Friday, 8 May 2009

Good Government and Good Sense: Getting Back to Basics in Montreal

A bunch of academics have been talking about what makes a successful city at a conference in Montreal these past few days. The topic is “Great Cities: Locomotives of National Economic Development,” and much talk about encouraging creativity, and research has been heard.

One of the most interesting points of views was presented yesterday by Richard Shearmur, professor at the l'INRS Urbanisation, Culture et Société, (Institute national de recherche scientifique.) Le Devoir quotes him as telling a workshop on what makes a city work that, while economists say a city’s success can be measured by the GDP per capita, that view doesn’t take into account income disparities within a city. Good public transit and a strong basic education system are necessary for building a successful city, he said.

That’s common sense, Le Devoir notes. But it's sense that sometimes gets buried under flashier ideas about cutting edge industry, tax policy and strategic investment. I’d add honesty in public officials as a necessary ingredient too. We’ve had a rash of revelations about conflict of interest and possible corruption on the provincial and municipal level lately. They are damaging not only because of the tax dollars wasted and the good projects possibly overlooked in favor of not-so-good ones, but also because they stain the whole idea that good, effective government is possible. And good government is what we need now, more than ever.

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