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Centre for Urban and
Community Studies
University of Toronto
455 Spadina Ave.
Suite 400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5S 2G8

(416) 978-2072
(416) 978-7162

Urban Systems Research Lab

Studying growth and change in the
Canadian Urban System

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Cities do not exist in isolation. They grow or decline because of their situation within – and linkages or interconnections with – a larger set of urban places. This interconnected set of cities we call the urban system.

This research group, led by Larry Bourne and Jim Simmons, both professors of geography and planning, is primarily concerned with the monitoring, analysis, and assessment of growth and change within the Canadian urban system, within a changing global context.

The cities in the system have been subjected to unprecedented forces of change emanating from both national and international sources. Those forces include shifts in the national economy and international trade patterns, changes in the country’s social character and demographic structure, increased immigration flows and ethno-cultural diversity, and shifts in government policies, programs, and practices.

Our focus is on how these forces interact to transform the urban system and create new sources of difference between cities, and on the policy challenges posed by these trends. The Canadian urban system is relatively open to external influence, and thus has the potential for rapid change. Recent trends in industrial structure and trade liberalization, for example, have dramatically shifted the balance of trade flows in Canada from east-west (interprovincial) to north-south (international) as the Canadian economy has become more integrated with the U.S. economy. This trend, in turn, has altered the flows and linkages between cities and thus the degree to which Canadian cities depend on each other for their economic well-being.

In parallel, immigration has become the largest source of population growth and the major factor in determining urban growth rates. Immigration is also highly concentrated geographically, and thus has become the principal factor driving metropolitan growth and concentration. The source countries for the immigrant population have also shifted, from Europe to Asia and the developing world, leading to a dramatic ethnocultural transformation in cities that receive most of the immigrants. Cities in other parts of the country remain more or less homogeneous.

Some of the questions the researchers seek to answer include:

Why do some cities grow and prosper while others do not?

What is the relative contribution of economic, demographic, and political factors in creating new patterns of uneven urban growth?

What are the specific attributes of growing and declining urban places?

How are the forces of globalization reshaping the structure and operation of the Canadian urban system?

Are these forces leading to a further fragmenting of the urban system and to the appearance of wider differences among cities in the character and quality of urban life?

What are the future prospects for those cities, and what living conditions, job opportunities, and public services will they offer?

What new policy initiatives are appropriate for urban areas in a situation of increasing uncertainty and enhanced global competition?

For further information please contact:

Larry S. Bourne
978-4382 (CUCS)
978-3375 (Sidney Smith Hall)

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