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POLICY: Urban Policies

Information on finding urban policies.

Terminology (click on each of the tabs to get the content)

There are numerous definitions for the word urban.  These definitions vary depending on the discipline that is being researched. For example, the discipline of Anthropology may have one definition, the discipline of sociology another.  

Most often, the word urban is associated with the word city.

Legal Definitions for the Words Urban and City

There are legal definitions of the word urban and for city.  Using the province of Alberta in Canada as an example, here is an explanation..

How "Urban" Is Defined in Canada and, More Specifically in Alberta

In Canada, sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act 1867, formerly known as the British North America Act, outline the the distribution of powers between the federal and provincial levels of government.

Section 92 indicates that the Legislature of each Province can make laws pertaining to "Municipal Institutions in the Province".

Municipal Institutions are municipal governments.  A municipal government may be rural or urban. 

Each province defines what is considered a rural municipality or an urban municipality.  In Alberta, this is the  Municipal Government Act.


  • city
  • town
  • village
  • summer village
  • municipal district
  • specialized municipality
  • town under the Parks Towns Act
  • municipality formed by a special Act
  • geographical area within the boundaries of a municipality (city, town, village, summer village, municipal district, specialized municipality, town under the Parks Towns Act)

Urban Municipality in Alberta

  • city
    • population of 10,000 or more
    • a majority of the buildings are on parcels of land smaller than 1850 square miles
  • town
    • population of 1,000 or more
    • a majority of the buildings are on parcels of land smaller than 1850 square meters
  • village
    • population of 300 or more
    • a majority of the buildings are on parcels of land smaller thant 1850 square meters
  • summer village
    • population of less than 300
    • at least 60 parcels of land that have buildings used as dwellings located on them
    • majority of the persons who would be electors do not reside in that area



Policy has always been difficult to define and, because of this, there are many definitions for what this word means.

Thomas A. Birkland in his book An Introduction to Policy Process includes the following definition for policy:

"A statement by govrnment of what it intends to do such as a law, regulation, ruling, decision, order, or a combination of these.  The lack of such statements may also be an implicit statement of policy."

"Policies are revealed through texts, practices, symbols, and discourses that define and deliver values including goods and services as well as regulations, income, status, and other positively or negatively valued attributes".

The Dictionary of Public Health defines policy as:

"A course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual; the written or unwritten aims, objectives, targets, strategy, tactics, and plans that guide the actions of a government or an organization. Policies have three interconnected and ideally continually evolving stages: development, implementation, and evaluation. Policy development is the creative process of identifying and establishing a policy to meet a particular need or situation. Policy implementation consists of the actions taken to set up or modify a policy, and evaluation is assessment of how, and how well, the policy works in practice."

It defines public policy as:

"This includes planning, decisions, resource allocation, and actions in every sector of society, often in a hierarchical order of perceived national importance. Public policy is shaped by elected governments and their scientific and technical advisers, by public opinion, and by pressure groups."

Public Policy

Public Policy is related to the public interest.

Urban Policy

For the purposes of this guide, an urban policy is the policy of a city.

Policies are made by all levels of government and may be found in a variety of government publications/documents including:

  • Annual Reports
  • Briefing Notes
  • Budget Document (eg. Budget Speeches, Papers, Estimates, Plans and Priorities, Performance Reports) - "Follow the Money"
  • Communiques
  • Cabinet Submissions
  • Debates (eg. Hansard)
  • Executive Summaries
  • Government Committee Meetings and Reports
  • Government Ministry or Department Mandates
  • Industry Reports
  • Legislation (eg. Bills, Statutes)
  • News and Press Releases
  • Opinion Blogs
  • Position Papers
  • Reports and Publications
  • Royal Commissions, Commissions of Inquiry, Task Forces
  • Speeches
  • Subordinate Legislation (eg. Regulations, Orders-in-Council, By-laws)
  • etc.