Halifax – Along with healthcare and taxation, a “new deal for cities” has become a central theme of the 2004 federal election. This restructuring of the financial relationship between Ottawa and the Canada’s municipalities has moved to centre stage, but are the arguments being put forward for major new senior government intervention in the life of the country’s cities sound?
In DO CITIES CREATE WEALTH? A Critique of New Urban Thinking and the Role of Public Policy for Cities, Patrick Luciani, AIMS Senior Fellow in Urban Policy, reviews the three key arguments that are used to justify a greater role for senior government policy (and senior government spending) in the affairs of Canada’s cities. These arguments centre on the themes of clustering, the rise of the global city-state, and the importance of attracting educated workers or what has come to be known as the “creative class”. These ideas have become the foundation for what is called “new urban thinking”
Luciani says, “This ‘new urban thinking’ is just another name for ‘new industrial policy’, with an urban twist: a justification for greater state involvement in urban affairs.” In this, the second paper in The AIMS Urban Futures Series, Mr. Luciani argues that many of the big spending strategies being promoted by politicians simply don’t stand up to analysis. Luciani suggests the best urban policy is to deliver genuine municipal services efficiently without the distraction of attracting specific clusters, creating global city-states, or attempting to attract knowledge workers. The key is to establish an environment where all businesses want to invest and expand.
Luciani makes five key recommendations to enhance growth:
· Cities have to get the basics right — good schools, good roads, safe streets, and reasonable municipal taxes;
· Let smart people figure what sectors or industries to work in. Over planning is an overburden;
· Get fiscal and monetary policy right or it swamps anything we can do to micromanage wealth creation at the municipal level;
· Price public services correctly;
· Eliminate unnecessary regulations.
AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley says Luciani brings critical analysis to what is quickly becoming “flavour of the month” thinking about cities.
“This paper should give pause to politicians who feel simply giving cities more federal money will fix the problems cities are struggling with. Clearly our cities need fixing, but citizens, taxpayers and municipalities should question whether senior government intervention is a sound strategy to achieve that goal.”
Patrick Luciani has an extensive background in public policy. He currently acts as Senior Advisor to the Canadian Statistical Assessment Services (CANSTATS) a media watch organization that comments on how the media covers public policy issues. He sits also on the boards of The Dominion Institute and the Global Cities Project, Munk Centre, University of Toronto. Mr. Luciani studied economics at the University of Guelph and Queen’s University and holds a Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
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