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Sustainable future for Ontario depends on mid-sized cities

Ontario's mid-sized cities are at a turning point and it's time to give them the recognition they deserve.
Top image caption: Trent University in Peterborough, Ont./Paul Gorbould via Flickr

Published on May 01, 2017

Ontario depends on the vibrancy of its mid-sized cities.

It is time for mid-sized cities (MSCs) to get the attention they deserve. These cities are ripe for change, with renewed political leadership, rising voter turnouts, higher levels of civic engagement and younger political faces that are revitalizing politics and opening new windows of opportunity to do things differently.

When we think about city-building, it’s the metropolises that come to mind – Toronto, Vancouver, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo. With so much attention given to these places, it’s easy to overlook mid-sized cities. At Evergreen, we want to think about city-building in all kinds of cities, not just the big ones. These cities are critical to ensuring we provide the types of lifestyles, amenities and experiences that cater to everyone.

Dundas Street in London, Ont.
Dundas Street in downtown London, Ont./Ken Lund via Flickr

So what exactly are mid-sized cities?

In the Canadian context, mid-sized cities are defined as having a population within the range of 50,000 to 500,000 residents. Twenty-five cities in Ontario fall within this category, representing 44.3 per cent of Ontario’s urban population. This means that nearly half of Ontario’s city-dwellers are located in MSCs. This is a massive chunk of the population and yet, MSCs are largely overlooked in academic research, policy development and mainstream city-building conversations.

Not all mid-sized cities are made the same. MSCs in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) are experiencing high levels of growth and development, while many outside the GTHA are experiencing far less population and economic growth. Supporting these cities requires new approaches that consider the impacts of regional trends and external pressures, while responding to the unique challenges and opportunities MSCs face in meeting infrastructure needs, creating quality of place and promoting sustainability goals.

Downtown Hamilton crawl.
Downtown Hamilton/John Piercy via Flikr

This is an exciting opportunity and MSCs have a lot of good qualities to build on. Compared to their larger and more densely populated counterparts, mid-sized cities offer higher affordability, reduced traffic congestion and lower crime rates. These are places that often have easier access to natural amenities, like green spaces and hiking trails, without having to sacrifice access to cultural amenities, such as art galleries and public markets.

At Evergreen, we’re taking this opportunity to help Ontario’s MSCs thrive with our Mid-Sized Cities Program. For more information on mid-sized cities, read our newly-released Mid-Sized Cities Research Series.