Canadian Institue Of Planners

Shaping our Communities
Sustaining Canada's Future.

Harry N. Lash FCIP (d)

Harry Lash was educated at McGill University, and had worked in Alberta on provincial planning legislation, in the City of Montréal, and as the director of long range planning for the City of Toronto before becoming the first Director of Planning for the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver), serving from 1969 to 1975. Lash led the transformation of both the focus and the practice of regional planning in Greater Vancouver.

He recognized that the focus of planning for the region should be more on the creation of livable urban places within a metropolitan context, as compared to the focus the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board, the predecessor planning agency. The LMRPB had covered a much larger, mostly rural, area in which the primary issues were conservation of resources such as agricultural land, land for industry and leisure and the limitation of settlement in areas at risk of flooding.

Lash’s practice of planning began with an open-ended dialogue with the people of the region about what was important to them; this produced the ambiguous but evocative concept of “livability.” As a professional leader, Lash fostered open and free-ranging discussion of ideas among his staff, leading to the development of important strategic concepts. One such concept was the concentration of suburban growth in regional town centres as higher density places to live, work and play which were to be connected to each other and to downtown by rapid transit. Forty years after Lash produced “The Livable Region 1976/1986,” these and other concepts are realities on the ground. More generally, it is clear that Greater Vancouver is a vastly different and better region as a result of his leadership and influence. At the time of Lash’s death in 1995, the Greater Vancouver Regional District renamed its library after him, honouring his belief that widely accessible knowledge is essential for the effective participation of elected representatives, professionals and the public in the planning process.

At the end of his career, Harry Lash summarized his views on planning in a book entitled “Planning in a Human Way” (Ministry of State for Urban Affairs, Ottawa, 1976). Lash’s legacy was summarized by Ralph Perkins in an article in Plan Canada (Vol. 45 No. 3 Autumn 2005) and in a tribute video prepared by the Greater Vancouver Regional District to be found at