Beyond investment and infrastructure, cities need to offer citizens a goodquality of life and a sense of community
Cities rely on urban development to remain functional, grow in population and attract businesses. But as cities continue to grow, so do their challenges and complexities.
The rise of urban populations worldwide makes quality of life even more relevant. At the same time, the physical characteristics of cities have to continuously change to accommodate new citizens and evolving demands.
In Manitoba, the key to the province’s low business costs is a cost of living that allows Manitobans to live for less. This includes homes, electricity, university or college tuition—all are available in Manitoba at some of the lowest prices in the country, according to the provincial government.
And low corporate taxes, low skilled labour rates, low energy costs, low healthcare premiums and low transportation costs makes Winnipeg a cost-effective place to run a business. In KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives (2016) report, Winnipeg has the lowest overall business costs in western Canada, and its costs are lower than every U.S. city surveyed.
The main goal of urban development is to make a city or town more livable by improving the quality of life for its residents—this includes overall well-being, satisfaction, and happiness. The basics of public safety, water quality, education and transportation matter.
But quality of life goes beyond the basics. Urban development also includes the social and cultural aspects of life, such as supporting arts and culture, promoting inclusivity and diversity and creating public spaces where people can gather and connect. The whole system has to work together efficiently and sustainably.
As part of Budget 23, the Manitoba government announced that more than 400 community arts, culture and sports projects will receive $50 million in funding from the provincial government to begin making improvements to build stronger communities. Project categories include Community Celebrations that awards up to $5,000 for events that bring Manitobans together to celebrate culture and heritage.
“A sense of community is a sense of belonging–the faster you can adapt within a community, the more likely you are to stay, and the longer you stay, the better it is for the local economy,” says Connor Ketchen, general manager of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce. “There is some municipal, some private sector and some public sector responsibility on investing in the community and culture, and making sure that your city is aligned through all levels of government, business and organizations.”
A city or town is more than just a place with buildings and infrastructure–it’s a hub for culture and learning, work, community and recreation. To ensure long-term success, cities need to continuously improve and adapt as they grow and develop. This means staying on top of trends and adapting to keep ahead of the curve.
Last February, the Manitoba government announced an increase in municipal operating basket funding by 28 per cent, providing an additional $47 million in the 2023 municipal fiscal year. All municipalities will receive a minimum 24 per cent increase in 2023 to address inflationary impacts.
With this increase, the 2023 municipal operating grant will grow to $217 million from $170 million. Winnipeg will receive an additional $16.7 million in unconditional operating funding and an additional $13 million in transit operational funding while Brandon will receive over $2.3 million in new unconditional funding.
“For [Brandon], with the higher immigration populations that we have, it’s learning what our quality of life means to those populations, because it may differ from what we’ve traditionally believed to serve our community,” says Tanya LaBuick, past president of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce. “What are the things that they need? It might be religious places where they can go and build community. That’s important for us, as an urban centre, to recognize those things and then plan for that with those populations.”
According to public opinion research by the department of Finance Canada conducted in 2020, one in two Canadians (53 per cent) feel that stronger growth in Canada’s GDP is important to their day-to-day life. However, far more (82 per cent) feel that measures beyond economic growth such as health and safety, access to education, access to clean water, time for extracurricular and leisure activities, life satisfaction and social connections are important to their day-to-day life.
The COVID‑19 pandemic provoked reflection about what matters most to people. In addition to health and safety, the crisis has drawn attention to quality of life issues such as access to green space and social connections.
Investment in parks and public spaces is an integral aspect of both urban development and quality of life—planning for green infrastructure brings nature into cities, providing climate stewardship, overall wellbeing and public health. Urban forests also provide economic benefits such as increased property values, positive impact on real estate and reduction in energy costs by shading both buildings and pavement.
“One of the strengths of [Brandon] is access to recreation. We have a well-developed riverbank but also there’s a variety of lakes within an hour of us, like Riding Mountain National Park, so the commute time to recreation is minimal,” says LaBuick.
Last year, the provincial government awarded $1.5 million in grants from the Conservation and Climate Fund to support 14 projects throughout the province that work to help protect the environment by addressing the effects of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A high quality of life is crucial to attracting, and retaining, a talented and diverse workforce, promoting economic growth and attracting investment.
Cities that prioritize quality of life are more likely to thrive and succeed in the long term. By prioritizing the well-being of residents, cities can create a more livable, sustainable and attractive urban environment that supports both economic growth and prosperity.