Peterborough rallies around a mindset close to its heart

Monday night Peterborough City Council endorsed the actions of a pilot project that is examining mid-size cities.  The focus of the remainder of the project will be to “strategically position Peterborough as a green/sustainable community and economy”. It's a mindset that connects Peterborough and its residents to the natural beauty of the area.  We pride ourselves on being a community close to nature in a number of ways.  This mindset is used to sell our community to businesses, professionals and tourists.  It's a mindset that makes Peterborough a great place in which to live, work and play. 

The project, led by Evergreen, a national charitable organization, and a local steering committee of John Good, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, Ken Doherty, Director of Community Services for the City of Peterborough, Sandra Dueck, Policy Analyst for the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, and  more recently Rhonda Keenan, President & CEO of Peterborough Economic Development, has been working over the past year to examine Peterborough's role as a mid-size city and how its needs could potentially influence provincial policy. 

The Evergreen Group received provincial funding for the project from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and chose to examine Peterborough, Sudbury and London to determine the needs of mid-size cities.  Mid-size cities for the purpose of the pilot program were defined as urban areas with a population of 50-500,000 people.  It was also recognized that mid-size cities play varying roles. In Peterborough's case, it is a city centre with its own autonomous economy, while providing services in health care, employment and education to the region. 

How did the stakeholder group decide to hone in on a regional area of focus around Peterborough as a green/sustainable community and economy?

Three meetings were held in Peterborough between March and April 2016.  The groups were put through a series of asset mapping and visioning exercises around 12 opportunities for action that could be applied to mid-size cities.  Out of those meetings, participants gravitated toward three opportunities for action:


  1. Develop Programs And Strategies to Better Leverage Underutilized Human Capital
  2. Build on Existing Municipal And Community Leadership to Drive Action
  3. Develop a Regional & Economic Roadmap Around an Area of Focus


It was felt that opportunity number one was already being serviced by the new Local Employment Planning Council and that number two would require an advisory committee of sorts and Peterborough “is flush with committees”. 

Further discussion led the conversation to a number of projects starting or underway in Peterborough relating to the green and/or sustainable economy.  Sustainable Peterborough is the lead organization helping to develop climate change action plans for the city, county, 12 townships and three First Nations.  The planned Trent Research & Innovation Park is aiming to have a green tech focus and the City of Peterborough is working on a new shaping the future document based on four pillars including sustainability.  Part of Peterborough Economic Development’s mandate is sustainability and the Chamber of Commerce and GreenUP have teamed up for the Green Business Peterborough program.  There is also a group led by GreenUP putting together a proposal to be designated a UNESCO Region of Expertise for Environmental Education.  

The next steps in the project are to continue mapping out all of the green and/or sustainable projects that are happening in Peterborough city and county and to examine other jurisdictions that have adopted this area of focus.  

The work of the Peterborough group does not stop at this opportunity for action.  Participants in the three stakeholder meetings also discussed the role of the province in ensuring that mid-size cities have the
opportunity to thrive.  The outcomes of this discussion included a desire for more flexibility and opportunity to recognize the unique role of mid-size cities.  The next steps in this part of the process will culminate in a mid-size cities forum to be held in the spring of 2017. 

The exciting part of this mid-size cities project is the realization that Peterborough, through the uncoordinated actions of many, has been travelling down the same pathway to a similar goal.  The challenge will be to use that momentum to our advantage at the provincial level. 

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