Toronto: Metropolitan Transformation and the Governance of Sustainability


City Profile:

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada with an estimated 2.615 million in 2011, making it the fourth largest city in North America, after Mexico City, New York City and Los Angeles. Toronto is an international centre for business, finance, arts and culture, and is widely recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.




Richard Stren is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, and Senior Fellow at the Global Cities Institute in Toronto. He is the author or editor of 18 books, and numerous scholarly articles on subjects relating to cities and urban governance. He has served as Chair of the HS-Net Committee of UN-Habitat, and he has worked as consultant to many international agencies, including Cities Alliance, the World Bank, CIDA, and USAID.

Martin Horak is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Local Government Program at the University of Western Ontario. His books include Governing the Post-Communist City: Institutions and Democratic Development in Prague (2008); Sites of Governance: Multilevel Governance and Policy-Making in Canada’s Cities (2012, co-edited with Robert Young); and Urban Neighborhoods in a New Era: Revitalization Politics in the Post-Industrial City (2015, with multiple co- authors).

Gabriel Eidelman is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance. His research and teaching focus on cities and urban governance in North America. His work has been published in Cities, the Journal of Urban Affairs, the Canadian Journal of Political Science, and Politics & Policy.


Toronto is the largest and most economically important city region in Canada. The core City of Toronto has 2.7 million residents, while the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has more than 6 million. In the absence of a single governing authority, and as the region has expanded and become a major continental center for finance, education, and tourism (among other major functions), it has struggled to find solutions to the governance of an increasingly diverse population within the constraints of important sustainability requirements. Over the past several decades the core city of Toronto has 1) amalgamated a previously successful two-tier metropolitan system (with an upper tier government and five lower tier municipalities) into a single-tier city; 2) developed a planning framework to densify development in the region within a perimeter bounded by a greenbelt, which is the source of much of the fresh water flowing into the city from the north; and yet 3) struggled to develop a regional transit policy through the formation of a provincially-based transit agency. Each of these initiatives is the subject of ongoing political challenges, but for the immediate future there is no further major reform on the horizon.