Canada's Greenest Cities of Tomorrow

Our cities are leading the way to a cleaner urban future. Find out which ones will get there first. You’re in for a few surprises.

The cleanest air and water, bountiful green spaces, solar-powered and geothermal-heated buildings…all are tantalizingly within reach in several Canadian municipalities. So, where should you point your biodiesel-fueled moving van? To find out, we asked some of the country’s foremost green experts for their predictions on which cities will be Canada’s environmental leaders in the next 5, 10 and 20 years. We also analyzed the innovative and award-winning plans and policies that promise to transform our cities in the years to come.“Ten years in the future, sustainability will be viewed as a common practice, as opposed to an added value for cities,  regions and businesses,” says Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto.

Florida says that in addition to measuring greenhouse gas emissions and other traditional environmental metrics, we’ll also be looking at a community’s green spaces, public transit, and planning and sustainability practices. That doesn’t just apply to big cities like Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. “Some of the smaller jurisdictions like Whistler and Okotoks [Alberta] are definitely on par with larger centres in terms of their sustainability plans,” explains Carmen Bohn, a manager at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). “Their populations and budgets may be smaller, but their thinking is large.” What makes these cities—listed from west to east—so special? Typically, they’ve developed successful initiatives that respond to unique environmental challenges, putting them on track for a more sustainable future, says Megan Jamieson, Canadian director of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. For example, Vancouver’s density planning and air-quality programs reflect its hedged-in geography in the same way that Halifax’s climate change efforts are a reaction to its storm-battered location. “There is no one perfect community,” says Keith Stewart, manager of World Wildlife Fund Canada’s climate change campaign. “However, some are ahead in certain areas—and they need to learn from each other.”

In that spirit, then, here’s what we can learn from Canada’s greenest cities of tomorrow. To view the results, click Next>>

This article appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Green Living magazine.