Tristan Cleveland

Urban Affairs Columnist
Metro Halifax in Halifax, Nova Scotia


Tristan Cleveland has always focussed on participation to bring about positive change, be it from his days as an urban planning master’s student at McGill University to his ongoing sustainable advocacy work. His efforts at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in Halifax aimed attention at the impacts of urban sprawl and ways in which regional planning may be improved. Cleveland recently left his position at the EAC to serve as the campaign manager for Shawn Cleary’s successful bid for Halifax Regional Council.

1. Can you describe your career path since you graduated?


My path began at the Central Housing and Planning Authority of Guyana where I worked as an urban planning intern. My responsibilities included managing a nationwide survey of housing conditions, writing a community leader training manual and doing direct community development work. This experience led me to another internship in Merida, Venezuela, that had me conduct an inventory of all public spaces in the city. Afterwards, I came back to Halifax and have been doing advocacy work on controlling sprawl, creating a green belt, and many other initiatives to make this a great and sustainable place to live.

2. Looking back, what would you have done differently?


There are certain skillsets I would have liked to develop more

fully as a student. For instance, I would have taken more courses on GIS because it is very valuable to have on hand. Becoming equally involved in what was going on in urban planning in Montreal would have also better prepared me for my work in Halifax.

3. How do you incorporate geography into your work?


At the EAC, we did an analysis with another planner where we measured the city’s land cover and how much it grew between 1992 and 2014. We found that the city expanded by 92 per cent while the population only increased by one-fifth. This really demonstrates how much our infrastructure costs per person and is a good example of geography in action.


4. Do you have any final advice for students?


Be very careful how you use your volunteer time. Choose something related with where you want to go and get involved. You are not going to get a job by sitting in your room and sending resumes by email. You have to be shaking people’s hands, going to public consultations, and talking to planners in the private and public sectors. You need to care about the city you live in and its future.

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