Assessing the ethical issues surrounding multi-disciplinary practices: the impact of MDPs on the profession of urban planning in Canada
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Urban and regional planning, from a professional standpoint, is built on a history of preservation, with the backdrop of a perennial quest to define itself for the benefit of both laypeople and its own members. Consequently, different stages of planning throughout the twentieth century relate to simultaneous cultural changes that have caused the re-definition and re-focusing of professional efforts. From the original concentration on rational thought that coincided with the planner as objective expert with the ability to identify and promote the public interest, to the civil rights movement of the late twentieth century that embodied postmodern ideas such as advocacy, collaboration, and communication, the concept of who the planner is and what role he or she plays has developed over time. In parallel, the structures planners use to deliver their services have altered. While the shift from the traditional concept of the public sector to quasi-public and private applications has been well documented, the structures of the twenty-first century such as multinationals, public-private partnerships, and multi-disciplinary arrangements are less studied and understood. Multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs), in particular, garner little attention from the academic or professional planning spheres. While the legal and accounting professions are scrambling for a clear policy direction on cross-discipline collaboration, planners do not seem to have diverted much attention to whether or not they have a future. Indeed, the existence of MDPs provokes the return of the question of what role planners should play, and whether they should be a distinct specialized profession, or an entity with a mandate to coordinate other professions with an eye to long-term planning for the public good. This analysis attempts to qualitatively assess whether MDPs should be supported or rejected by the planning discipline, and how the profession should be addressing the answer.