Currently, 54 per cent of the global population lives in cities, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050. Cities play a crucial role in our world and the We Are Cities campaign roundtables are connecting city builders across Canada to co-create an agenda and a shared vision for Canadian cities of the future.
The Vancouver roundtable brought together local urbanists, planners and architects who often attend events about cities; as well as community engagement activists, the new economy folks and environmental stewards. This brought a holistic perspective to the discussion, invigorating the dialogue.
The ideas during the roundtable ranged from promoting a zero-emission, affordable and inclusive city that promotes radically walkable neighbourhoods and active transportation modes, to supporting a fully open, transparent and engaged government that increases citizen civic participation with ideally 85% voter turnout.
With a federal election looming, one table triggered an interesting discussion around the importance of igniting democracy by bringing back the civic education mandate of Elections Canada. The aim? To raise awareness and empower city residents, through engagement training and education.
At another table, a group suggested that we support greater political courage among our representatives, by “adopting a city councillor”. When a politician takes a stance on a subject that he or she thinks is in the best interest of a city or their citizens, and does something about it, we should find ways to recognize and reward their courageous work. This might also light a fire under those who tend to talk, but do nothing.
In other words, what we really need to see flourish is new forms of citizen participation that inspire the governance of our cities. Today, more than ever, the involvement of citizens in politics is key to rebuilding faith in our leaders; and our cities are the perfect sites in which to test participatory democratic process in decision making.