Governing Cities in the 21st Century

When and Where

Tuesday, May 28, 2019 8:30 am to 2:00 pm
Bram and Bluma Appel Salon
Toronto Reference Library, 2nd Floor
789 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4W 2G8


What should governance look like in the 21st century? Can we leverage national, provincial and municipal relationships to advance urban governance? How do we scale up local responses to reach collective goals? 
At the School of Cities spring symposium, Governing Cities in the 21st Century, these crucial questions will be discussed with experts, including a lightning talk by Nasma Ahmed, Director, Digital Justice Lab; a keynote by Michelynn Laflèche, Vice President, United Way Greater Toronto; and a fireside chat with Bill Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh and Richard Florida, University Professor, School of Cities and Rotman School of Management. Full list of participants and biographies
Join urban thought leaders, policy makers, planners, community advocates and business leaders as we exchange ideas on ways to meet the challenges of governing cities in the midst of change.  

If you require accommodation(s), please contact prior to the event date to make appropriate arrangements.


8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.     Registration & Breakfast 

 9:00 a.m. - 9:05 a.m.     Land Acknowledgement 

  • Kateri Lucier-Laboucan, Student, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape & Design, University of Toronto

9:05 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.     Welcome & School of Cities Highlights 

  • Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor and Interim Director, School of Cities

9:15 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.     All Roads Lead to Opportunity — Building Great Cities that are Great for                                                            Everyone

  • Michelynn Laflèche, Vice President, Strategy, Research & Policy, United Way Greater Toronto

9:45 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.    Contemporary Governance: Creativity, Perseverance and Possibilities

This session includes three short talks that profile the possibilities of addressing contemporary governance challenges through creativity, perseverance and dedicated effort. Speakers will address their work related to: digital justice, homelessness, and governance and Indigenous communities. 


  • Sarah Sharma, Associate Professor and Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto


  • Nasma Ahmed, Director, Digital Justice Lab
  • Greg Cook, Outreach Team, Sanctuary Ministries
  • Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Camacho, Administrative Coordinator of Research, Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

10:45 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.     Break 

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.    Navigating the 21st Century City

This panel brings together experts from local government, community, private sector and the university for a conversation about navigating the city.  Three key questions will underlie the discussion as follows: 1) What does it mean to navigate the various levels of government in the 21st century city?; 2) How do you leverage national, provincial and municipal relationships to advance urban governance?; and 3) Are there examples of ways in which we can scale up local responses to reach collective goals?


  • Marieme Lo, Associate Professor and Associate Director, Education, School of Cities


  • Andrea Barrack, Global Head, Sustainability & Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank Group
  • Crystal Basi, Director of Research and Community Engagement, Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council
  • Sara Hughes, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
  • Jason Thorne, General Manager of Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton

12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.     Lunch with musical performance by students from the Faculty of Music,
                                               University of Toronto 

12:45 p.m. - 1:35 p.m.      Governing an Inclusive City  

Mayor Bill Peduto, in conversation with Professor Richard Florida, will draw on his experience to share insights on governing the City of Pittsburgh. This exchange will touch on a range of topics, including: city-university partnerships, addressing inequality at the urban scale – particularly as it connects to pressure associated with tech sector growth – federal-municipal partnerships and innovative policy directions.

Introduction by: 

  • Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, City of Toronto

In Coversation: 

  • Bill Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh
  • Richard Florida, University Professor, School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

1:35 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.     Closing Remarks with Jacqui Lavalley, Shawanaga First Nation


Nasma Ahmed

Nasma Ahmed

Nasma Ahmed is a technologist and community organizer based in the city we now know as Toronto. Nasma is currently the Director of the Digital Justice Lab, our mission is to build towards a more just and equitable digital future. She has extensive experience working alongside the public service and the non-profit sector, focusing on technology capacity building. She was the 2017/2018 Open Web Fellow with Mozilla and Ford Foundation.

Andrea Barrack

Andrea Barrack

Andrea Barrack is the Global Head - Sustainability & Corporate Citizenship at TD Bank Group. In this role she is the lead champion for Corporate Social Responsibility across the enterprise, ensuring the development of a best in class integrated strategy that is aligned to business objectives while creating positive social, economic and environmental impacts in the community.  

Prior to coming to TD, Barrack was the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, providing strategic and operational leadership to a government agency that distributed over $120 million in public funding to the charitable and not for profit sector. She worked in healthcare administration for more than a decade, focused on primary health care and community health. She is recognized for her expertise in making organizations more effective by ensuring that systems are integrated and impact is both measured and assessed.

Andrea earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at the University of Guelph and a Master’s of Health Science in Health Administration at the University of Toronto. She has also earned certificates in non-profit management and governance from Harvard University’s Business School and John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2016, she was named in the Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the Trendsetter and Trailblazer category.

In her volunteer life, Andrea is on the Board for the Western Hemisphere of the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the Chair of the Dean's Council for the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. She is also a diversity fellows mentor with the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance.

Crystal Basi 



Crystal Basi is the proud mother of Neelam and Kira Basi and is of mixed ancestry, which includes, Mohawk, French Canadian, Swedish, and Scottish heritages.
Crystal is the Director of Research and Community Engagement at TASSC, the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council. Crystal has been with TASSC since 2011 and was the former Executive Director of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto. She holds a BA in International Development from Guelph University, BSW in Social Work from York University, and an MA in Community Development from the University of Toronto.

Greg Cook

Greg Cook

Greg Cook is a white settler who has lived most of his adult life on the Dish With One Spoon Territory: the lands of the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee. He holds an Honours BA in History and Political Science from the University of Toronto. Greg has been a drop-in and outreach worker in downtown Toronto for almost 12 years, and at Sanctuary since 2009. Greg partners with other community groups and agencies to advocate for more just and equitable policies in Toronto. He is on the steering committee of the Shelter and Housing Justice Network, and he volunteers for the Toronto Homeless Memorial. Greg was part of a group of activists who agitated for a coroner’s inquest into the deaths of people without housing. He has worked on two documentaries: Bursting at the Seams about the housing crisis and What World Do You Live In about police brutality. To relax, he walks downtown streets and remote wooded trails.

University Professor Richard Florida

Richard Florida

Richard Florida is University Professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and School of Cities, where he also serves as Chief Urbanist in the Creative Destruction Lab. He is a Distinguished Fellow at New York University.

He is the author of more than ten books including The Rise of the Creative Class and more than one hundred books chapters and articles in peer-reviews academic journals. 

He is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, where he co-founded and serves as Editor-at Large for CityLab, the world’s leading publication devoted to cities and urbanism.

Florida previously taught at Carnegie Mellon, George Mason University and Ohio State University, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and his PhD from Columbia University.

Sara Hughes

Sara Hughes

Sara Hughes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto. Her research interests include urban politics, policy, and governance, water policy, and climate change policy. She focuses on understanding how political interests, institutions, and environmental problems interact at the urban scale, and the social and environmental outcomes they generate. Her research has been funded by SSHRC, Connaught, and the Government of Minnesota, and she has held fellowships at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In 2013, she was named a Clarence N. Stone Scholar by the urban politics section of the American Political Science Association. Her forthcoming book, Repowering Cities, examines the governing strategies city governments can and do use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in North America.

Michelynn Lafleche

Michelynn Laflèche

Michelynn Laflèche is Vice-President of Strategy, Research & Policy at United Way Greater Toronto where she has built and led a team to deliver on six major research studies and reports on inequality and precarious work over the last eight years, along with other reports. Her team's work frames and informs United Way's strategic direction and community investment strategy. Prior to this, she studied and worked on race and gender issues in Canada, Germany and the UK. She obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, her Master’s degree at the University of Toronto and undertook her postgraduate studies jointly at the University of Toronto and Karls Ruprecht University in Heidelberg. Michelynn worked as a research consultant, an ESL teacher and a university lecturer over a period of ten years before relocating to London. She joined the Runnymede Trust in 1997, one of the UK’s leading social policy research charities, and was appointed Chief Executive in 2001. During her time there, her work focused on the design and implementation of equalities legislation in the European Union and operationalizing it in the UK, including as a member of a national taskforce to design the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Michelynn led the Runnymede Trust for eight of its most successful years until returning to Canada in 2009. Since then, Michelynn worked as an independent consultant and for the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, where she was the director of CivicAction's 2011 Summit, before joining United Way in 2011. 

Jacqui Lavalley

Jacqui Lavalley is a member of the Shawanaga First Nation, East Shore Georgian Bay. She is an Ojibwe Traditional Teacher and an Ojibwe Traditional Kokomis (Grandmother). Jacqui is also a singer, dancer, song writer and an exceptional Traditional Ojibwe Storyteller using her own life story as an introduction into the Traditional, Spiritual aspects of being an Anishinaabe Ekwe (Indigenous Woman).

Prof. Marieme Lo

Marieme Lo

Marieme Lo is an Associate Professor in Women and Gender Studies, Associate Director, Education for the School of Cities, and Director of the African Studies Program, University of Toronto. Professor Lo’s work encompasses the political economy and creative dynamism of African urban informal economies, migration studies, female entrepreneurship, economic justice and rights to livelihood, with a focus on the dynamics of urban transformation, urban governance, resilience, urban poverty and inclusive urbanism, particularly in post-colonial cities. Her SSHRC funded research project, ‘Entrepreneurial Nomadism’, explores and maps women entrepreneurs’ transnational circuits and trade mobility in cities across three continents. Professor Lo is also engaged in collaboration with grassroots women’s organizations, civil society networks such as the West Africa Civil Society, and international organizations such as UN-Women, the World Food Programme, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Camacho

Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Camacho

As a descendent of Chibchas, Caribes, and Choques Indigenous Muisca Nations, Juan was born in the town of Soata (place of the sun’s tillage in the Chibcha's language). Currently he is exploring Indigenous ethics of health research as a PhD candidate at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto and Research Coordinator of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. He holds a Master from University of Guelph, an ABD in experimental psychology from Complutense University, Spain and an international Hon Bach in Psychology. Juan conducted research and research methodology studies with Indigenous communities in Canada and Latin America exploring ways to create and sustain respectful and supportive relationships between Indigenous communities and Government. He is a rural registered teacher, internationally trained psychologist and university lecturer since 1993. In Canada, he has collaborated with Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the University of Toronto, and McMaster University. 

William (Bill) Peduto Mayor of Pittsburgh

Bill Peduto

William Peduto was elected to the office of Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh in the General Election on November 5, 2013, and took office as Pittsburgh's 60th Mayor in January of 2014. Prior to taking office, he worked for 19 years on Pittsburgh City Council - seven years as a staffer then twelve years as a Member of Council.

As Mayor, Bill Peduto continues to champion the protection and enhancement of Pittsburgh's new reputation - maintaining fiscal responsibility, establishing community based development plans, embracing innovative solutions and becoming a leader in green initiatives. Since taking office, Mayor Peduto has lead a collaborative effort to make Pittsburgh a leading 21st Century city. The Peduto administration has partnered with the White House on numerous initiatives, resulting in direct access to federal support related to affordable housing, education, economic development, energy efficiency, immigration, manufacturing, community policing, workforce development, technology and transportation. Under Peduto's leadership the city of Pittsburgh has played an active role in National League of Cities and U.S. Confrence of Mayors initiatives. Pittsburgh was recently selected to join the Rockefeller Foundaion network's 100 Resilient Cities, which provides resources to improve city resilience in the face of climate change, globalization and urbanization trends. Mayor Peduto also signed a unique agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to make the city a world leader in district energy production. He is a founding member of the MetroLab Network, a national alliance of cities and universities committed to providing analytically-based solutions to improve urban infrastructure, services and other public sector priorities. The Peduto administration is working to ensure that everyone benefits from Pittsburgh's transformation and growth because, "if it's not for all, it's not for us."

Sarah Sharma

Sarah Sharma

Sarah Sharma is Associate Professor of Media Theory at the ICCIT/Faculty of Information and Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching focuses on the relationship between technology, time and labour with a specific focus on issues related to gender, race, and class. She is the author of In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics (Duke UP, 2014). In it, she intervenes in the popular sentiment that the world is speeding and argues the explanatory power of technological speed-up is less an accurate depiction of the contemporary moment than it is an ideological discourse itself. Through interviews with taxi drivers, yoga instructors and business travellers in Toronto, the book introduces a new approach to time and reveals how temporality is a relation of power structured at the intersection of a range of social differences. Sarah is currently working on a new book, The sExit, which explores the relationship between gender, new technology and practices of exit and withdrawal. At the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, Sarah directs interdisciplinary research and organizes public programming concerned with navigating and understanding the complexities of contemporary digital life.

Prof. Matti Siemiatycki

Matti Siemiatycki

Matti Siemiatycki is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography & Planning, and Canada Research Chair in Infrastructure Planning and Finance. His research focuses on delivering large-scale infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships, and the effective integration of infrastructure into the fabric of cities. Professor Siemiatycki was a faculty leader of StudentMoveTO, a joint initiative between the University of Toronto, York, Ryerson and OCADU that successfully developed a model for inter-university research collaboration and mobilization on city-building issues. Professor Siemiatycki is a highly engaged public scholar with a deep commitment to informing public discourse about city building. He regularly provides advice to governments, civic institutions and industry, and is a frequent commentator in the media and public realm on urban issues, with a honed ability to communicate with various audiences.

Jason Thorne

Jason Thorne

Jason Thorne is a professional planner who leads the Planning and Economic Development Department at the City of Hamilton, Canada. He oversees a team of  800 staff working across multiple portfolios including planning, building, development engineering, transportation planning, parking, arts, culture and economic development. 

Born and raised in Hamilton, Jason has been working in planning and community development his entire career. As a Manager with the Ontario Growth Secretariat, Jason was one of the key architects of the Province of Ontario’s Places To Grow initiative. As Director of Policy and Planning for Metrolinx, Jason was one of the lead authors of the Big Move, the regional transportation plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.   

Jason also worked as a planning consultant for communities across Canada and in Africa and Latin America as a Partner and Principal with the Toronto-based planning, architecture and design firm planningAlliance. He has also worked for a wide range of non-governmental organizations including the Bay Area Restoration Council, Bruce Trail Association and Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment.  

Jason is a passionate advocate of community-based planning, sustainable and inclusive development, and the creation of complete, vibrant cities. Most importantly, he is a proud Hamiltonian who is excited to be back working in his hometown.


789 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4W 2G8