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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A functional classification of Canadian cities Maxwell, James William


The major cities in Canada have been classified in terms of their functional structure in order to develop an overview of the Canadian urban milieu. A quantitative method of classification based on census labour force statistics has been used to identify the functional character of cities. Examination of the traditional techniques of city functional classification reveals that a good quantitative classification scheme must recognize that all cities are multifunctional, that changing city size affects city functional structure, and that urban functions are essentially dichotomous by nature, having distinct "city-serving" and "city-forming" characteristics. Generally the city-serving activities are ubiquitous, being found in almost all centers and usually having relatively constant levels of importance in the functional profiles of cities. In contrast, the city-forming functions appear sporadically in cities and have a great range in the importance they exhibit in city functional structures. This importance ranges from complete domination to no representation at all for some functions. Because city-forming activity reveals the essential functional role of a city, only this activity should be utilized when classifying cities in terms of function. The "minimum requirement" technique as developed by Ullman and Dacey has been used to classify the cities because it conforms most closely to theoretical considerations, using only city-forming activity as the basis of classification and allowing for the effect of changing city size on city functional profiles. In addition it provides for a measure of city functional specialization. The position of an activity in a city's functional profile should be examined on two distinct planes: (1) its importance relative to that of other functions in the city's functional structure, and (2) its importance in the city's functional profile relative to its importance in the functional profiles of all other cities. The activity that occupies the highest position in a city's functional structure—determined by the proportion of city-forming employment in the different functions—is termed the city's "dominant" function. A function that engages an atypically high proportion of a city's city-forming employment in relation to the proportion usually found in the function in most cities is called a "distinctive" function. By determining the dominant and distinctive functions of cities and analyzing the distribution patterns of functional relative importance and city functional specialization, several observations can be made regarding the character of the functional performance of cities. The findings of the classification exercise generally coincide with observations based on qualitative data and with the results of other similar quantitative studies. Trade and manufacturing are the key urban functions both in the city-serving and city-forming profiles of cities. The propensity for functional specialization decreases with increasing city size. City size, however, is not the only factor governing city specialization. Elements such as the importance and kind of manufacturing in the functional profile, and the degree of "isolation" a city experiences are also important factors affecting city specialization. The distribution patterns of relative importance of the key urban activities are extremely uneven and indicate that a fundamental difference in functional performance exists between the cities of the densely populated St. Lawrence Lowlands and southern Ontario—the "heartland"--and the cities of the remaining parts of Canada—the "periphery". Heartland cities are generally more specialized and emphasize manufacturing to a greater degree than do the peripheral cities. The latter, except for a very few resource-oriented manufacturing centers, are quite diversified and are inclined to have an important involvement with functions associated with distance such as wholesale trade and transportation. The Canadian heartland and periphery are geographic realities. They differ in historical, economic, and to some degree, in cultural development. That their cities reflect these differences seems like a reasonable and to-be-expected conclusion.

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