Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) are one of the contributions developers are required to make in Vancouver to support affordable housing, community resources such as schools and libraries, and parks. Developers, in return, are often allowed to build at higher densities. Vancouver’s unique legislation, the Vancouver Charter, gives it the ability to levy a negotiable tax such as the CACs. In the rest of the province, municipalities can only charge Development Cost Charges (DCCs), non-negotiable fees based solely on the number of units or square feet of the development. Similarly, Ontario municipalities may use Section 37 of the Planning Act to obtain community benefits in exchange for higher densities.

Penny Gurstein, Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC, leads a project on housing justice in BC. She has just released an analysis of the use of CACs between 2010 and 2012, which produced just 170 affordable housing units. By contrast, BC Housing’s waitlist for affordable units averaged 3,425 over this period.

Developers also have the option of making cash contributions in lieu of building units—a total of $61.07 million was raised just from 2010-2012. This is the preferred option, as most developers want to build luxury condos to maximize their profits and get their investment back immediately–rather than invest in market-rate rental or mix in affordable units with their fancy condo owners. Unfortunately, cash contributions just go into a reserve fund, and the City is not very open about how much of it goes towards the housing budget or how it’s used. But it says it has approved over 1,000 affordable units since 2010. Gurstein’s analysis was based on staff reports, which are unclear on the use of cash contributions for affordable units. Read the article in the Vancouver Sun here.

Rental housing is also an issue in many Canadian cities, since incentives to build them (at least at the federal and provincial levels) disappeared long ago and changes to the Income Tax Act have made rental housing much less profitable to develop since the 1970s. Some analysts believe that a shortage of market rate rental units and the loss of units to condo conversion have contributed to very low vacancy rates across the country, pushing people into homeownership before they may be financially ready. Since 2010, Vancouver has also run the STIR (Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing) program and Secure Market Housing Policy, which have added 3,000 rental units at market rates.

 

Planning transportation and land use at a regional level is something that very few urban areas have done well. It’s recognized in The Netherlands that this type of collaboration among municipalities, land use and transportation authorities, regional and provincial governments is difficult, but needs to be done to achieve sustainable, compact urban growth. On November 27, the Province of North Holland launched a new program called Maak Plaats! (or, “Make Way!”) which will attempt to develop a provincial strategy for public transit and the areas within 1200 meters of railway stations. Click here to download a copy of the report (the only English text appears on p230-231, “English Summary”).

No doubt inspired by StedenbaanPlus, the integrated regional strategy and co-operative agreement between TOD actors in the Rotterdam-Den Haag region, Maak Plaats! has integrated the plethora of transportation and spatial analysis provided by Deltametropolis. Deltametropolis has done detailed analysis of each node in the North and South Wings of the Randstad which make it easier for the various levels of government to visualize which areas would be the best for future TOD. Below is some of their work for the South Wing.

StedenbaanPlus analysis of station areas

Deltametropolis analysis of station areas for StedenbaanPlus showing the potential for each node

For detailed analysis of each node in North Holland, see p235-363 in the Maak Plaats! report.

North Holland corridoroverzicht

The eight designated corridors in North Holland

In North Holland, eight corridors have been designated:

  • Heerhugowaard-Amsterdam (pilot)
  • Enkhuizen – Amsterdam
  • Daman – Alkmaar
  • Amsterdam – Leiden
  • Amsterdam – Amersfoort / Utrecht
  • Amsterdam – Utrecht
  • Amsterdam – Uitgeest / Zandvoort / Leiden
  • Amsterdam – Lelystad

The goals are to locate at least 50% of new housing around public transit nodes, prioritize plans that occur within the built-up area, reduce surplus office space in areas that are not transit-accessible, locate regional services in transit-accessible locations, and improve trip-chaining facilities. These are not surprising considering the previous policies such as A-B-C location policy (introduced in 1989), which aimed to concentrate employment growth at station locations but had disappointing results.

Starting in 2014, the province will monitor urban development around public transit nodes, prioritize location of new housing within station areas, and facilitate regional consultations and alliances between public and private actors. Specific grants or investment programs may be used to develop key Provincial Nodes. Partners include municipal and city-regional governments, regional bus provider Connexxion, national rail agency NS, rail infrastructure provider ProRail, the OV office, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Universities of Amsterdam and Nijmegen, and Deltametropolis.

As StedenbaanPlus was the first regional collaboration and agreement between transportation and land use actors in The Netherlands, Maak Plaats! can be seen as building upon this success. Deltametropolis has also done a lot to familiarize planners with TOD concepts, mainly through their SprintCity gaming sessions.

So far, the willingness to collaborate on regional TOD strategies has been developed through informal cooperation networks, but not a lot has actually been implemented. Rotterdam-Den Haag is making some progress with the RandstadRail corridor and projects, which include integrated LRT and BRT linking Rotterdam, Den Haag and Zoetermeer.

Many congratulations to my colleague and co-conspiritor at SCARP, Dr. Cornelia Sussmann. Cornelia finished her Ph.D. this August, unfortunately (for me!) just after my move to Amsterdam. She has been a friend, mentor, collaborator and valuable sounding board before, during, and after my Ph.D. years at SCARP.

Dr. Sussmann’s dissertation, Towards the Sustainable City: Vancouver’s Southeast False Creek, tells the compelling story of sustainable planning initiatives in a city that tops the “most livable” lists each year. Through in-depth interviews and analysis of the Southeast False Creek project goals and targets, she showed that only minimal reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and ecological footprint were achieved–quite an underachievement for a LEED-ND Platinum-rated project that won a UN Livability award. However, the City of Vancouver may have achieved important political, bureaucratic, industry and public support with this “stepping stone” project. After all, in the past three years the City has embarked on The Greenest City initiative, a comprehensive and broad-based attempt to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020. While the technical achievements of Southeast False Creek won’t impress our Professor Emeritus Dr. Bill Rees, they illustrate the messy collision of planning politics, construction and development paradigms.

Dr. Sussmann is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in a continuing collaboration with SCARP alumni Dr. Meidad Kissinger (Ben-Gurion University).

Ah, the postwar era. So much blind optimism…so many planning mistakes. Back in the 1960s when highway building was de rigeur, the City of Vancouver considered an ambitious downtown highway proposal that would have destroyed many neighbourhoods in the central city, including Strathcona. The Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts, completed in 1971, were the only two sections of highway built, in part because they replaced an older viaduct that needed major repairs. Thanks to the mobilization of the Strathcona community, a series of successful protests prevented the rest of the proposed highways from being built. The decision was a defining moment in Vancouver’s history and left the city with a remarkably intact downtown, although the ethnically diverse Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood was lost to the Georgia Viaduct.

During last year’s Winter Olympics, city planners decided to close the viaducts, along with several major streets downtown, for safety reasons. TransLink and municipal governments actively promoted public transit use, increased service, and encouraged walking and cycling for the Olympics’ 22-day run in February 2010. The Olympics showed City Council and local residents that traffic on the viaducts could be completely replaced by increased bus and SkyTrain service; there is now a serious proposal underway to tear down the viaducts, which many consider a physical barrier to East Vancouver.

Georgia Viaduct: street view

Vancouver Director of Planning Brent Toderian and city engineer Jerry Dobrovolny recently released a report stating that the number of heavy trucks using the viaducts is now half of what it was in 1996. In the past decade, planners have also introduced key initiatives encouraging trips made downtown by cycling, walking and transit, and discouraging driving trips. The viaducts are now responsible for about 20 percent of trips into the downtown peninsula, but Toderian says this percentage will decrease even more as more people switch to the sustainable modes. Toderian and Dobrovolny are requesting that City Council continue analysis, beginning with public consultations in 2012, and including an Eastern Core Strategy with detailed land use and transportation options for the viaducts, recommendations on planning principles and policy directions. What a fantastic, and long-lasting, insight from the Olympics!

Many other cities have removed freeways in recent years, as I wrote in an earlier post. New York City agencies are currently considering tearing down the Sheridan Expressway, a 1.25-mile structure that is considered a barrier to the Bronx River. The Sheridan carries about 35,000 vehicles per day. It took 60 years, but post-war innovations to planning problems are finally giving way to new–or should I say, old–solutions.

A couple of weeks ago, we had what was probably the two busiest weeks in SCARP history. Susan Fainstein was here as our Scholar-in-Residence, SCARP celebrated its 60th anniversary, we hosted our third annual Student Symposium, and two doctoral students successfully defended their dissertations. Writing about all these other events has kept me busy until now!

Leslie Shieh examined Shequ (Community) construction in China, in particular the effectiveness of State policies in local communities (read the dissertation here). Her study, “Shequ Construction: Policy Implementation, Community Building, and Urban Governance in China” shows the impact of a wide set of policies intended to carry out administrative functions and deliver social care: under Shequ policies, thousands of service centers have been built, offering cultural and social services to residents. While many Western planners advocate for community-led change, Leslie’s interviews with local community groups and residents shows how much agency residents have under the Shequ policy framework and urban governance model, and challenges North American experiences of ineffective state planning interventions. Leslie’s work was published in City (“Restructuring Urban Governance: Community Construction in Contemporary China“, 2008) and she has a chapter in the forthcoming Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society (Arif Dirlik and Alexander Woodside, eds.). She is now busy publishing more of her research findings and working in the Vancouver urban development scene.

Janice Barry’s dissertation is entitled “Building Collaborative Institutions for Government-to-Government Planning: A Case Study of the Nanwakolas Council’s Involvement in the Central Coast Land and Resource Management Planning Process” (read the dissertation here). She examined a government-to-government process involving a First Nations group and the Provincial government, using interviews and content analysis of policy documents. Her work contributes to the growing body of literature linking planning and new institutional theory, clarifying the drivers and dimensions of institutional change. Janice is currently  a postdoctoral researcher in the Urban Studies department at the University of Glasgow with Dr. Libby Porter. They have just started fieldwork for another study involving First Nations communities in BC: “Planning with Indigenous Customary Land Rights: An investigation of shifts in planning law and governance in Canada and Australia.”

Congratulations to these stellar graduates, who have been great mentors, co-conspirators, and friends during my time at SCARP.

Update: Janice became a lecturer at the University of Sheffield Department of Town and Regional Planning in July 2012.

Bill Rankin's map of Chicago

A couple of years ago, when I attended the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning annual conference in Chicago, I was stunned to hear that Cleveland and Chicago are the most segregated cities in the US. As I’ve written before, Canadian cities simply don’t have these levels of segregation; obviously not for African American and Hispanic populations, but also not for other groups. Recently, I’ve come across a series of maps illustrating the difference between American cities that are more segregated vs. more integrated, thanks to some enlightened cartographers. It is very interesting to compare these maps to the (albeit simpler) maps of visible minorities in Canadian cities recently published by the Globe and Mail.

Bill Rankin‘s map of Chicago illustrates the sharp divides between white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and other ethnocultural groups. It was originally published in Perspecta, the journal of the Yale School of Architecture; Rankin is a PhD candidate in architecture and the history of science.

After seeing this, Eric Fischer produced similar maps for the 40 largest American cities. He used the same process as Rankin (one dot for every 25 people and same colour code, using the 2000 Census data).

We can see some segregation in New York City, but there are zones of integration.

Eric Fischer's map of New York City

Detroit’s 8-Mile district stands out as an example of entrenched segregation. Many of the maps of smaller cities, like Buffalo, Toledo, and Raleigh, highlight inner city concentrations of African Americans.

Eric Fischer’s map of Detroit

Eric Fischer's map of Los Angeles

On the other hand, check out Riverside, CA, which looks very integrated. Los Angeles also has a lot of integration, and San Antonio is very integrated.

Eric Fischer's map of Riverside

A couple of weeks ago, the Globe and Mail posted a series of “heat maps” showing the concentration of visible minorities in Canadian cities. They don’t break down the statistics (from the 2006 Census) into specific ethnocultural groups, as is the usual Canadian trend; there are simply too many groups to map. But they are interesting nonetheless. The maps are interactive, allowing you to zoom in, so I can’t reproduce them here. Check them out at www.globeandmail.ca under Multiculturalism.

Vancouver’s map shows that in most census tracts in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey, over 30% of the population are visible minorities. Toronto has a similar pattern: over 30% of the population in Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Richmond, and Ajax are visible minorities. The central Toronto map shows some interesting areas of lower concentration: areas around the subway lines, west Toronto and the Beaches. In Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa, the census tracts with over 30% visible minorities are mainly in the suburbs.

Montréal is even more fascinating because it shows a very different pattern. The visible minority population there is almost exclusively concentrated on the island of Montréal, with lower rates of concentration in the suburbs: the older pattern of immigrant settlement that we still see in smaller cities. This is likely due to sheer numbers: Toronto and Vancouver receive tens of thousands more immigrants each year than Montréal.

Obviously, the American maps show that not all cities south of the border are sharply segregated, but even in the smaller cities, like Toledo, Ohio, there are lingering segregated African American populations. This in itself is not an issue; the maps of Canadian cities show lots of neighbourhoods with high concentrations of visible minorities. The real issue is when these concentrations are due to poverty or discrimination (either societal or institutional, such as in the housing market). American housing research seems to indicate that much of the segregation is in fact due to these two factors. Entire programs are devoted to fixing this problem: Housing Choice Vouchers, for example, aim to remove people from entrenched areas of poverty into neighbourhoods where they may have better educational and job opportunities.

I think these maps illustrate again how different Canadian and American cities are in terms of ethnocultural groups: both in terms of their composition and their spatial dispersal. This continues to create policy differences between the US and Canada, not only in my own research areas of housing, transportation, and immigration, but in many other areas affecting municipalities: welfare provision, health care, and education to name a few.

Many researchers in Toronto have become experts at mapping the city’s spatial, cultural, ethnic, and political trends. A few years ago, the Globe and Mail even published a language map of Toronto based on the 2001 Census data for mother tongue. Richard Florida is now one of the latest to use the excellent mapping and research resources available at the Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS).

Florida’s map shows the same differentiation that David Hulchanski did three years ago in his excellent report Toronto divided: A tale of three cities. This report received a lot of media attention, in part because its complexity and rigor left little doubt in its findings: Hulchanski, Associate Director (Research) of CUCS, carefully mapped many different characteristics using Census data spanning a thirty-year period, including income, housing tenure, transit use, ethnicity, immigration status, household size, and employment. The carefully-worded report raised some red flags: the decline of the middle class, the decrease in housing choices for low-income households, the shift of poor neighbourhoods from the inner city to the outer suburbs.

It’s common to say that people “choose” their neighbourhoods, but it’s money that buys choice. Many people in Toronto have little money and thus few choices…When most of the city is in a middle-income range, city residents can generally afford what the market has to offer…It is only when the percentage of those in the middle declined that we began to hear about “housing affordability” problems. If the incomes of a significant share of people in a city fall relative to the middle, the gap between rich and poor widens. Those closer to the bottom are more numerous and find it increasingly difficult to afford the largest single item in their budget–housing (either in mortgage payments or rent).   J. David Hulchanski, Associate Director (Research), CUCS

Hulchanski, who has written volumes about affordable housing policy in Canada, wrote persuasively of the policy options that can help reverse these trends, and many writers echoed his concerns. Florida himself wrote an article in response in the Globe and Mail.

Florida, on the less thorough end of the spectrum, mapped “creative class”, “service class”, and “working class” occupations in the Toronto CMA. The Geography of Toronto’s Service Class, published by the Martin Prosperity Institute at U of T, shows how the “classes” were defined. Artists, doctors, teachers, managers, architects and computer programmers were all considered “creative class”. Cashiers, salespeople, police officers, food preparers, medical assistants, and administrative assistants were “service class”. And miners, welders, carpenters, truck drivers, production workers, and construction workers were in the “working class.” If you know Florida’s work, you know that he is preoccupied with class and that he tends to use loaded terms; “class” is not a casually-used word in the Canadian research arena.

The kind of work people do is the hallmark of social-economic class and the map shows a city where the dominant classes occupy, literally, two different social, economic, and geographic spaces.  Richard Florida, www.creativeclass.com

Map from www.creativeclass.com

It is true that Toronto’s postindustrial shift has led to a decrease in manufacturing jobs, suburbanization of workplaces, concentration of high-paying service-sector work in the inner city, and gentrification around subway lines (all of which Hulchanski pointed out earlier, not to mention Tom Hutton and David Ley). But Florida’s definitions are directly responsible for his findings: how is a doctor in the “creative class”? A manager or computer programmer? And how do police offers and medical assistants get grouped in with cashiers and administrative assistants? It seems as though he has just mapped by salary level, not occupational category…in which case his results aren’t surprising.

Research involving income, occupation, ethnicity, and polarization need to be carefully articulated and worded to avoid clichés like “upper class people live in desirable areas while lower class people do not.” There is much more depth to the story than Florida lets on, although he is fairly well-versed in housing issues. The recently-released report on Canada’s Housing Bubble, produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, outlines how housing prices have risen faster than inflation, household incomes, and economic growth. Echoing Edward Jones’ report earlier this year (see my previous post), CCPA says that the housing market is “more unstable than it has been in over a generation.” All major cities in Canada are now experiencing housing price increases above their historical range, meaning the time is ripe for a crash. For Florida, who advocates the creative class and advises cities on how to bring these types to their cities, real estate is crucial: he has written about the need for more rental housing, which in his opinion keeps people mobile and able to search for employment in a wider range of locations. His recent publication on Toronto’s class divide has more to do with the city’s political landscape than housing, of course, and it has served its purpose of being provocative.

Sheng Zhong recently defended her PhD dissertation at UBC School of Community and Regional Planning.  Last year at the Association of American Geographers annual conference, she gave us a little preview of her research results on cultural production sites in Shanghai, focusing on one of the seventy government-designated sites, M50 on Suzhou Creek. She also published this case study in the 2009 issue of Critical Planning (Vol 16): From Fabrics to Fine Arts: Urban Restructuring and Formation of an Art District in Shanghai. Her research consisted of extensive interviews, surveys and site visits of most of these former industrial sites now destined as high-end cultural centers. The concept of the creative class might be controversial here, but Sheng’s research shows the Chinese government is jumping on the bandwagon that supposedly leads to economic growth and development, as suggested by Richard Florida.

In Sheng’s doctoral defense, she contrasted two cultural production sites, one of which developed on its own, as artists found the low-rent buildings vacated by industries that had relocated to the suburbs. The second was designated by the government and targeted for redevelopment. The contrast between the two was very interesting: the first had grown illegally for some time as artists occupied the various buildings on the site, then over a decade gentrified to the point where rents are almost at the upper limit of affordability for small-scale production. The second site was initially designed with high-end stores and upscale landscape architecture targeted to foreign tourists. It is under-used (the rents are too high and there may not be enough demand for the location) and the artwork sold there is unaffordable to the Chinese population.

Dr. Zhong will be starting a post-doctoral position at the National University of Singapore, where she will continue her research on urban redevelopment and the policies that impact growth and change in Chinese cities.

Update: As of February 2012, Sheng will be a lecturer at the brand new Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, a joint effort of China’s Xi’an Jiaotong University and the UK’s Liverpool University.

There has been a lot of debate and policy discussion in Metro Vancouver over the increasing suburbanization of businesses over the past two decades. The issue is a concern for planners for many reasons: the dispersed locations encourage urban sprawl and greenfield construction. Because business parks are often far from existing transit infrastructure, they can also increase trips by single-occupant vehicles (SOVs). But for many business owners, the cheaper land and lower taxes in fringe areas are too good to pass up. Many municipalities favour office and business park construction in their fringe areas because the new employers add to their tax base and also provide local jobs. This trend still seems to be alive and well in Metro Vancouver, despite policies supporting mixed-use centres throughout the region, but in some American cities the tide seems to be turning.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Ania Wieckowski writes that “suburbs have lost their sheen” as both younger and older worker are increasingly choosing to live in denser, mixed-use communities with better transportation options. In the last US Census, 64% of 25- to 34-year olds said they looked for a job after choosing a city in which to live. Businesses like United Airlines and Quicken Loans recently announced that they would be moving their headquarters from suburban to urban locations: United will locate in downtown Chicago and Quicken Loans in Detroit. Many CEOs are realizing that if they want to remain competitive, they need to contribute to more vibrant central cities.

Walgreens at Madison Avenue and 41st Street in the 1930s. Image from the NYPL Digital Gallery.

New Orleans Canal Street location

Such a shift means that there would have to be all kinds of changes in the ways national retail chains locate and design their stores: the big-box and strip mall architectural styles will need to evolve to fit more urban settings…or evolve back to the city, as Wieckowski puts it. Walgreens, which recently acquired the Duane Reed chain, used to be a staple on small town main streets. We have seen this trend in Canadian cities, with some big box stores choosing to locate in inner city areas: Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, and the like. Vancouver actually has some great examples of these, like the Shoppers Drug Mart/Future Shop on West Broadway near Burrard Street. But we certainly don’t have any examples of major employers relocating to the city: as Tom Hutton frequently writes, Vancouver is still reeling from the losses of the major forestry headquarters during its transition from a resource-based economy to a finance- and service-based economy.

As the American shift back to the city is happening at a time when housing choices are also skewing urban, it’s again time to reflect on the differences between their cities and ours: while we certainly have urban sprawl and suburbanized employment, the level of disinvestment in our cities is still not the same as it is in the US. In particular, without the high levels of segregation and massive public housing projects located in many American cities back in the 1950s and 1960s, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and even smaller cities like London and Kelowna have been able to maintain competitive housing prices in inner city neighbourhoods. Too competitive, in fact: housing affordability is a major problem in our the first three cities, and even in smaller cities like Kelowna and Vernon, BC. Whereas in the US, the recent shift back to cities as a place for business location may be tied to the recent trend to live in urban centres, which I discussed in a previous post. The current housing crisis means that in many American cities, housing is affordable even in inner city neighbourhoods, and with the new emphasis on rental housing there are more options available for those wanting to live urban lifestyles. These types of choices are less available in Canadian cities because the demand for urban housing never decreased, even during the US mortgage crisis: witness Marcelle Czerny’s recent article in the Globe and Mail on the quest for an affordable home in Toronto and her unwillingness to leave the city for the suburbs.

Je viens de retourner de Montréal, où j’avais l’opportunité de practiquer mon français. A brief two and a half days of bilingual workshops and roundtables on immigration issues, mostly in the Canadian context, was enlightening and quite enjoyable. The best part: it was a relatively small conference, with 1200 participants and only four concurrent sessions. This meant it was well organized, there were very few changes to the programme itself, and it was very easy to find your way around the two floors dedicated to our conference: qualities usually missing at the American Association of Geographers annual congress, where I’ve presented a couple of times.

The small size of the conference meant that I was asked to be in a roundtable with some of the top researchers in the field: Bob Murdie who is retired from York University, Carlos Teixeira at UBC Okanagan, Sutama Ghosh at Ryerson, and Damaris Rose of INRS. I have cited all of these authors in my own work, and they proved to be just as thorough, but unassuming, as their writing would suggest. Also included were some housing agency representatives like my old friend Jim Zamprelli from Canada Mortgage and Housing Coporation, and two of us PhD students. The roundtable audience was a good size and included David Ley from UBC Geography and Sandeep Agrawal from Ryerson: David of course is legendary in geography (last year he was named a Distinguished Scholar by the American Association of Geographers); Sandeep is the Director of Ryerson’s Master of Planning program.

David Firang, who is currently doing his PhD in Social Work at U of T, presented his research on the housing choices of Ghanaian immigrants in the next session, where I also presented my preliminary findings. Carlos presented his latest research on immigrants in the Central Okanagan Valley, cementing the idea that immigrants have very few choices due to housing policy that does not support market rental or affordable housing construction. Tom Carter from the University of Winnipeg discussed some of the issues immigrants have in the smaller Manitoba centers, where there is still fairly significant housing market discrimination. Tom also noted, after my presentation, that immigrants to the smaller centers often complain about the lack of public transit, even if they live in towns of 500 residents. Damaris, who was the discussant in our session, gave us all some important insights and comments, and very kindly welcomed David and I into the research arena.

Now, usually I find the plenary sessions less than exciting. But in this case the speakers included Krishna Pendakur, the hilarious and brilliant economics professor from Simon Fraser University, Valerie Preston from York University, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and UBC’s own Dan Hiebert. Krishna had the audience laughing right from his introduction, even though his research was depressing: Canadian-born visible minorities are just not doing as well as Canadian-born whites, at least in terms of income. His comments about entrenched racism in the workplace (“The good thing is that these people that make the decisions, they’re old, they’re racist, and they’re going to die eventually.”) and the differences in outcomes across cities (“Do you see these lines? Do you get what I’m sayin’?  I’m sayin’ I’m glad I live in Vancouver!”) really brought home the importance of how the information is delivered. The participants at our table looked at Krishna with the rapt eyes of devotees: one said, “I love this guy!” and another, “He actually makes stats interesting!” Valerie, who spoke right after Krishna, started by saying, “How do I follow that?” Jason Kenney’s speech wasn’t interesting in the least, but the fact that his presence was delayed by two separate protesters, who disagree with “Canada’s white supremacist immigration policies” definitely livened up the audience. I suppose it is a testament to political will that he still appeared and did his prepared speech, which showed the mark of the current adminstration’s insensitivity towards Canada’s temporary foreign workers, and seemed to reinforce the idea that while the country needs immigrants, it does very little to help newcomers find work, find housing, and settle into their lives in Canada.

Outside of the sessions, there were so many interesting people to talk to: I met Masters and PhD students, housing providers, non-profit agency professionals, and government officials at the federal, regional, and municipal levels. One night I was pleased to sit with Alan Simmons, a professor of sociology at York University, and his wife Jean, who teaches in family counselling at Guelph University; the rest of our table included people in social work, social justice and anthropology. This was a real interdisciplinary mix, and many of the people I spoke to said this was their first time at Metropolis.

Je suis heureuse de vous dire que le prochaine congrès sera à Vancouver! (Je vais améliorer mon français avant que ça, je vous le promets.) À la prochaine tout le monde!