Toronto hires new chief planner

The City of Toronto has named Jennifer Keesmaat, a partner at urban design firm Dialog, as its new chief urban planner.

The City of Toronto has named Jennifer Keesmaat, a partner at urban design firm Dialog, as its new chief urban planner.

Keesmaat, a former urban affairs columnist for CBC Radio's Here and Now, takes over the chief planner portfolio from Gary Wright, who retired earlier this year.

"I am delighted to see Jennifer bring her talents to City Hall," said Coun. Peter Milczyn, the Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee in a release."Her breadth of successful experience is sure to bring a fresh perspective to the City's growth and development that will serve our residents well in the decades to come."

Keesmaat is an award-winning planner who has worked on major master planning projects in Halifax, Lethbridge, Moncton, and Regina. In addition to providing media commentary on urban affairs, Keesmaat has also guest-lectured at Ryerson University, York University, and the University of Toronto.

"As an urban planner with a distinct interest in the political processes that shape cities, communities, and places, Jennifer's planning approach recognizes the strategic importance of consensus building to successful plan implementation," states Keesmaat's profile on the Dialog website.

In addition to leading a review of Toronto's five-year official plan, Keesmaat's other responsibilities as head of the city's planning division will be to will be "to deliver complex, innovative and transformative projects successfully, build communities, improve customer service and promote a sustainable, healthy and economically vital city," said the city release.

Keesmaat is due to begin work with the city in early September.

"I am both excited and humbled to be selected as the City of Toronto's next chief planner," said Keesmaat.

"We have significant and important issues to address in this city moving forward. As chief planner, I hope to build strong, new collaborations and meaningful dialogue, not just within city hall, but also with residents, political leaders from all levels of government, NGOs, developers and businesses.

Keesmaat spoke to Here and Now on Tuesday afternoon and talked briefly about the challenges that lie ahead in her new job — including the fact that city council will listen to her advice, but not necessarily follow it.

"My objective is to do what I’ve been hired to do, which is to provide good planning advice to city council," she said.

"There will be times when city council will align with that advice, they’ll like it, they’ll support it and there will be times when they’ll make a different decision for a whole variety of other reasons."