Tim Caulfied talks 15-minute cities conspiracies

The topic of 15-minute cities returned to Edmonton city hall last week.

Discussions about the urban-planning design led city councillors to make an amendment to its plan to appease concerns about movement.

Canadian Research Chair and Health Law and Policy Chair at the U of A Prof. Tim Caulfield joined CTV Morning Live to discuss the conspiracy theories surrounding 15-minute cities.

Kent Morrison: Last week the City of Edmonton passed an amendment to its so-called 15-minute city plan, explicitly stating that this growth plan will not restrict people to stay in certain districts. This was in response to consistent questions about the issue during public feedback sessions based on conspiracy theories. Canadian Research Chair and Health Law and Policy Chair at the U of A Prof. Tim Caulfield joins us this morning. Tim, it’s tough to get all your accolades in your titles out, but those are out of the way. Now, Tim, let’s talk about dozens of people showing up at public feedback sessions believing that the city was going to limit movement in Edmonton. Can you explain where this idea comes from?

Tim Caulfield: Yeah, it’s the 15-minute city conspiracy theory and it will not die. It’s really amazing. It’s a good example of how conspiracy theories can seep into our lives and really scare people. OK, the reality is that the 15-minute city idea is just about sensible urban planning. It’s a concept that has really been around for decades, even the late 19th century. We have something called garden cities and it’s about walkability. It’s about actually empowering citizens and making their lives better and easier. So that’s the reality. The conspiracy theory is that this is a totalitarian plot. And by the way, that conspiracy theory really emerged over the last couple of years. It’s this totalitarian plot designed to control us. And it’s tied to other conspiracy theories about global elites, the World Economic Forum, the great reset. There’s no evidence to support this at all. And it’s really interesting, because, as I said, it’s a good example, as it seeps into our lives because the conspiracy theories become so pervasive that people just kind of hear it in the ether. And it does sound scary, right? I do want to highlight that there are genuine policy questions about 15-minutes cities, you know, costs, what’s going to be the impact on rent and businesses. So there’s reasons to debate this stuff. But conspiracy theory? No.

Kent: City council had to sit through a lot of people who were scared about this coming to them for the public feedback sessions and council decided that they would add this amendment to make it explicitly clear that there would not be any limitations to movement going forward in Edmonton and you think they did too much? Why?

Tim: Yeah, I do. And first of all, I totally get it, I get why they did that. So just trying to be practical. Let’s move this policy forward if this is what we need to do. The problem, I think, is that it does kind of normalize, it legitimizes the conspiracy theory. And we’re seeing this happen all over the world with a bunch of different conspiracies where policymakers are just kind of, we give up, we’ll do something to respond to it. And the problem is, it kind of normalizes the role of conspiracy theories in our lives. I think the better response is a robust and empathetic response to the conspiracy theory, what the facts actually are. Let’s make policies and laws based on the truth, not on fiction. And, of course, what we now have is this conspiracy theory kind of codified in Edmonton policy.

Kent: Do you think there’s a way to do it quickly, though? Because he can see how lawmakers are like, let’s just get this out of the way because we need to make decisions and make movement here.

Tim: Yeah, you’re right, Kent. That’s why I sympathize. No, they just want to keep this rolling, keep it moving. And also there are people who are genuinely concerned. I don’t want to say that I’m doubting their fear because it is everywhere. And if the government really did want to create Hunger Games districts, that would be scary, right? We don’t want that. But the problem is in this age of misinformation, in this age where the lies are just having such a huge impact in our lives, I think we need to do better.

Originally Appeared Here

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