Let's face it, planning issues can be a tad dull, and the names of noted urban planners tend not to resonate with the masses, but Jane Jacobs broke the mould and brought the topic to new heights. The guru/visionary was talking about urban ecology long before environmentalism was even in diapers, and Jacobs's political activism had the power to stop expressways. Though she began her activist career in New York City, we were fortunate that she chose to make Toronto her hometown. If we're lucky, the generations of activists and planners she inspired will keep Jacobs alive and thriving on our streets.
This anarchist-turned-pioneer-ecologist and indie city campaigner sadly left this earth before he had the chance to see his ideas fully manifest. The champion of the transformative powers of local government and foreteller of global warming would be smiling down on the 330 mayors who just signed on to take action against climate change while federal pols still deny its existence. Yes, the writing in his 20-odd books might have been a bit rambling and venomous in the true revolutionary tradition, but he was unapologetically in-your-face, and we loved him for it.
John Kenneth Galbraith
What happens when a rural Canadian farm boy grows up? Well, if you're Kenneth Galbraith, you become a Harvard professor, advise heavyweight American presidents like John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, write a few dozen bestsellers on economic theory, serve as the editor of Fortune magazine and get the Order of Canada, among other things. But the man born the same year as the Model T was perhaps best known for skewering capitalist connections between private wealth and public squalor and probing the crisis of overproduction and our dangerous obsession with growth. Americans might claim him as their own, but he'll always be our homeboy economist from Lake Erie.
He may have had a penchant for effrontery and women, but he was also a master wordsmith. Indeed, Irving Layton was one of the grandest poets Canada has ever seen, or will see. Beyond the more than 40 award-winning books of poetry and prose he left us, he was a long time activist/shit disturber, as well as professor to the likes of Leonard Cohen and Moses Znaimer. Cohen once said, "I taught him how to dress, and he taught me how to live forever." Layton's body didn't last that long (although he did get close, dying in January at the age of 93), but his words are destined to linger forever in our hearts.