Placing Social Policy? Reflections on Canada's New Deal for Cities and Communities

By Bradford, Neil | Canadian Journal of Urban Research, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Placing Social Policy? Reflections on Canada's New Deal for Cities and Communities


Bradford, Neil, Canadian Journal of Urban Research


Abstract

This article analyses the New Deal for Cities and Communities pursued by the federal Liberal government between 2004 and 2006. Situating the initiative in broader urban policy debates about the merits of place-based interventions in tackling problems of poverty and exclusion, it is argued that the New Deal represented a novel attempt at "interscalar policy coordination" within Canadian federalism. Three specific policy tools are identified as central to the New Deal framework--municipal revenue transfers; urban development agreements; and community action research. To understand the New Deal's impact, the implementation of these tools is explored in the context of the City of Toronto's concern with distressed neighbourhoods. Finding gaps in the application of the tools to the city's social development priorities, the article identifies limits in the federal government's policy vision and highlights four institutional factors impeding progress: jurisdiction; money; machinery; and time. The arrival in power of the Harper Conservative government, adhering to a traditional view of inter-governmental relations, is likely to reduce federal interest in tackling these obstacles to urban social policy.

Keywords: new deal for cities and communities, distressed neighbourhoods, place-based policy, interscalar policy coordination

Resume

Cet article analyse le Nouveau Pacte pour les Villes et les Collectivites entrepris par le Gouvernement federal Liberal de l'an 2004 a 2006. Cette initiative se situe au sein des debats sur la politique urbaine concernant les merites d'une intervention specifique basee sur les problemes de pauvrete et d'exclusion. Le Nouveau Pacte represente, pour certains, une nouvelle tentative "a la coordination de politique interscalaire" dans le federalisme canadien. Les plus importants outils de politique du Nouveau Pacte sont les transferts de revenu municipaux; les accords de developpement urbains; et la recherche communautaire. Afin de comprendre l'impact du Nouveau Pacte, nous analysons la mise en oeuvre de ces outils dans le contexte des quartiers pauvres de la Ville de Toronto. L'article fait etat des limites de la vision et des politiques du gouvernement federal sur la base de quatre facteurs institutionnels qui empeche son progres : juridiction, capital, machinerie et le temps. Finalement, l'arrivee au le pouvoir du Gouvernement conservateur Harper, adherant a une vue traditionnelle de relations intergouvernementales, va probable reduire l'interet et la volonte du gouvernement federal a resoudre les obstacles concernant la nouvelle politique urbaine.

Mots cles: Nouvelle Affaire pour Villes et Communautes; quartier pauvres, politique basee sur les communautes et les villes; coordination de politique interscalaire.

Introduction

In recent years, poverty in countries across North America and Europe has become more concentrated and entrenched in particular areas within large cities. Research has documented growing income polarization across metropolitan spaces, and the persistence of "distressed neighbourhoods" where high poverty and low services exclude many urban residents from the mainstream economy, society, and polity. Faced with the destabilizing effects of this new urban geography of poverty, a number of OECD governments have turned to social policy strategies incorporating a strong local dimension (OECD 1998, 2006).

Among the most prominent policy developments has been introduction of spatially targeted or area-based interventions in specific neighbourhoods. The merits of this approach reside in the attention paid to local conditions, the recognition of the need for grass-roots policy engagement, and the potential for more 'joined-up' solutions. However, it is not readily apparent whether such localized responses can address the wider structural forces that are understood to create the new forms of urban poverty and social exclusion. …

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