The Greater Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver)’s history goes back long before regional government was established. In 1914 and 1926, the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District (GVSDD) and the Greater Vancouver Water District (GVWD) were established in order for each of them to provide services for a number of municipalities as it made more sense to develop such services on a collaborative basis.

In 1949, the province of British Columbia created a precursor of the GVRD’s regional planning function called the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board (LMRPB). Including a much larger area than the current Metro Vancouver, its board comprised a representative from each of its constituent municipalities. In 1966, it produced a mandatory official plan before being dispersed the following year. Despite being dispersed, many of the ideas thought of lived on in the work of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which was formed in 1967. The first meeting of the GVRD’s board of directors was held on July 12, 1967. At that time, there were 950,000 people living in the lower mainland.

WaterfrontOver time, the region’s governance arrangements became united. During the year of 1972, staffing for sewage, water and parks authorities was transferred to the GVRD. Since then, the GVRD board ahs taken over public housing and labour relations role, as well as the responsibilities to control air pollution within its boundaries.

In 1983, the province was facing an economic recession and a desire for less government which is why it improved the Municipal Act and eliminated regional planning as a statutory function. In 1989, the province allowed development services to be financed through the regional districts and in 1995, the Municipal Act was again improved and powers for regional planning were established in order to encourage collaboration between regional districts and municipalities. Proving their worth of services, regional districts not only started to provide “hard” services of regional parks, water and sewerage but the regions also delivered services such as animal control, recreation program, libraries, and cemetery operations in unorganized areas.

City ViewThe evolution of the GVRD is significant. Based on earlier arrangements for cooperation over water and sewerage, it gradually welcomed other functions where regional cooperation was more cost effective and logical. The provincial government eventually recognized the value of this structure and passed enabling legislation. With regard to issues of sustainability there is no question that the GVRD's most significant and innovative role was the creation of its regional strategic plans. It was the mandate for regional plans that allowed the GVRD to build into its work a case for sustainability.

Metro Vancouver's SkylineThe GVRD is a federation of municipalities. Under the Canadian Constitution, municipalities are “creatures” of the provinces. The provinces set the rules under which they can be organized, the tasks they must carry out as extensions of the provinces, and the activities they are allowed to undertake. The federal government also provides aid to municipalities in various forms, but it has rarely had a consistently coordinated urban program because of resistance from the provinces who see cities as their property.

After 40 years as a region, the Greater Vancouver Regional District is replacing its name to Metro Vancouver. Still composed of 21 municipalities and one electoral area Metro Vancouver is developing rapidly. It is home to 2.13 millions residents and is expected to reach a population of 3 million by 2031. Metro Vancouver is also home to an urban aboriginal population that represents every First Nation in Canada as well as over 650,000 immigrants from around the world.