CITB01H3 Chapter 2: The History of Canadian Planning ("A Reader in Canadian Planning" Textbook)
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A Reader in Canadian Planning (pp. 21-47): The History of Canadian Planning
A Canadian Perspective (Jill Grant)
o The character of planning reflects a nation's history and values.
o Planning in Canada drew extensively on a colonial legacy of town planning for military,
trade, and economic purposes.
o A national commitment to peace, order, and good government created a fertile ground for
planning ideas and allowed planning to become established as a key function of local
government in the 20th century.
• Industrialization in Canadian Cities:
o By the late 19th century, with the rise of industrialization and rapid growth from
immigration, cities became centres of power and prosperity as well as dens of poverty.
▪ The changing patterns of settlement reflected both the centralization of industry and
the social structure of inequality.
▪ New transportation technologies - like the railroad and streetcar - facilitated
segregation by class: The middle- and upper-classes had opportunities to distance
themselves from the dirt, smoke, crime, vice, and social unrest of the central city.
▪ Streetcars, which first appeared in 1861, were first only used by the upperclassmen
who lived in the suburbs and needed a means to travel to the core, and eventually,
this transportation method became accessible to the middle-class.
o Engineering improvements in cities allowed for improvements on cities' physical structure:
Railways, electric plants, telephone, waterworks, and gasworks; people were okay with
paying taxes on such features because it facilitated a better quality of life.
▪ Regulation of cesspits, livestock care, and the disposal of animal carcasses became
necessary, and as a result, public health improved.
o The 1880s to the 1920s led to rapid urbanization.
▪ Canada's urban population went from about 1.1 million to 4.3 million (50% of the total
▪ Journalistic campaigns against crime, prostitution, and misery contributed to calls for
▪ Crowding and inadequate sewer services and water supply fuelled epidemics.
▪ Railways often cut off port cities from their waterfronts and redirected development
patterns into linear corridors.
▪ Street railroads encouraged suburban living and transportation radiation from the
▪ Aging housing stock in early parts of the cities faced decline.
▪ Immigrants unable to make a living had to reside in the core and make a living off of
jobs of poor conditions and rough character.
▪ Slums had begun to appear.
▪ Racism and intolerance were growing.
▪ Women's groups, ministers, and businessmen joined the call for healthier and safer
▪ Housing conditions for workers were deplorable.
o In 1889, Toronto passed a bylaw to regulate street widths and yard space.
▪ Sanford documents the relationship between infrastructure services and class.
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▪ Wealthy neighborhoods first received such services as water, sewer, and garbage
collection: They could afford it.
▪ Restrictions and covenants enforced high building standards.
o Cities in Atlantic Canada declined as capital and immigrants flowed west.
▪ Centralization of industry and wealth in the largest cities led to growth in some
centres at the expense of others.
▪ The Maritime economy began to collapse as industries and capital sought richer
▪ Montreal and Toronto became the economic hubs of the nation, the centres of
industry and expansion.
• Reforming Canadian Cities:
o Reformers in the late 19th century gave rise to improvements in public parks, water and
sewer systems, and building code regulations - many aspects of urban life increasingly came
under government regulation and public control, thereby giving rise to planning.
o Municipal reform became an issue in the 1890s when concerns about corruption and
incompetence led to changes in the structure and function of municipal government.
o Many cities switched to a ward-based system of representation, but only landowners could
o The Union of Canadian Municipalities, formed in 1901, played a significant role in lobbying
for municipal ownership of public utilities.
▪ Municipal politicians and reform-minded businessmen wanted efficiency and beauty
in their communities; planning was a tool to achieve these ends.
▪ Government saw planning as a tool for managing expectations and opportunities in
the urban environment.
▪ Planning was viewed as a means to create better cities and better people.
• Challenges to Planning:
o By the 1920s, zoning had become popular in American cities as a means of controlling land
use and increasing the predictability of development.
▪ Between the 1920s and 1950s, zoning effectively replaced planning in many parts of
o The major tool for municipal planning in the 1950s was the master plan.
▪ It used maps and text to lay out areas for such activities as development, subdivision,
industry, shopping, water supply, parks, refuse facilities, and forest reserves.
▪ The plan provided a broad general strategy and guide to policy for 15 to 30 years.
▪ It often assumed a concentric pattern of growth with high density in the centre,
decreasing toward the periphery, with different functions throughout.
▪ This period proved to be very influential, but also had its flaws (e.g., the displacement
of African-Canadians with the destruction of Africville in Halifax).
o During this time, however, people were optimistic in the skill and success of planners.
o Canadian cities began to develop their first modern suburbs in the 1950s, modelled loosely
on the successful example of Don Mills.
▪ Don Mills constituted the first private-venture new town in a suburban location.
▪ These suburbs consisted of neighborhoods, a discontinuous road system, a profusion
of green space, new house forms and new lots configurations, and a separation of
uses and activities.
▪ Two major routes, Lawrence Avenue and Don Mills Road, divided the site into
quarters of about 7000 people.
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• Each quarter accommodated neighborhood units, each with am elementary
school at centre.
• Wide lots of 60-foot frontage became common, and homes with large picture
windows facing the street became widely emulated.
• Interconnected greenbelts wound through and around the community,
protecting the ravines and stands of mature trees.
• T-junctions and cul-de-sacs represented a shift from the ubiquitous Toronto
• Short curving roads gave the site a unique feel.
▪ Don Mills provided a range of housing types.
• Of the more than 8000 dwellings, over half were apartments, with the rest a mix
of single detached, semi-detached, and row housing.
• Both rental and freehold purchase were available, provided opportunities to a
mixed-income pool of people.
• The success of Don Mills increased housing costs, making housing less accessible
to lower-income households.
▪ By 1963, Don Mills reached a population of 29,000.
• Proven successful through the years.
• Received lots of media attention, won design awards, and hosted visits from
developers and planners from across Canada and beyond.
• Became Canadian suburban ideal.
▪ As the suburban ideal became entrenched during the 1960s and 1970s, it boiled down
to a few simple principles: wide lots, detached houses, grassed lawns, winding streets,
Our Common Past: An Interpretation of Canadian Planning History (Jeanne M. Wolfe)
o This essay traces the evolution of the planning profession, its institutions, underpinnings,
and recurring debates in chronological order.
o The founding of the Institute in 1919 by Thomas Adams and a like-minded group of
individuals marked the official beginnings of the profession, though the activity of planning
long predated this event.
o There are two strands to these preprofessional times: the active, represented in settlement
history; and the reactive urban reform movements, which ultimately led to the
establishment of the Town Planning Institute of Canada.
• The Dominion Land Surveys:
o The European colonization activities wiped out the evidence of Indigenous settlement
patterns and conditioned the contemporary landscape.
o The original division of lands - the long-lot in the French colonies, the township-concession
systems of Upper Canada, and the square mile grid flung across the Prairies and draped over
the Rocky Mountains - are all reflected in our contemporary communities.
o They influence the dimensions of urban blocks, patterns of land development, and siting of
facilities, and they give each part of the country a distinct flavour.
o Superimposed on this pattern were the early transportation routes, especially the railways,
laid out in prodigious haste in the latter half of the 19th century.
o The original design of the Prairie railway town is well known from the Ontario-Manitoba
border to Whitehouse.
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