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Opinion From the comments: John Ibbitson discusses significance of suburban growth in Canada with readers

More than 80 per cent of the population in Canada’s large cities live in suburbs, where the car is king, writes John Ibbitson in his latest article, City growth dominated by car-driving suburbs, whose votes decide elections. Some of today’s comments feature discussion between John and readers. You can see all of John’s comments by visiting his original article above.

Urban sprawl has been encroaching on the foothills around Calgary at an alarming pace and is showing no signs of letting up.

Jeff McIntosh

What a waste of research dollars. Of course suburbs grew more than the downtown core of cities. Downtown cores do have the land or the area required to increase the population by much more than it already has. I’m surprised the “active core” grew by 9% but I don’t need research to tell me that number will decrease even more over the next decade. Unless of course office building and hotels change to condos. - 9401doug

European cities and many older North American ones have very livable cores with dense low-rise (three to six storey) housing far nicer than the vinyl-clad OSB-sheathed boxes of sprawling characterless suburbs. And people have been leaving farms and small towns for opportunities in cities since pretty much the dawn of history. - Mark Shore

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In response to Mark Shore:

"...leaving farms and small towns for opportunities." True, Mark.

Here in North America the decline in the number of farms and the number of farmers continues unabated. This is largely due to mechanization and more recently, automation. But the difficulty of being able to make a living from agriculture is also huge: many farm children are not interested in taking over their parents' farm. During depressed times, many farmers say that as much as they love their farms they hope their kids will choose a different occupation.

Indeed, the main source of farm subsidies is farmers themselves: for most Canadian farm families the majority of household income is earned from off-farm income: one of the spouses is a teacher, factory worker, nurse, etc and that income allows the farm to continue.

Fewer than 2% of Canadians live on farms. Many Canadians give precious little thought to where their food comes from, the pittance of their food price that typically goes to the farmer. What happens to farmland when it's impossible to make a living from it? How will our grandkids will be fed half a century from now? - Rick Munroe

John Ibbitson in response to general comments:

Some thoughts on the comments so far:

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Curtailing immigration would be disastrous for Canada. Ninety per cent of our population growth results from immigration. If we cut back on immigration, we would join the two dozen countries, from Japan to Bulgaria, where population is declining, and the economy stagnating;

I'm not an urban planner, but many who are emphasize the need to create new urban cores, to reduce car commuting. Vancouver is doing this, and it's starting to happen in the GTA. If people in Milton work in Milton and shop and eat in a vibrant downtown Milton, we won't need to expand the 401 again.

As for those who consider the report’s observations self-evident, they weren't self-evident to me. Here in Ottawa, I assumed that densification in neighbourhoods such as mine (Westboro) and condo developments in the core would mitigate urban sprawl in places like Kanata. But they haven't in the slightest. - John Ibbitson

Rick Munroe in response to John Ibbitson

Thank you for contributing, John. All very sensible observations. I wish Globe staff would chime in more frequently. It's encouraging to learn that our comments might be examined and considered by Globe personnel. - Rick Munroe

What else readers are talking about:

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Why Canadian medical students should be offered free tuition by Andre Picard

Although a noble intention, I think we should start by setting our sights a little lower, such as offering all Canadian medical school trainees residency spots. It is ridiculous to have spent the money training these individuals (while they run up huge training debts) only to not allow them to proceed to the next step in their training. - Skeptical Man

In the spirit of paying it back, establish a provision that those who receive free tuition have to serve as family doctors in rural communities for a period of five years after graduation. Should they not do that, then pro-rated tuition fees become a repayable loan. - Double Blue

From Aimia accepts Air Canada’s sweetened $450-million bid for Aeroplan

I was really hoping Air Canada would launch its own rewards program instead. I hope they at least transform Aeroplan into something much better. - Pax Canadiana

Potentially very good news for current Aeroplan members. Now, if we can just get Air Canada to respect travelers rights and stop trying to squeeze more sardines into the can that would be icing on the cake. - Retired Dude1

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From Montreal calls for national handgun ban, by Ingrid Peritz

The Liberals recall all too well that they lost power when Harper campaigned heavily on killing the long gun registry. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens while leaving them in the hands of criminals who get them from the US will only empower the official opposition during next years campaign. Trudeau ain't gonna die on that hill. - Uncle Fester

Handguns will still be here. The same bad guys will continue to have them and use them. All that would be achieved is to increase the price of the illegal ones that keep coming in. - Barry Sigurdson

In response to Barry Sigurdson:

Actually, the gun used in the Fredericton shooting was legally obtained and the shooter had a licence. There are four people who would still have been alive and four families whose lives would not have been shattered had a ban on handguns been in place. - Rustyjon

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