Metro Vancouver: A governance model for other North American metro areas?
Rethinking the Region is an annual day-long event that provides an opportunity for thoughtful consideration and dialogue about crucial big picture questions facing the Vancouver region.
This year's theme:
Vancouver is routinely listed among the most livable cities in the world. But the name “Vancouver” is a misnomer: the City of Vancouver proper represents only a quarter of the population of the region that most people here and in the rest of the world think of as “Vancouver.” As a region, Vancouver is third in size after Toronto and Montreal. As a city, Vancouver sits as the 10th largest in Canada, behind Quebec, Hamilton and Winnipeg.
When thinking about and ranking global cities, size matters – and Vancouver is only classified as a “beta.” Could an amalgamated Metro Vancouver unleash a sleeping “alpha”? Should we be looking at the experience of other cities such as Toronto and Montreal, which have implemented partial or complete amalgamations in order to “modernize” their structures to compete in a global array of “alpha,” “beta” or “gamma” cities?
Across Canada, actions to amalgamate have turned most major city-regions into regional cities, based on goals of efficiency as well as status and stature. But not Vancouver. “Vancouver” as a region consists of more than 20 separate local governments and one First Nation, loosely bound together in the Metro Vancouver Regional District. Has Vancouver dodged the bullet of amalgamation suffered by other urban regions, or does amalgamation allow other Canadian cities to punch above their weight, leaving Vancouver disadvantaged?
The regional district governance model in which Vancouver sits has certain features that have functioned well for more than fifty years. This structure has managed growth that has more than doubled the region’s population and has provided services to support a quality of life that is coveted around the world. But this structure was designed when colour television was first becoming available. The world has changed. Have our expectations of local government also changed? Faced with an uncertain future full of instability, do we need a new model of local and regional governance to better meet our expectations and serve our needs?