Zack Taylor

I am Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Western University in London, Canada. Between 2018 and 2021, I was director of Western’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance in the Network on Economic and Social Trends. Before joining Western in 2015, I taught for three years in the University of Toronto’s undergraduate City Studies Program and graduate Program in Planning. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on urban politics, public administration, and public policy. My research focuses on urban political economy and Canadian and comparative politics and policymaking, with an empirical focus on historical and contemporary multi-level governance of cities. I also pursue parallel interests in municipal campaigns and elections, local public finance, and political geography.

I am a fellow at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance and a faculty affiliate of the School of Cities, both at University of Toronto, and a non-practicing accredited urban planner. I regularly participate in meetings of the Canadian and American Political Science Associations, the Urban Affairs Association, and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

In November 2022 I started a five-year term as co-editor of Territory, Politics, Governance, a flagship journal of the Regional Studies Association.

I am currently an investigator of three research projects funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada: Cities in Canadian Political Development (2019–2025) with Jack Lucas (University of Calgary) and Dave Armstrong (Western), Canadas Implicit Urban Policy (2019–2023) with Neil Bradford (Huron University College), Alison Smith (University of Toronto), and Martin Horak (Western); and the Money and Local Democracy Project (2022–2026) with Sandra Breux (INRS-Urbanisation), Kristin Good (Dalhousie University), and Martin Horak (Western). I am also a co-investigator on a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, the Canadian Census Discovery Partnership (2021–2023).

I am also excited to be leading the creation of the Canadian Communities Policy Observatory, an initiative of Western’s Network on Economic and Social Trends (NEST).

BOOK · MAY 2019

Shaping the Metropolis: Institutions and Urbanization in the United States and Canada

“Zack Taylor’s Shaping the Metropolis shines a bright analytical spotlight on the institutional dimension, suggesting it provides key leverage to explain Canada/US urban differences. In a well-argued, lucidly written, and handsomely produced volume, Taylor draws evidence from rich, chapter-length historical case studies investigating the governance of urbanization in four metropolitan areas: Toronto, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Vancouver (British Columbia), and Portland (Oregon). More importantly, he develops a persuasive theoretical framework illuminating key institutional factors that underlie the different trajectories of these urban regions.
— Paul G. Lewis, author of Shaping Suburbia: How Institutions Organize Urban Development, in Perspectives on Politics

“Taylor’s book is a masterful (if not very optimistic) exposition of the ways in which the internal structure of each nation’s governing institutions shapes metropolitan patterns of growth under changing historical circumstances. … In light of planning’s current emphasis on enhancing its practitioners’ adaptive capacities, the book will undoubtedly serve as a helpful tool in planning education thanks to its comparative case study approach and its focus on the historical development of best practices in the intractable, ever-changing domain of regional governance.”
— Pablo Mendez, Journal of Planning Education and Research

“An impressive, important, and influential book, Shaping the Metropolis is the defining text for the future of literature comparing US and Canadian urban politics and urban political development.”
— Richardson Dilworth, Drexel University

“… a fascinating account. … Taylor weaves a story of institutional capacity and its importance to creating well-formed regional land use policies in the US and Canada. … All in all, this is an excellent read for urban scholars.
— D.C. Downey, CHOICE

“This book is essential to anyone interested in urban governance in federal systems. … The careful organization of the chapters, coupled with case studies, historical facts, and meticulous consideration of multiple factors, makes this book a vital addition to great comparative scholarship. Let’s not deny the fact: federalism is complex. Taylor reminds us, however, that its complexity has foundations in history and is in fact part of the urban story. Thankfully we don’t need to unpack the convoluted histories, relationships, and institutions – Taylor’s already done it for us.
Anna Kopec, Canadian Public Administration

“Taylor has set the framework for some exciting future research.
— Tony Filipovitch, Journal of Urban Affairs

How American and Canadian cities came to be governed differently – and what it means for the future.

Most contemporary policy problems and their solutions are to be found in cities. Rising income inequality and concentrated poverty threaten the social sustainability of North American cities. Suburban growth endangers sensitive ecosystems, water supplies, and food security. Existing urban infrastructure is crumbling while governments struggle to pay for new and expanded services. Can our inherited urban governance institutions and policies effectively respond to these problems.

In Shaping the Metropolis I compare the historical development of American and Canadian urban governance since the 19th century, both at the national level and through specific metropolitan case studies. Examining Minneapolis-St Paul and Portland, Oregon, in the United States, and Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, I show how differences in the structure of governing institutions in American states and Canadian provinces cumulatively produced different forms of urban governance, and ultimately quite different cities. These institutional differences continue to shape distinct American and Canadian responses to contemporary urban challenges. 

Departing from the common focus on local government in urban political studies, Shaping the Metropolis shows that urban governance encompasses far more than local government, and that states and provinces have always played a central role in responding to urban policy challenges and will continue to do so in the future. This book helps us better understand the evolution of urban governance in the United States and Canada and its future potential.

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