Johnny Carline (MA ’71) is a pioneer in sustainability, creating a blueprint for a sustainable region through his work with Metro Vancouver.
Johnny moved from England to Waterloo in 1968 to attend the Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Waterloo. He then studied Geography and Philosophy for four years in a doctoral program at the University of Toronto before joining the City of Toronto as planner, senior transportation planner and then, for several years, the Manager of Planning Policy. Johnny’s successful leadership, project management, and multidisciplinary approach with multiple stakeholders helped transform the Vancouver Region into a model for global sustainability.
Combining environmentalism with economics and social planning, he was welcomed as Metro Vancouver’s CAO with the responsibility of managing the region’s water, land, and air. Johnny applied his passion for sustainability to the role and engaged the public for close to a decade in what became known locally and internationally as 'The Sustainable Region Initiative.'
Creating a blueprint for a sustainable Vancouver wasn’t easy. His integrated regional plan had to be acceptable to 23 municipalities and be sensitive to each of their local plans. It included working closely with a 34-member board (representing 23 municipalities) and an administration of 1,200 staff.
Looking back, Johnny recalls a significant and pivotal experience in his career. It happened at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainability Conference during a speech by Jack Layton, chair of Toronto's Environmental Task Force who went on to become Leader of the Opposition in the National Parliament. Johnny recalls him saying, “there is no credible scientific evidence that our civilization will last longer than another six generations, the last two of which will be spent fighting over dwindling resources and a hopelessly degrading environment. All of us making a commitment to sustainability may be the only hope we have of avoiding that.” This stark warning remained with Johnny for the rest of his career.
Inspired by Layton’s speech, Johnny launched the Metro Vancouver Sustainable Region Initiative in 1999. Through community and business support towards implementing practical solutions, Metro Vancouver became one of the leaders among a group of world cities striving to integrate sustainability into all their work.
In 2012, over a decade later, Johnny gave the opening address at the same conference and was able to pay homage to Layton by showcasing the recently completed ‘Metro Vancouver Compendium of Plans’, a sustainability-based, action-oriented plan approved not only by the Vancouver Region but by every local municipality within it. While Layton had passed away the year previous, Johnny was able to dedicate the plan to Jack’s memory and to the chance remark that had inspired it.
The same year, after 40 years of dedicated public service and more than 15 years as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Metro Vancouver, Johnny retired.