Yesterday evening, at Vanessa T’s prompting, I headed down to the SFU downtown campus to catch Mike Harcourt (former Mayor of Vancouver and Premier of BC) and Ken Cameron (former regional planner) present on City Making in Paradise their upcoming book about the history of city planning in Vancouver.
Two things struck me about the presentation.
The first was how the successes of municipal planning in Vancouver have largely been made possible by a history of local governments thinking, organizing and acting in coordination at the regional level. As Harcourt pointed out, growth and development meant the political and organic borders of the city ceased to be aligned after the Second World War. The regions cooperative approach to this dilemma – which began in the 1970s and that continues today – makes for an interesting case study. In addition to being broadly successful, it appears to have preempted an effort at amalgamation that was so contentious in Quebec and Ontario.
I’ve known for a while that Harcourt is laser focused on urban sustainability and will work with anyone, regardless of political affiliation, who will help advance this goal. That said, I was nonetheless struck by the degree to which he’s transcended partisan politics. While outlining the 9 decisions that “saved Vancouver” Harcourt was happy to praise individuals who’d once been bitter rivals. Given the recent (unusual) trend of provincial parties racing for the centre maybe this is just a sign of the times. Or maybe Harcourt pragmatic, results focused tonic that BC politics so desperately needs. Maybe it’s both. Anyway, for a guy who was dragged through the provincial political ringer, it’s nice see him so motivated and positive.