In early March, the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) hosted its first municipal symposium.
“We wanted to highlight the important work that municipalities do and the fast pace of changes and emerging challenges that they have to anticipate and respond to,” said Professor Alena Kimakova, the director of the school, in her opening remarks.
The keynote speaker for the event was Mary-Frances Turner, president of the York Region Rapid Transit Corporation, who has more than 30 years of experience in urban planning, corporate leadership and public-private partnerships.
In her remarks, Turner said that transit challenges weigh heavily on the minds of residents of urban centres and rural communities alike. She noted that the entire York University community is also a major stakeholder in transit policy. Improvements in transit directly translate into quality of life by saving time, space and the environment, observed Turner.
She identified technological and demographic megatrends as key drivers of change, and underlined the need for transit systems to be flexible, responsive and resilient. Turner also emphasized the importance of good governance as a determinant of accountability and success of major infrastructure projects.
The keynote address was followed by five expert panels on topics ranging from technology and economic development to social services, infrastructure, governance, human resources and leadership in municipal public administration. Elected officials, municipal administrators and professional associations, provincial representatives, non-profit managers and private sector companies working with municipalities were all represented on the panels and shared their insight with the 100 participants at the day-long event.
The Institute of Public Administration of Canada Toronto Regional Group (IPAC TRG) served as event co-sponsor.