Grand Montréal comprises the center city and 27 surrounding municipalities. (Montreal Tours)
As anyone residing in a North American metropolitan region knows, center cities and their surrounding suburbs often work at cross purposes. Even the most well-intentioned attempts at cooperation among local officials can be derailed by conflicting priorities or personalities. Yet this need not be the case, as the 82 municipalities that make up Grand Montréal (Greater Montréal) have demonstrated in recent years.
Most recently, local government representatives, delegates from UN Member States, and other stakeholders adopted the Montréal Declaration on Metropolitan Areas, the product of a collaborative process culminating in the October 6-7 Montréal Thematic Meeting on Metropolitan Areas. The Montréal Declaration asserts the importance of recognizing metropolitan areas—not just city centers—in the New Urban Agenda at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito.
As Flavie Halais reports, Grand Montréal's path from more typical urban-suburban tensions to the Montréal Declaration was not without its twists and turns. A 2000 law laid the groundwork by permitting the mayors of Montréal and 27 nearby municipalities to establish a regional services and planning organization, the Communauté Métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM, Montréal Metropolitan Community). A forced 2002 merger of the 28 communities ultimately failed. But in 2011 the CMM adopted a landmark regional development strategy, the Plan Métropolitain d'Aménagement et de Développement (PMAD, Metropolitan Land Use and Development Plan). "It wasn't easy, but we learned to work together," Sainte-Julie mayor Suzanne Roy told Halais. "We went from an era of parochialism to one of solidarity."
The Montréal Declaration is the most high-profile of the CMM's achievements, but it is hardly the group's sole contribution to regional understanding. Other CMM-sponsored activities include the Metropolitan Agora, a public forum convening every other year. CMM also offers concrete tools in the way of how-to guides for policymakers and communities, and issues a biennial report on its progress toward the PMAD. As participants in Habitat III gather next year to consider the future of our cities, they would do well to look toward Montréal as a model of a urban-suburban cooperation. After all, a sharing city not only spurs sharing among its residents, but also with neighboring cities.