Cities

  • Democracies' Anxious Youth

    If we're cynical, we come by it honestly. Look no further than Japan, long the darling of demographic apocalypse. The country, according to Foreign Affairs, is headlining the cost of "letting the elderly rule politics." Between 1985 and today, writes Alexandra Harney, "the percentage of the Japanese population over 65 rose from a tenth to nearly a quarter.

    Detroit is bankrupt. Foreign Policy is openly wondering whether, if Detroit were a country, it would qualify as a failed state. It's a n...

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  • NIMBY

    This didn't bother the man. The parks were still nice and the people were still friendly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    There was a man who bought a house in a quiet, tree-lined, suburban area outside of Toronto. He and his family were happy. The parks were nice and the people were friendly. On the end of his street was a large house. His neighbor told him it was housing for...

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  • Who's to Blame?

    I have been both impressed and disturbed by the disparate reactions to these tragedies. On the one hand, the people of Calgary and High River appeared to pull together to overcome the tragedy that befell them. Politicians, businesses and ordinary people helped friend and stranger alike, and while the work of rebuilding has only just begun, I was touched by the spirit of cooperation.

    This summer has been a time of immense tragedy. From massive floods that destroyed house and home in Alberta and parts of Toronto, to the surreal Lac Mégantic train crash that is the stuff of Hollywood movies, Canadians have experienced their share of trage...

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  • Setting Down Roots...or Not

    Reader's heart-strings were plucked by the trio's plight as they agonize over their inability to purchase real estate on the upscale West side, where even modest bungalows sell for $1 million-plus. "The challenge is to set down roots in the city you grew up in," The Globe quoted Vancouver urban planner Andrew Yan.

    The Globe and Mail's Report on Business carried a sob story this week about three 20-something Vancouverites who can't a...

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  • Sacred Space Smackdown

    In his response, Jacobs challenges Renn on a number of points of inadequately defined terms and formal logic, rather like a professor spanking a student for sloppy thinking in a paper. But I find Jacobs' critique less compelling than Renn's original question, which is a good one, even if his answer is a little uneven.

    Alan Jacobs takes on Aaron M. Renn on the subject of sacred space in a blog post on The American Conservative.  Re...

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  • Consumers of our Neighbourhoods

    A year later we bought our current home four blocks and a world away. It's quieter and cleaner and I have the strong sense that my neighbours are looking out for each other. At Christmas time we have a progressive potluck dinner with the street, with three different homes hosting appetizers, dinner, and dessert.

    During our first year of marriage, my husband and I lived in the ground floor apartment of a big, old, red-brick house. On either side of us were similar houses split into apartments, and across the street was a high-rise building. We woke up many times to ...

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  • Persistence, Underwritten by Hope

    One of the profile people at the event was John McKnight. People in the community leadership and community development world know him well, and I won't re-iterate his well-earned and impressive credentials. What I most resonated with as I step back from the event is the way in which John attends to relational language in his talks and comments.

    This past week I had the privilege of participating in the Neighbours: Policies and Programs unconference put on by the Tamarack Institute in Kitchener, Ontario. One of the key ideas that framed the ...

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  • Where is the Video?

    It is this: where is the video? In either its short or long form, the only answer to date—i.e. we don't have a clue—is unacceptable.

    There is a very short question that has deeply serious long-term implications for Canada's democratic life.

    It is this: where is the video?

    The slightly longer version of the question, perhaps necessary for those who have been away building th...

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  • The Perfected Downtown

    In the mid 1950s a German socialist named Victor Gruen, feeling more and more concern for the isolated lifestyle that the car, subdivisions, and miles of strip malls were creating, envisioned a new type of community—or rather a reworking of an old one. It would allow its inhabitants to live independently of the car, to live, study, and work in their neighbourhood, and its crowning jewel would be an indoor air-conditioned shopping mall at the centre, complete with gardens, parks, cafes, and shops—a community centre.

    This past week, PBS aired a show called 10 Buildings that Changed America. Host Geoffrey Baer looked at, among others, the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, MO; Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in Chica...

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  • Le Parti Moustique

    If you were ever in doubt about the heights of lunacy which governments committed to a high-modern conception of secularism  can reach,  I present to you Exhibit A of the latest valiant effort from Le Parti Moustique.

    The Parti Quebecois used to stand for something. These days it seems to take its policy cues from mosquitoes. Its preferred method of governance is to buzz loudly, annoy anyone within range, suck the life out of Quebec, cause welts across the country, and l...

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  • A Goose on a Roof

    Not that she was fetishistically attentive to physical safety. On the contrary. Her nickname was Mimi Dreamie, earned from her habit of inhabiting imaginary spaces while running full tilt into very real trees and other large, hard, plainly visible objects. On a particular occasion in Calgary, we were running through the neighborhood of Elbow Park and I was cajoling her to try to keep an even pace when I realized she had stopped in her tracks at a street corner half a block behind me.

    My daughter was not quite yet an adolescent when she taught me the importance of running with eyes wide open.

    Not that she was fetishistically attentive to physical safety. On the contrary. Her nickname was Mimi Dreamie, earned from her habit of inha...

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  • A Quiet Battle in an Echo-ocracy

    "Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently rescued from human traffickers. She was bought and sold into the sex trade for nine years. Now she is free. She needs food, clothing, shelter, medicine, counseling, and rehabilitation. We would also like to provide her, when she is ready, funds for education courses to help her restore her life.

    As Ottawa's echo-ocracy worked itself into stage five incoherence over a backbench MP's motion on sex-selection abortion, the following words quietly appeared on another MP's website:

    "Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently ...

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  • Small Things Done With Great Love

    What if Jesus wasn't kidding when he asked, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith upon the earth?" Too often we've taken this statement as a kind of hyperbolic warning. What if it is a serious possibility? A movement dies when it is no longer able to pass its beliefs from one generation to the next.

    "Where are my children?" is a question every parent has asked. "Not in church," is a likely answer.

    What if Jesus wasn't kidding when he asked, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith upon the earth?" Too often we've taken this statement as ...

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  • Places of Worship Protected in City Core

    The changes, which emerged out of a series of consultations and research spearheaded by Cardus will, according to the city staff report, "enhance the Center City Plan by acknowledging the impact that faith-based institiutions make in the Centre City’s build and social environments." The report notes that "while many community and cultural groups and organizations have been included within the Centre City Plan, there is very little mention of faith based institutions."

    The City of Calgary’s Municipal Planning Commission unanimously passed a series of amendments to the Calgary Centre City Plan on Thursday, clearing ...

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  • In Defence of Star Gazing

    About half of those urbanites will live in, or adjacent to, the nation's six largest cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa. Now, there is much to be said in favour of urban life. It is in a great many ways a softer life, filled with bright lights and entertainment and other people. “Buzz” is everywhere. Jobs are more commonly found without the disruption of relocation and usually there is a plethora of coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, and gathering places. Cities are filled with surprises and delights. I am open to the idea that this is simply another manifestation of my inner contrarian; that if the herd is moving in a certain direction I am instinctively driven to separate myself from it and trot off—ever so cheerfully—to another pasture even if this proves to be a disadvantage. No doubt there's something to that theory.

    Eighty per cent of Canadians will, according to The Sustainability Report, live in urban areas within two years—the exact opposite of the nation's structure shortly after Confederation.

    ...

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  • A Brief Meeting

    The director, John Kahrs, shares how the idea of the film came from a time years ago while living in New York, commuting to and from work on the subway. He mused about the people he briefly crossed paths with, perhaps made eye contact with, and how "the connection was there for a second, and then it's gone forever and you never see that person again." .

    It's during the 1940s on a train platform in New York City. A young man briefly meets a woman and the next second she is gone. Later in the day, as he's pushing paper around his desk, he glances out the window and sees the same woman through a window in the...

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  • When Yoga Chases out the Blue Collars

    Almost everything he says, of course, turns out to have the predictable burble and sulphur of the primeval class-warrior. You can tell and smell it from three blocks away. There's no normal need to move in for exact identification. "The (condo) boom is gobbling up land almost as fast as it sucks up mortgage debt.

    Jim Stanford sports an economist's badge on his white-collar shirt front, yet works for the Canadian Auto Workers. This combination gets him punditry gigs on CBC and in the Globe and Mail.

    Almos...

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  • The Default Scapegoat of Blame-Shifters Everywhere

    [caption id="attachment_1593" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo: Jocelyn Riendeau / Canadian Press / Sherbrooke La Tribune"][/caption]About two months ago, residents of a village in Quebec's Eastern Townships awoke to find a hydro pole in the middle of the road leading in and out of town.

    [caption id="attachment_1593" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo: Jocelyn Riendeau / Canadian Press / Sherbrooke La Tribune"]...

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  • Millennials Will Save Cities, and Destroy the Country

    The so-called delay of adulthood is now the subject of a great deal of nervous hand wringing amongst media elites. Millennials, generally adults between 20 to 34 years of age, also known as Generation Y or the Echo Boom, have statistically delayed childrearing, postponed marriage, and opted out of building households.

    Two converging trends are leading to some ironic demographic conclusions: first, the oft repeated truism that Millennials are flocking to urban cores, part of a process called gentrification; and second, that this urban lifestyle of job switching, meeting f...

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  • Cities and Commitment

    Toronto's Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, evoked political controversy this summer when he objected to the requirement that 10% of the units in a new condo development be 3-bedroom, family-friendly units. Mr. Holyday referred to the requirement as "social engineering." He expressed reluctance to dictate that the developer build 3-bedroom units when there "may or may not be a market for it," and alienated his urban colleagues and parents when he said the downtown core was "not an ideal place to raise children." But while the commoditization of housing is itself deeply worrisome and a worthy blog topic for another day, the Deputy Mayor's reluctance to support the creation of spaces for families is disappointing.

    ...

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  • Becoming Socially Incompetent

    Vancouver is the most connected city in Canada in terms of social media, but is also among the most lonely cities in the country   People aged 25-34 are the most lonely demographic   High-rise apartments are the most lonely locations   Most people don't know their neighbours well enough to say hello or to offer even minor assistance to them   People are about as connected to their neighbours after three years as they were when they first moved in (in most cases, very little)   Most people don't get involved in civic life because they don't think they have anything to offer  

    [caption id="attachment_1382" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lonely in the City"]...

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  • Clear Cutting Social Landscapes

    Could the same be true of our social landscapes? Are the "old" institutions, both formal and informal, being over-taxed, eroded, or clear-cut faster than they are being replenished, floundering on a demand gradient greater than their supply? Are we dismantling them because they are perceived as obstructions to building the better future? I offer a comparative reflection.

    In the modern era, we have treated the plenty of nature as limitless—the carrier pigeon, buffalo, cod, rainforests, oil, agricultural land, and oceans. In painful slow motion, the long dawn of our awakening may be taking place. In time? Certainly not in som...

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  • Retrograde Fantasies

    Did I say complement? Perhaps I meant antidote. For if the embarrassing neediness of the Canadian need for summer evenings ever needed anything, it is Greene's lugubrious fidelity to the torments of Christian joy. As Canadians, our identity is as a winter people. Even as urbanites, we accept the painful limitations of our natural snow-bound state.

    There are fewer better complements to a Canadian summer evening than sitting on the front porch absorbing the mournful Catholicism of a Graham Greene novel.

    Did I say complement? Perhaps I mean...

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