“Canada is a suburban nation.”
This was the bold proclamation of a study conducted by a team of researchers led by Queen’s University urban planner David Gordon.
“Their downtowns may be full of new condo towers, but there is five times as much development on the suburban edges of the region,” the study noted.
More than 80% of Canada’s urban population reside in “auto suburbs”, where the private car is the main means of transportation. These communities were responsible for fully 75% of all urban growth between 2006 and 2016, the report added.
The number of suburban residents grew by 17% during that time frame, far outstripping the comparably minute 9% in the nation’s downtown cores.
However, Gordon argued that because “it’s too easy to see the growth in the inner-city,” the suburbs have traditionally received little to no attention from city authorities, politicians, and academia.
“There are all those tower cranes in Toronto and Vancouver, and every single building is a political controversy, an article in the newspaper,” Gordon told The Globe and Mail.
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The report also found that between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of suburban residents increased to account for 67.5% of the national population.
Gordon warned that this trend has a momentous impact on elections – an impact that both the Conservatives and the Liberals ignore at their peril.
The nativist leanings of outspoken Conservative supporters – most notably Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, who has criticized the Liberals’ “extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity” – are at risk of alienating a large fraction of the voting public. Immigrants and their descendants have been cited by Statistics Canada as a leading driver of Canadian population growth in recent years, and auto suburbs play host to a significant proportion of these new voters.
Meanwhile, the Liberals’ fight against climate change, while admirable on its own merits, runs anathema to auto suburb residents’ only reliable means of going to and from their work – a fact that has been exploited by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who has promised to do away with carbon taxes.