Rethinking the Region

On March 1st 2014 the SFU Urban Studies program held the 2nd annual Rethinking the Region forum – a day long discussion to dig into the meaning and the limits of our regional relationships, powers, potential, and understandings. We asked: what is regional thinking? And: why is it important for the economic, health, political and transportation options that we face in our daily lives?

Graduate students and faculty from SFU Urban Studies are currently working together with participants from the session to compile a detailed outline of discussion points and policy recommendations which will be posted here. Across all of these issue areas, there was widespread recognition in the room of the need to think across sectors, across organizations, and toward strategic solutions. What follows is a brief overview of some highlights from the session. To view the discussion guide that was distributed to all participants, outlining key considerations for each issue area below, click here.

Session Highlights:

In our organic city-region of Metro Vancouver, political boundaries matter much less than the different patterns of social, natural, cultural, economic, and mobility flows that link us together. We stand to gain a great deal from better regional thinking.
REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION PRIORITIES: We need a Sustainable Mobility Coalition to prevent us from becoming “Venice surrounded by Phoenix” in transportation infrastructure terms; among other things, maintaining both types of systems is too expensive;
REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES: Planning and strategizing in order to present our region as a region of clusters in terms of economic development will attract good economic opportunities; the infrastructure to maintain competitiveness includes integrated land use and transportation planning, and total commitment to education;
REGIONAL GOVERNANCE PRIORITIES: Threats to local democracy are gathering, and we need to protect democratic institutions and people’s right to be heard; tweaks could be made toward closer ties between the electorate and the regional Board, without full-scale reform to make Metro Board members directly elected;
REGIONAL HEALTH PRIORITIES: The impact of climate change presents massive impending challenges to human and environmental health, and we are not taking these seriously; to raise this broader systems view of health in the cross-cutting areas where we will see impacts, we should consider establishing Health Advocate positions at many policy tables.
We’re excited at the prospect of compiling a complete report, and further refining specific policy recommendations together with regional decision-makers. Check back here for more information!
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