This Research Report explores ideas and options for a new approach to urban and community policy in Canada. The analysis builds on the growing body of research demonstrating how “place matters” to the quality of life for all citizens and to the prosperity of nations. This Research Report calls for a place-based public policy framework. In so doing, it takes a broader view than is often the case in assessing the problems and prospects of cities. An urban perspective concentrates on physical infrastructures and the powers available to municipalities. A community perspective focuses on social infrastructures and the networks for democratic participation. The place-based framework recognizes the importance of both perspectives, and seeks their integration through a mix of public policies responding to the needs of cities of all sizes and locations.
This article explores departures in Canadian public policy toward more “place-based” approaches to social development. Focusing on the federal government, it describes a series of recent initiatives designed to enable local actors to participate in policy development processes and take greater control of their own destinies. Using the categories of “municipal empowerment” and “community building” to map new patterns, the article examines innovation and learning across federal and local scales. The article concludes that Canadian governments have now joined a robust and evolving international conversation about leveraging local assets to meet significant national policy challenges, but that more work needs to be done to build high performing, durable multi-level partnerships.