Studying growth and change in the
Canadian Urban System
the PDF version of this page
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,
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
978-3375 (Sidney Smith Hall)