Vancouver Would Lose its Charm as a Megacity

Why the city should avoid amalgamation as seen in Toronto and Montreal
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor

Opinion 1 - Vancouver Megacity by Shandis Harrison

(Shandis Harrison)

The area previously known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District took on a new identity last month when it adopted “Metro Vancouver” as its official title. The shiny new name marks the beginning of prosperous branding campaign for the location, and, some believe, a potential jumping off point for its metamorphosis into a megacity.

By definition, a megacity is a metropolitan area with a population of over ten million people. Shanghai and Tokyo are the largest megacities in the world, each with populations of over 30 million.

Citizens in North Vancouver, East Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley that oppose the idea of living in a megacity often point to Montreal and Toronto as poor Canadian examples of what could be in Metro Vancouver’s future, while others defend its merits. Regardless of opinions, population growth here is undoubtedly going to boom over the next few decades, and a city needs to grow with its people.

Right now, folks from Surrey, Delta, Richmond, Langley, Cloverdale, and so on each reside in separate municipalities, each with their own governments and trademarks. If Vancouver were to become a megacity, that would no longer be the case. Municipal governments and geographically separate communities would take a backseat to the swollen entity of Vancouver, the megacity. Some are concerned that this could be reflected in a tax spike. Others are glad to simplify the title and cut down on resource use.

Ironically, the shift to a more unanimous identity for Vancouver could result in a lack of identity for those who were used to living in distinct neighbourhoods. When each city builds its own one-of-a-kind style, demographic, and quirks, culture has an opportunity to boom in multiple directions. This couldn’t be so easily achieved in a megacity. With larger, more open communities comes the formation of less specific collectives. For example, the Abbotsford music scene is wildly different than the Vancouver music scene—a fact which was achieved solely because the two municipalities are far apart from one another and have had the opportunity to grow separately.

A lack of municipal government control could also not only result in higher taxes, but higher rates of poverty, homelessness, and crime, if Toronto is used as an example of a problematic megacity. Toronto’s economy and social structure has been deteriorating since it began its descent into holding megacity status, and many politicians and community members in the area have since expressed regret regarding the change.

It could also lead to a lack of representation for citizens. Currently, each city from Metro Vancouver to Aldergrove is reflected in what its municipal government works towards. In Surrey, reducing crime and advancing technology is a priority. In North Vancouver, nature and industry are important agenda items. The issues and desires of each city are unlike all others around it.

In a megacity, the population becomes a melting pot, falling in line with Canada’s self-identification as a diverse and accepting nation, but sacrificing political variety and unique goals to making general assumptions about an enormous population’s vague needs and desires.

The question is whether that’s a fair trade for more efficient transport, service provision, and structural support. Some even see smaller government as a benefit—with less people in charge, things should get done faster, and politicians should collectively be accepting less money every year.

Without a doubt, it’s a bother to pay per zone while commuting around the city. It’s a pain that everything is so far apart, particularly if you’re living in a suburb that’s far from the metropolitan area. Most of us would be happy to say we live in Vancouver, thereby affiliating ourselves with the beauty and glamour of the downtown metropolis. However, it might come at the cost of losing what gives each city heart, control, and vibrancy. If done incorrectly, it could take an enormous toll on the economy.

Vancouver doesn’t want to be the next Winnipeg, Toronto, or Montreal, but because of urban sprawl, it might have to be. If you don’t want to call a megacity home, make your voice heard to your local government while it’s still there for you.

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