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Chapter 2

CITB01H3 Chapter 2: The History of Canadian Planning ("A Reader in Canadian Planning" Textbook)

City Studies
Course Code
Ahmed Allahwala

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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
the US.
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,
and cul-de-sacs.
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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