York professor emerita launches book about dynamics of Toronto region

York University Bookstores and The City Institute at York University (CITY) are hosting the launch of The Public Metropolis: The Political Dynamics of Urban Expansion in the Toronto Region, 1924 – 2003, by York Professor Emerita Frances Frisken on Friday, Feb. 29.

The event will take place from 4:30 to 6:30pm in the Harry Crowe Room, Atkinson College, Keele campus.

The Public Metropolis (Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc., 2007) traces the evolution of Ontario government responses to rapid population growth and outward expansion in the Toronto region over a period of 80 years.

"I began this book several years ago in response to a request from the Neptis Foundation for a discussion paper dealing with governance in the GTA," says Frisken. "I said I could not write a short paper on this subject; I could only write the book that had been taking shape in my head for some time."

Neptis encouraged Frisken to do just that – write a book about it. They also made sure it got published.

"The Public Metropolis is the first comprehensive academic study of metroploitan/regional governance in the Toronto region in more than 30 years," says Frisken. "While not explicitly theoretical in purpose or argument, its research and findings were influenced by several theoretical explanations of the underlying causes of ‘the political dynamics of urban expansion’."

Frisken describes the institutions and policies put in place by the provincial government over the years to provide services important to the region. Although the province acted sporadically and often reluctantly in the face of regional population growth and expansion, Frisken argues, its interventions contributed to the region’s most noteworthy achievement – a persistently healthy core city. She contends that Toronto continued to thrive while many other North American cities experienced population, economic and social decline.

One of the cities on Frisken’s mind when she first started thinking about Toronto region governance was Cleveland, Ohio, where she had earned a doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University before joining York’s Urban Studies Program in 1971. "My dissertation dealt with a dysfunctional metropolitan planning organization serving the Cleveland metropolitan area. I began by asking, therefore, why the Toronto metropolitan area, with its thriving downtown, was so different from the fractious seven-county region, with its depressed central city, that I had left behind," says Frisken. "This question led me to do research and publish on various aspects of urban policy-making: city and regional planning, urban public transit history and policy making, public housing, the history of metropolitan government, property tax reform, provincial-local relations, urban social sustainability, local economic development, and most recently, the response of local governments to immigrant settlement."

Right: Frances Frisken

The Public Metropolis draws on that research and the work of other scholars. It treats regional governance mainly as an offshoot of central or provincial government policy. After tracing the evolution of government policies affecting the region, Frisken assesses the extent to which those policies achieved objectives commonly identified with effective regional governance. She also situates changes in government approaches to regional issues within the political, economic and social contexts in which they occur and shows how changes in those contexts can lead to important changes in the way regional issues are addressed.

"It should be a useful resource, therefore," says Frisken, "for both academics and other professionals who study the impact of politics and public policy on this region now and in the future, and for people who want to understand why the region is the way it is or to compare its character and history with those of regions elsewhere."

Frisken taught in the Urban Studies Program for 25 years and has written widely on urban planning and policy issues. She is a former Chair of the Governing Board of the Urban Affairs Association and founder of the GTA Forum, an organization that brought academics and urban professionals in the GTA together to share research and ideas related to urban issues. She has also served as policy advisor to government and community organizations and committees.

The bookstore will also feature recent and newly-published books by authors associated with CITY. The event is supported by the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation and the Urban Studies Program, Division of Social Science.

Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome.

RSVP to Michael Legris, by Wednesday, Feb. 27, at mlegris@yorku.ca or call ext. 22078.