UBC Theses and Dissertations
Suspend the bridge : community power, regime theory and the decision to build Vancouver’s Lions’ Gate Bridge Parslow, Katharine Anne
In recent years, regime theorists have begun to examine the question of community power in cities and to address criticisms made against the older elite and pluralist schools of interpretation. Regime theory argues that political power is neither centered in the hands of an elite as suggested by the elite theorists, nor equally distributed among all members of the city as argued by pluralists. On the contrary, regime theory contends that an informal coalition forms between government and private interests to develop and implement urban policy initiatives. Despite regime theory's contribution to the community power debate, it still requires refinement. The interwar decision to build Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge provides an excellent opportunity to test and refine regime theory analysis. The bridge decision demonstrates that while the pro-development coalition sought alliances and support from typical regime members such as local government and community organizations, opposition from elements within the business community, who were tied to Canada's natural resource sector, arose against the urban initiative. During both the 1926-27 and 1930s attempts to build the bridge, opponents looked to the federal government for support. The opposition succeeded in convincing the federal Department of Public Works to reject the bridge proposal in 1926-27 and Prime Minister Bennett's Conservative government to do the same in 1934. As a result of the opponents' actions, the bridge coalition had to seek compensatory support from the federal Liberal party once it formed the national government in 1935. The larger significance of this case study of urban decision making is that regime theory needs to take into account the national context in regime formation. Scholars employing a regime theory approach to community power should not assume a coherent and united business sector in cities such as Vancouver, and must account for the role of opposition in moulding a successful coalition.