Love and the City


It has been said that the modern city is soulless, that it is heartless, and that it is brutal. The modern city represents in its scale and complexity one of the most extraordinary of human inventions, but there is also no doubt that everywhere in the world it is also one of our biggest failures.

The dysfunction of a city in the past was an inconvenience. The dysfunction of a city in the future will be a profound disaster for that city and, ironically, a profound opportunity for another city, of a smarter city. It will be an opportunity for a city that has found out how to position itself better in the world of cities, but more importantly in the eyes and hearts of its citizens.  read more »

Toronto Election Highlights Failure of Amalgamation


In my pre-election piece on the Toronto election, I discussed the city’s lingering malaise. It developed slowly but its roots can be traced to the 1998 amalgamation that swallowed up five suburban municipalities. This led to a six folds expansion of city boundaries and a tripling the population base. This amalgamation was initiated by the province of Ontario as a cost saving measure and faced major local opposition.  read more »

“Redneck” Calgary Elects Liberal Muslim Academic Mayor: World Doesn’t End


Calgary municipal politics rarely makes news outside of the city. Going into this year’s municipal election, I had reason to believe this would change. I came to Calgary to manage the campaign of the runner up from the last election. He is a Muslim (specifically Ishmaili), and an outsider to the political establishment. People told me there's no way someone like that could be elected in Calgary. I’m happy to say that they were proven wrong. Unfortunately, I had nothing to do with this.  read more »

The New World Order


Tribal ties—race, ethnicity, and religion—are becoming more important than borders.

For centuries we have used maps to delineate borders that have been defined by politics. But it may be time to chuck many of our notions about how humanity organizes itself. Across the world a resurgence of tribal ties is creating more complex global alliances. Where once diplomacy defined borders, now history, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture are dividing humanity into dynamic new groupings.  read more »

Vancouver: Planner’s Dream, Middle Class Nightmare


Vancouver is consistently rated among the most desirable places to live in the Economist’s annual ranking of cities. In fact, this year it topped the list. Of course, it also topped another list. Vancouver was ranked as the city with the most unaffordable housing in the English speaking world by Demographia’s annual survey. According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an “median multiple” of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that median housing price should cost no more than 3 times the median annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2. Even legendarily unaffordable London and New York were significantly lower, coming in at 7.1 and 7.0 respectively. While there are many factors that make Vancouver a naturally expensive market, there are a number of land use regulations that contribute to the high housing costs.  read more »

The Forty-Fifth Parallel


When I was a kid growing up in Oregon, we'd occasionally drive north on I-5 to Portland. Just north of Salem we'd pass a sign that read (if memory serves) "The 45th Parallel: Halfway between the equator and the north pole."

I wish I'd stopped and taken a picture of myself straddling the parallel. It would go with a collection of similar straddles: across the equator in Uganda, across the Arctic Circle in Finland, and across the 42nd parallel.  read more »

Fighting Spirit Lives On In Northern Montana


On a hot July day in 1923 northern Montana served as the unlikely backdrop for a boxing extravaganza on the international stage. There on the plains right outside the City of Shelby, Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Boxing Championship against the hard-hitting Tommy Gibbons – the only world championship fight that Jack Dempsey ever fought that went the full fifteen rounds.  read more »

A Canadian Autobahn


Canada is the largest high-income nation in the world without a comprehensive national freeway (autobahn, expressway or autoroute) system. Motorways are entirely grade separated roadways (no cross traffic), with four or more lanes (two or more in each direction) allowing travel that is unimpeded by traffic signals or stop signs.  read more »

Lost City


We agreed, last time, to meet at the corner of Yonge & Bloor – Toronto's busiest subway stop.  read more »

Let Freedom Ring: Democracy and Prosperity are Inextricably Linked


With autocratic states like China and Russia looking poised for economic recovery, it's often hard to make the case for ideals such as democracy and rule of law. To some, like Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules, autocrats seem destined to rule the world economy.  read more »