Why is growth good for a city? When you visit another city, what sticks in your mind? Was it the buzzing atmosphere downtown? Local food establishments? Entertainment choices? The variety of things to do? The sights and sounds? The people?
A vibrant city is driven by growth. It allows us to create new experiences for ourselves and for those visiting our city. Growth drives the economy, improves culture, and encourages innovation.
Pericles, the first Mayor of Athens said, “All things good of this earth flow to the city”. With the high level of urbanization in the world that has occurred in the past 200 years, some may argue this point with Pericles today.
The first modern city to reach one million people was London, England, in 1810, and then New York City in 1875. Today there are over 300 cities worldwide with populations of greater than one million people. In a Regina context, we have calculated that if our city continues to grow at its current accelerated rate, we will reach one million people in approximately 100 years.
Regina’s humble beginnings started in the same way as most world cities. First it was a settlement surrounded by simple farming. Over time, people began to take on more specialized occupations, more trade occurred, more food was stored, and power began to be centralized. In time, that centralization lead to Regina becoming the capital city of our great province.
Today, some would suggest that the growth of our city is unsustainable, wrong, it is sustainable when a city is true-to-cause in understanding what its purpose is. The purpose of a city is simple, to facilitate affluence for its citizens and alleviate poverty. Housing affordability is a crucial component in that cause.
Economic growth plays an imperative role in the health of a city. We have heard the criticism that with the increase of affluence in a city, it does not distribute to citizens completely equitably, but make no mistake; economic growth is the only way that affluence can increase for all citizens regardless of their starting point.
As a City, we should be proud of how far we’ve come and excited for where we’re headed. After all we are on track to become one of Canada’s greatest cities. This did not happen by accident, it happened because our City grew and with growth came the opportunity of re-imagining our City.
Regina’s growth has meant more jobs so families can stay right here in Regina. For local business, growth has meant more customers which have made a whole lot of business more viable, which has led to more choices for all of us. Growth has meant new homes and neighbourhoods to welcome new families and create the opportunity for existing Regina citizens to move into a new home, because there was someone to buy their existing home. The new neighbourhoods have added significant new park and green space to our community that all can choose to use. We have more healthcare options as our growing city attracted more health care professionals. We are blown away at the amount of small entrepreneurial business that has opened, especially in the last few years. The revitalising of our downtown has been remarkable. More restaurants, more shops, more business, more homes, more cultural events, more innovation and more of a lot of great things. Ultimately it has led to a higher standard of living for most of, many of Regina citizens.
We can admit that the growth of our City does create other challenges and the benefits are not distributed completely equitably. Housing has gotten significantly more expensive, but that is not solely because of growth, mostly it is simply more expensive to build a home. Traffic is an increasing problem, but putting the break on growth will not fix that problem, planning and investing in transportation solutions solves traffic problems. It is true, growth benefits some more than others, but at least with a growing City the opportunity to continue to improve the standard of living for Regina citizens exists. We challenge anyone to find an example of a City that is losing population that is also increasing the standard of living of their citizens at the same time.
We should not take the growth of our City for granted. We have experienced a lot of growth over the last decade and it is easy to assume our City will just continue under its own perpetual momentum. This I can assure you is not true. Growth is precious and it requires our leaders and our citizens to believe growth is important. If you don’t agree, close your eyes and picture Regina 20 years ago. Now open them and look at how far we’ve come. Going backwards doesn’t make much sense.