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7 ideas and lessons for global cities

Today I had the pleasure of attending a really great talk by Joe Berridge (partner at the planning firm Urban Strategies) that was all about how Toronto can best maintain its position as a globally competitive city. 

He went through 7 ideas/lessons. Though they were specifically aimed at Toronto, most of them could be applied to any city that’s concerned about its position on the global stage. They are:

  1. Invest in infrastructure, such as transit, airports, and so on. Sustainable funding and proper governance are critical. Transit planning in Toronto has become far too political and it’s crippling our city.
  2. Embrace Uber and get them using our Presto card so that it becomes a legitimate part of the city’s public transit network. Every city in the world is battling with Uber. Toronto has the opportunity to take a leadership position.
  3. Build a new convention centre and invest more in tourism and economic development. Berridge’s suggestion was something big at Ontario Place/Exhibition Place.
  4. Build new Universities to fuel the knowledge economy. See New York’s Cornell Tech campus as an example.
  5. Invest in infrastructure and institutions that turn research and development into businesses. Platforms like MaRS.
  6. Start thinking big. This was specifically geared towards Toronto, as his argument was that we do a lot of the small things right, but we’re missing out on the really big opportunities.
  7. Create Suburban Enterprise Zones to help drive employment outside of the core and along new transit corridors.

Alongside these ideas and lessons, there was a fascinating sub-argument. And that is that Toronto is really an accidental global city. In other words, we didn’t set out to become a top 10 global city and one of the fastest growing cities in the developed world.

But by getting a lot of things right – such as a high quality of life – and through a bit of luck – such as Montreal shooting itself in the foot – we somehow became one. But we absolutely shouldn’t take that for granted. There’s lots of work to be done.

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