informative, inspiring and disappointing all at once. Volume III Mission Possible, Successful Canadian Cities captivated my attention with its discussion of GDP and also transportation challenges in Canada. Sustainability is the common thread in all of these reports and strong indications are that we as a country are failing miserably. The report says, “Sustainability matters. It must become one of the yardsticks against which we measure productivity”.

In a broad sense the report goes on to say sadly that, “Canada is living with 19th-century architecture in the 21st century. We are living with architecture built for our earlier rural past – an architecture that fits badly with the new urban Canada”. The report goes on to speak to the needs of the major cities and the massive investments that are required to bring us up to speed. It speaks of the need for large overhauls of the regulatory, taxation and other foundational processes of government that can cause unprecedented growth or further decay for us. Although it addresses urban areas, the report points to Vancouver more as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).

“The challenges of managing growth are exacerbated by the deteriorating state of Canada’s urban infrastructure. Estimates of the national infrastructure gap ranged, in 2003, from $50 billion to $125 billion, with municipalities owning the largest stake in this gap”. And now for a taste of the transportation imperative, the report points to Four Cornerstones that create a strong foundation for success:

1. A strong knowledge economy
2. Connective physical infrastructure linking people, goods and ideas
3. Environmentally sound growth
4. Socially cohesive communities

You can simply read #2 as good transportation and we submit to you that in order to have #4, one element is a community rail system. More on the way tomorrow.

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