Today, the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) launched citywatchcanada.ca, a new online platform created in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This interactive tool tracks emergency response measures taken by local governments across Canada. Through a collaborative approach, researchers from across the country, including PSD’s research team, are contributing daily updates on municipal actions as it relates to COVID-19.
For 30 years, the Canadian Urban Institute has acted as a national platform to support collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst policymakers, urban professionals, business leaders, community activists, and academics. Through research, engagement, and storytelling, CUI aims to connect the country horizontally to discover the best approaches for healthy urban development.
PSD is working in partnership with CUI to share this tool with Canadian municipal practitioners and politicians. In conversations with the President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute, Mary Rowe noted that CUI’s “two organizing principles have been around resilience and livability and of course both are being challenged extraordinarily under current circumstances.”
Since the threat of COVID-19 became evident in Canada, municipalities have been searching for the best response. To discover how others are responding, municipal leaders must look through several information sources, such as mainstream media outlets, twitter, and municipal websites. With policy updates occurring daily, it becomes even more challenging for municipalities to keep tabs on the steps that are being taken locally. CityWatch gathers credible information from all of these sources and provides a succinct online summary of municipal actions in Canada.
As a tool that facilitates horizontal connection, CityWatch contributes a critical resource for all levels of government. Municipal staff is often overwhelmed with limited budgets and the delivery of a wide range of services. In the face of COVID-19, a reduced staff is required to maintain levels of service and provide additional support to the community. CityWatch will continue to evolve in response to the developing circumstances to equip local leaders with the information they need. PSD’s Vice President, Matthew Dawe, commented that “accurate and timely information is essential for leaders to be able to make informed decisions. Learning best practices and proven strategies from other municipalities needs to be part of that process.”
At the time of the platform’s initial launch, the website will provide a comprehensive list of municipal responses including:
- the decision to declare a state of emergency;
- the status of municipal buildings and public facilities;
- the impacts on local governance; and
- the availability of financial supports for residents, businesses, and municipal employees.
Search results in the online dashboard can be filtered by province or by policy response, and results are displayed on both a map and in a summary table. At the time of launch, CityWatch included data from 40 Canadian cities, with 8 having cancelled council meetings and 15 having announced some type of financial support for residents or businesses. Most recently, several cities included in the analysis were moving to close public playgrounds as a means to stop the spread of COVID-19.
CityWatch was created alongside a companion platform called CityShare. CityShare is a tool populated with publicly sourced information to showcase examples of innovation at the local level by residents, community groups, and businesses. Daniel Bitonti, the communications consultant at CUI, emphasized that “both platforms are about fostering community resilience.” Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, CUI’s team is seeing remarkable initiatives from municipal governments and active residents, proving the power of community resilience to contribute to the mitigation of local impacts.
To support the growth of CityWatch, CUI is accepting more volunteers to provide up-to-date information for the platform. Those who are interested in contributing to citywatchcanada.ca can reach out to the Canadian Urban Institute at email@example.com.
For more information on citywatchcanada.ca and to request an interview, contact:
General Manager of Research and Marketing, PSD
Communications Consultant, Canadian Urban Institute