By Danny Tseng, Soldatova Tseng Inc.
Now in its second year, the Brian Curtner Legacy Program awards 10 ULI Toronto young leaders under the age of 35 who have demonstrated active involvement in the organization with a year-long Associate Membership. Sponsored by Quadrangle Architects in memory of one of their founding partners, the endowment celebrates Brian L. Curtner’s commitment to mentorship and concern about the next generation. This fund is also closely aligned with the success of ULI Toronto. The Greater Toronto region has become the fastest growing district council worldwide within the Urban Land Institute network and the secret sauce behind this leap according to Richard Joy, Executive Director of ULI Toronto, is the fact that 50% of its member are under 35. “The amazing energy from new leadership has really been part of the chemistry of our growth,” Joy remarked.
The award ceremony, held at Quadrangle’s downtown office, was appropriately followed by a discussion on how future generations can help Toronto stake its claim among the world’s leading global cities. Titled “Uncoordinated Growth: Making Sense of Toronto’s Future,” the panel was moderated by Joy while Anne Golden, Chair of Ryerson’s City Building Institute, Alan Broadbent, Chairman & CEO of Avana Capital Corporation & Founder of Maytree, and Stephen Diamond, President & CEO of DiamondCorp were the all-star panelists.
Twenty years ago, Golden put together a report outlining recommendations for the city to help advance regional governance. The idea of better regional coordination was urgent at the time due to three reasons: 1) the emerging notion that the future of our province, nation and world is dependent on cities, 2) the political structure is out of alignment with the economy despite how interconnected our region is 3) infrastructure was significantly lagging behind the current and future needs of the growing region. The government ignored Golden’s counsel outlined in her report. After all, as Broadbent noted, the notion that a major region was of national importance, an influential idea observed by Jane Jacobs, was considered esoteric by the government. As a result, transit and affordable housing remain two of the city’s biggest concerns due to a lack of coordination between regions.
Another barrier to better regional governance, as Diamond pointed out, is the fact that opinions can become politicized and results can be muddled due to political elements, such as the issue behind the Scarborough subway line. As one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Toronto isn’t maximizing the synergy of its parts because government structures are not organized in ways to leverage these strengths.
While in theory, the amalgamation of the City of Toronto was meant to join the six constituent municipalities into one cohesive whole, the result has been that there is significant political tension surrounding how policies should be executed. Part of that problem comes down to funding. Since the public is allergic to tax increases and any candidate running for office would avoid raising taxes to win votes, alternative revenue sources have to be developed. Broadbent pointed out that, although municipalities benefit from financing through property and development tax, they’re unable to levy sales and income taxes. The lack of funding affects what can and cannot be built.
With the approach of the 2018 municipal and provincial elections, what can be done now to foster coordination at the regional level? First, it comes down to leadership and success at building transit, affordable housing, and dealing with immigration issues. Second, implementing better funding tools would allow government leadership to better achieve their vision. Finally, alignment on policy and election timing around that is critical. Golden suggested that perhaps the solution is in restructuring.
Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Brian Curtner Legacy Fund: Joshua Butcher (Bousfields), Alex Candy (Allied Properties REIT), Christine Chea (Graywood Developments), Stephanie Cirnu (Habitat for Humanity), Samantha Eng (Cohn & Wolfe), Kendra FitzRandolph (Hullmark Developments), Stephen Job (DiamondCorp.), Sean MacKay (BuzzBuzzHome), Michael Peiser (Cadillac Fairview), and Monika Rau (Dream).