Investing in Cities: What Must Urban Recovery Look Like Across Canada?

Join CUI’s President and CEO Mary W. Rowe, along with national city watchers Frances Bula and Doug Saunders of the Globe and Mail, Co-Founder of Black Opportunity Fund and Head of Global Real Estate Investments at TD Asset Management Colin Lynch, and former federal Minister and City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi for a timely discussion on how the federal budget will impact cities planning their recovery.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. The pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the structures of federalism

According to Frances Bula, the pandemic has presented important opportunities for stronger relationships between municipalities and the federal government. She raises that the Rapid Housing Initiative was the first time the federal government delivered funding directly to cities, as opposed to through the provinces.  

2. Home ownership as a pathway to the middle class is increasingly out of reach 

Doug Saunders makes the point that home ownership has always been pivotal to the Canadian model of newcomer integration and supporting generations of new Canadians to accumulate wealth and move into the middle classBut with housing supply shortages across the country, and housing affordability at historic lows, newcomers today and other Canadians alike are stuckIn a discussion about possible policy solutions, he raises the potential of cost-sharing and conditional funding to incentivize intensification and affordability.  

3. We need to address structural racism in the Canadian job market 

The racialization of lowpaying jobs is acute across sectors in the Canadian economy, according to Amarjeet Sohi. Colin Lynch points out that this is in part due to path-dependency and missing networks within and across the job marketIt is important to look at who’s working in high-wage jobs, who has access to stock and equity options, and who is likely to be supported by venture capital. Says Colin, this is a connectivity story.  

4. There is no cookie cutter recovery

The panelists agree that across Canada, each city and region is facing different challenges coming out of the pandemic. There are those challenges related to COVID, and others amplifying pre-existing urban vulnerabilities. The recovery needs to be nimble and locally led. There is no one-size-fits-all pathway forward. 

5. A new urban agenda for affordability is needed 

Canada’s cities are the economic engines of the country, says Amarjeet Sohi. When cities fail because they can’t house people, or suffer from socio-spatial inequality, or fail to protect vulnerable workers, we all lose. The key is appreciating the intersectionality of the different elements of livability. Solutions need to be integrated, not siloed.