Local and Urban Politics

E18 - Urban Policy Challenges: Climate, Food Security, Economic Development

Date: Jun 14 | Time: 12:00pm to 01:30pm | Location:

Sustaining Food Security in Niagara: Joanne Heritz (Brock University)
Abstract: Food security remains the one social service, for the most part, still under the purview of charities. In 2021 almost one in six households in Canada were food insecure, amounting to 5.8 million people including almost 1.4 million children. This means that one in five children lived in food-insecure households. Current forecasts indicate that food insecurity is going to get even worse (PROOF 2023). Charities have a long history of providing food security in Niagara but have never faced the challenges they are experiencing today. Household budgets are struggling to pay for increasing housing and transportation costs, and then comes the realization that there is little, or no money left for food. Findings from an environmental scan of food banks across Niagara Region’s 12 municipalities indicate that there has been a 30 per cent increase in food bank visits from 2022 to 2023 and they are experiencing unprecedented shortages in supply. The federal government responded to the food crisis with a one-time rebate in Summer 2023 and the provincial government’s only response was during the pandemic. This begs the question, if food security demands are outpacing supply and distribution, what are the factors causing current gaps in service provision, and how could they be addressed? How are municipalities assisting charities in providing food security for the most vulnerable members of our community? Preliminary findings indicate that municipalities are included in the actors responding to food insecurity by acknowledging the current crisis and making recommendations for action at the provincial and local levels of government.

Provincial Policies for Small-Scale Renewable Energy Projects: Decentralizing Pathways for Energy Transition in Canada: Gabriel Barbosa (Western University)
Abstract: Energy governance has recently received a great deal of attention in Canada, where dissimilar provincial political economies associated with uneven natural resource geographic distribution and energy infrastructure frameworks contribute to diverse paths toward energy transitions and energy democracy. As a country where the governance of energy systems is focused mainly at the provincial level, Canada embraces multiple and simultaneous energy transition pathways, even compared to other federal countries. In this context, less attention is given to local governments and communities, and whether recent provincial renewable policies have been fostering the participation of local governments and communities in small-scale renewable energy projects (SREPs) is an open question. To discuss provincial renewable policies in Canada and their potential to foster a decentralized energy governance model via SREPs, the present paper asks: “Do provincial decentralizing energy policies in Canada that promotes SREPs also promote decentralized energy governance? And under what conditions they do this?” To answer these questions, the paper focuses on the groups of stakeholders invited to apply as developers of SREPs and the collaborative multilevel governance structure of SREPs. This paper employs text analysis on twelve Canadian provincial energy policies that have fostered SREPs since 2010. The selection of policies was supported by the literature on RES-E infrastructure, which suggests that SREPs are more likely to exist when infrastructures of connectivity and locality are decentralized. However, whether or not these policies also promote decentralized governance and community involvement is an open question that this paper expects to address in the analysis.

Being well now or later: the temporal disconnect between climate and urban wellness policies: Marielle Papin (MacEwan University)
Abstract: Cities have become places of compound crises, where many shocks and stresses happen simultaneously and interdependently in different sectors. The climate crisis is entangled with many other urban issues, including physical and mental health and wellbeing. But how do these crises and their solutions interact? Does addressing climate change in a systemic way automatically mean ensuring the good health and wellbeing of all urban dwellers? Although the consequences of climate change are being increasingly felt, for many they still seem far away in space and time. Yet, health and wellbeing are immediate and constant concerns for all. This paper is interested in the synergies and conflicts of urban climate and health and wellbeing policies and their consequences on the most vulnerable urban communities. It asks: how do adaptation and wellness policies work together? We present a case study of Edmonton’s recent climate adaptation and wellbeing initiatives. It shares and puts light on the results of a documentary analysis of policy documents as well as semi-structured interviews with local policymakers and community members participating in or affected by Edmonton’s climate and wellbeing initiatives. We show that there are many synergies between adaptation and health wellbeing policies. While these synergies tend to positively affect the wealthiest communities, they conflict with one another when it comes to the most vulnerable communities. This research may be of interest to scholars working on climate policies or on health and wellbeing policies, as well as to urban scholars and policymakers.

The Impact of Smart Urbanism on Economic Development in Niagara Region: Learning from the Regional Innovation Systems Literature: Nathan Olmstead (Brock University), Charles Conteh (Brock University)
Abstract: The fabric of the Canadian city is increasingly fibreoptic, with many municipalities investing in new technologies to address the challenges they face. In addition to improving local quality of life, developing such “smart city” approaches is often framed as a way to attract investment, talent, and economic growth, particularly in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. Despite this, the impact of smart urbanism on economic development, and the relationship between smart urbanism and existing economic development policies, is underexplored, and the viability of smart urbanism as an economic development strategy is unclear. To that end, this paper explores the influence of smart city policies on economic development in Niagara Region, a two-tier municipality in Ontario, Canada. Drawing on available economic data and a series of interviews with local stakeholders, we explore the history of smart urbanism in Niagara and the growth of the Region’s ICT sector over time. Comparing Niagara region to provincial and federal trends, we find that growth has been concentrated in ICT subsectors that reflect Niagara’s historical strengths in agriculture and manufacturing, rather than the ICT subsectors traditionally associated with smart cities. Smart urbanism is thus an insufficient explanation for the growth of ICT within the Region. In this regard, we argue that smart city approaches can be bolstered by existing research on Regional Innovation Systems, and in particular this literature’s emphasis on economic clustering, institutional supports, and intermediary organizations. We conclude with some policy implications for current practice and theoretical extrapolations for future studies.