NOVEMBER 27, 1969
The Mid-Canada Development Corridor Conference: A Growing Force in a Growing Country
AN ADDRESS BY Richard Rohmer, D.F.C., Q.C.,
BARRISTER AND SOLICITOR
CHAIRMAN The President,
H. Ian Macdonald
It is always a fascinating process to ponder how little the fundamental character of Canada changes. Were we gathered together in this room ninety years ago, although our speaker might have chosen the Pacific railway as his subject, the fundamental objective would remain the same. In his study of John A. Macdonald, The Old Chieftain, Professor Donald Creighton tells us why:
"The project of a Pacific railway through Canadian territory was a project only less formidable than that of the Dominion of Canada itself. The Dominion and the railway would both encounter the same acute difficulties for they shared a common ultimate objective. The prime purpose of Canada was to achieve a separate political existence on the North American continent. The prime function of the Canadian Pacific Railway was to assist in this effort . . . ." Canada may subsequently have been caricatured as a railway in search of a nation, but today we have an inspiration in search of support and encouragement. I believe that the underlying objective of the "Mid-Canada Development Corridor" is no different from that of any of our great development instruments. In the mind of its originator, Richard Rohmer, the "Mid-Canada Development Corridor" is a means of ensuring the continuation of a separate political entity on the North American continent.
We are, indeed, fortunate that the father of that concept has agreed to speak to the Empire Club today and I am doubly proud, as one of the mid-wives at the birth of the Mid-Canada Development Corridor Conference, to introduce him to you.
Richard Rohmer has lived according to the phonetics of his name, driven by a restless energy that has taken him to various places and led him to numerous accomplishments. His schooling in Ontario was split between Hamilton and Fort Erie and, after serving in the Second World War, he attended Assumption College of the University of Western Ontario where he took his Bachelor of Arts in 1948. He attended Law School at Osgoode Hall, receiving his call to the Bar and qualifying as a Barrister and Solicitor in June of 1951. His principal counsel has been in municipal law and before administrative tribunals, but he has also written and published several books and articles.
Clearly, places and people are a source of infinite mystery and fascination for Richard Rohmer, both of which come strongly together in the Mid-Canada Corridor concept. He served in the R.C.A.F., as a fighter pilot, from 1942 to 1945, flying Mustang I Aircraft in the European theatre; in particular, he participated in the D-Day operations leading to the invasion of Normandy, and in the fighting over France, Belgium and Holland. He was awarded the D.F.C. in 1945. Actually, his taste for the air only subsided in 1953, if indeed it has, when he retired as Wing Commander after presiding over Reserve 400 and 411 Squadrons in the City of Toronto and the County of York.
To recite a complete list of his contributions as a Councillor in North York and his involvement in charitable work would be tedious for him and time-consuming for you. Suffice it to say that he flies as fast on the ground as he ever did in the air.
Where will the concept of Mid-Canada go? That depends on Richard Rohmer, but it also depends on us. The real power which made it possible to put men on the moon was the firm conviction that this feat could be achieved, rather than the technology by which it was achieved. By the same token, the firm conviction that all of Canada, and not just an elongated band in the south, can be fully developed may be a first step towards its realization.
To tell us why he hopes and believes that it will, I am happy to present a Canadian with a vision, a vision based on what this country set out to be, what it continues to seek, and what it must be determined to become. Gentlemen, I present Richard Rohmer, proud father of an exciting idea, that may even result in the twenty-first century belonging to Canada.
During the past few months, the MidCanada Corridor concept has attracted increasing interest among those concerned for the future of this nation. Those of us who have been involved from the beginning are no longer content to describe the character and promise of mid-Canada. We believe that the time for action has arrived.
The most immediate need is the creation of a crown corporation with multi-government sponsorship which would be charged with the responsibility for research and the creation of the policies and a plan for the orderly development of Mid-Canada.
The Mid-Canada Planning Corporation would have as its board of directors representatives of all of the provinces which have lands in mid-Canada and, as well, representation by the federal government which, of course, is directly responsible for the government of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
No single government would have control of the board. The permanent staff of the Mid-Canada Planning Corporation would be small and would be selected from among Canada's most qualified land-use planners, sociologists, engineers, architects, and other disciplines and skills. In turn the Corporation would retain the research services of similarly qualified persons including members of Canada's universities and professional firms and corporations.
The Mid-Canada Planning Corporation will be at work for at least five years before it begins to emerge with meaningful policies and a plan for submission to and adoption by the governments represented on its board of directors.
These policies will cover a broad range of subjects largely related to the creation of new urban communities. The main questions to be answered for Mid-Canada relate to people and the establishment of urban forms of settlement. We are an urbanizing society. Some projections indicate that by the turn of the century--thirty years from now--over 80% of our population will be in urban communities.
One of the principal functions of the Mid-Canada Planning Corporation will be to work as a co-operative, coordinating body between the provinces and the federal government; between the provinces themselves; and those of you who are familiar with governmental interdepartmental cooperation can test the need of this next proposal--also between the departments in any one government, be it federal or provincial.
The policies which the Mid-Canada Planning Corporation will have to consider relate to such matters as how do you get people into Mid-Canada; what kind of housing do you provide for them; what tax incentives should be given; what transportation should be provided and at what rates; how do you get secondary industry into the region; what about educational facilities from kindergarten through university; what about shopping facilities; do we need special immigration policies? These are but a few of the questions.
Perhaps the overriding question is this: should we create cities in Mid-Canada and if so what form should they take in order to provide each citizen with an opportunity to achieve the best possible life style for himself and for his family?
Now, having discussed with you an approach to Mid-Canada and the creation of a Planning Corporation which can range across this country, secure the participation of Canada's best intellects and move in a co-operative, coordinating way among our governments and their departments, I wish to take up with you the question of whether a comparable body is needed now, forthwith, to deal with the critical problems of the cities of Canada South.
We have enormous problems facing us in our cities. What concerns me most is that I can see no single-headed, strong, forward-looking, multi-disciplined body designed to assess these problems and to mount a co-ordinated attack. Instead I see a multiplicity of federal, provincial and municipal government agencies all fighting under their own flags on their own little piece of the battleground.
The federal government has a stake in the provision of financing for housing, for the creation of incentives to attract industry into certain areas, for the lending of money to municipalities to construct sewers and other services. The federal government has a stake in our cities but is limited in its involvement by the BNA Act.
The provincial governments are really the central governments in terms of land use planning, regional economic planning, regional servicing and education. But none of the provinces has yet produced comprehensive land use and economic development plans, proposals or guidelines for the growth of its cities and urban centres.
Planning (land use and economic) has traditionally been left to the local municipalities which are limited in their geographic size and in their power to raise money to keep abreast of the rising demand for services caused by a rapidly increasing urban population.
The population of Canada is growing rapidly and with it the time for decisions for the cities grows shorter.
I will use Metropolitan Toronto for convenient examples of the problems but I stress that the perspective must be nationwide because the growth situation prevails in all our cities throughout the nation.
There will be another one million people in Metro Toronto and its surrounding region within the next ten to twelve years. Metro Toronto itself is growing at the rate of 60,000 persons a year. This is the equivalent population of many of Canada's cities and yet the housing, schooling, transportation and other services, the jobs, the supporting industries, all must be created at the same time.
Let me ask some of the questions which follow this growth fact:
How big should Metro Toronto (any city) be permitted to grow; or should there be no limit?
If there should be a limit to the geographic size, and therefore the numbers of people, what should the limits be, how should they be determined, and what are the alternatives? You will not stop the demand for growth by merely drawing a line. The city is attractive. It is where the action is whether it is Montreal, Halifax, Edmonton, Vancouver, Metro Toronto or any other of our equally important growing urban centres.
Do you draw a line and then say we will establish an encircling girdle of green belt and then a new series of small urban centres (say 5,000 persons, i.e. small town communities where inter-person human responsibilities are strong as is the real sense of "belonging" which is lost in the faceless "big city") which are interconnected with a central or town centre core where industries, regional shopping centres, university, community college, theatres and other facilities are located?
Or do we draw a line around the city, lock all our growth inside it, create our dwelling units in vertical apartments and (this is the last thing we usually consider but it should be our first) thrust our young families and children into this vertical pattern of living?
We all know that it is impossible for the average working man to buy a house for his family in most of our cities. What a dreadful indictment of our society.
The motor vehicle population is increasing at the rate of 15 % a year and with it a parallel pollution of the atmosphere. The cities are moving inexorably and without plan or control toward a strangulation by the automobile and by the roads and expressways which it demands.
Pollution of our air and water has become a major public concern but we are still a long way from effective remedial action. Harsh and costly measures must be taken.
Are we paying any attention at all to what is happening to the cities in the United States, or are we so smug as to think it can't happen here?
At the beginning of this week a statement was issued by the United States "National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence and of Violent Crimes: Homicide. Assault, Rape, and Robbery." The findings of this Commission which is headed by Milton Eisenhower are so shattering as to compel one to say it can't be true. But what they say is true and in Canada we had better start paying attention.
These are just a sample of what the Commission predicts for the cities of the great United States.
"The way in which we have so far chosen to deal with the deepening problem of violent crime begins to revise the future shape of our cities. In a few more years, lacking effective public action, this is how these cities will likely look: "Central business districts in the heart of the city, surrounded by mixed areas of accelerating deterioration, will be partially protected by large numbers of people shopping or working in commercial buildings during daytime hours, plus a substantial police presence, and will be largely deserted except for police patrols during nighttime hours.
"High rise apartment buildings and residential compounds protected by private guards and security devices will be fortified cells for upper-middle and highincome populations living at prime locations in the city.
"Suburban neighborhoods geographically far removed from the central city, will be protected mainly by economic homogeneity and by distance from population groups with the highest propensities to commit crimes.
"Lacking a sharp change in federal and state policies, ownership of guns will be almost universal in the suburbs.
"High speed, patrolled expressways will be sanitized corridors connecting safe areas, and private automobiles, taxicabs, and commercial vehicles will be routinely equipped with unbreakable glass, light armour and other security features.
"Streets and residential neighborhoods in the central city will be unsafe in differing degrees and the ghetto slum neighborhoods will be places of terror with widespread crime, perhaps entirely out of police control during night-time hours. Armed guards will protect all public facilities such as schools, libraries, and playgrounds in these areas.
"Individually and to a considerable extent unintentionally, we are closing ourselves into fortresses when collectively we should be building the great, open, humane city-societies of which we are capable."
It is safe, smug and typically Canadian to say it can't happen here.
But even if we said, "We accept the warning," who will act upon that warning in this Canada of three divided camps--the federal camp, the provincial camp and the municipal camp, each with its own arsenal of power entrenched in the hallowed British North America Act?
How can we Canadians get these governments to recognize that the Canadian battle for the cities is one which they must fight together shoulder to shoulder and is not a battle in which they fight each other? How can we get these governments to use the powerful flexibility of the BNA Act as a bridge instead of a wall?
I am one of those who believes that we have men in positions of leadership in our governments today who are perfectly capable of coming together to fight the battle for the Canadian cities and to work out the strategy, the tactics, the policies and a joint plan of action so that the growth of cities is in accordance with well thought out policies and plans for people, their environment, their education, their social needs, their industries and for the use of the land in and around the cities.
In terms of mechanics I see a structure for the bridging of the BNA Act in a form similar to that which I outlined earlier for the Mid-Canada Planning Corporation but broadened to include on its board of directors appropriate representation on behalf of the municipal governments of Canada.
There must be countless numbers of ways of structuring a multi-governmental body which is charged with the responsibility of research, the examination of the problems of the cities of Canada and the preparation of policies and proposals for consideration by the people of Canada and the governments which represent them.
Canada is a nation possessed of incredible resources. Among its 21,000,000 people are some of the best brains in the world in virtually every field: medicine, architecture, engineering, the arts, sociology, commerce and finance and the art of government.
Our physical or natural resources are spectacular in terms of oil, gas, timber, minerals and tourism; and in terms of a vast, virtually unopened superbly attractive boreal forest which is the heart of Mid-Canada.
The challenge of Mid-Canada can be no more and no less than the challenge of Canada's battle for the cities.
The challenge of Mid-Canada can be met and the battle for Canada's cities can be won by the same means, that is by the use of our knowledge, our intelligence, and our technology to create both short and long range policies and plans for the orderly growth and development of this nation.
Mr. Rohmer was thanked on behalf of the Empire Club by Mr. W. B. Harris.