In a new report released today by the Canadian Urban Institute, Gabriel Eidelman, director of the Urban Policy Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and Neil Bradford, chair of political science at Huron University College at Western, argue that Canada needs to create a new national entity that houses the best available quantitative and qualitative data on cities, what they’re calling a Canadian urban policy observatory.
The observatory, if developed, would allow policy makers to easily compare data and policy approaches across Canadian cities and quickly adopt solutions already working in various parts of the country, the two argue, something they say is essential as cities look towards COVID-19 recovery.
“Now is the time to bring all the available data we have on cities, all the different urban policy frameworks being tried in different jurisdictions, into a single place so policy makers can get a full picture of what’s working and what’s not across the country,” Eidelman and Bradford say.
The UN-Habitat and OECD recently called on all countries to implement a “national urban policy,” which they term an "essential instrument" in achieving sustainable development goals.
But the reality is that Canada has no national urban policy or the “one-stop-shop” entity that Bradford and Eidelman are calling for, unlike many other countries around the world.
“We need a coordinated and comprehensive platform that allows an urban policy maker, in say, Surrey, B.C., to easily find data and policy approaches being tried in St. John’s, N.L,” the researchers argue. “Without something like an urban policy observatory, we’re flying blind.”
The observatory, the two researchers propose, would be part repository, aggregator, clearing house and knowledge broker, and would collect, standardize, analyze, and publish qualitative and quantitative data on Canadian cities and, crucially, the political systems and policy frameworks that govern them.
Most importantly, the observatory would serve as a building block toward greater intergovernmental dialogue on urban priorities, bringing local challenges to the attention of upper-level governments, and highlighting opportunities for shared problem solving.