Jennifer Keesmaat


Jennifer Keesmaat

Former Chief Planner, City of Toronto | Renowned Urbanist

Jennifer Keesmaat is passionate about creating places where people flourish. Named one of the “most powerful people in Canada” by Maclean’s, and one of the “most influential” by Toronto Life, she spent five years as Toronto’s Chief City Planner, where she was celebrated for her innovative and collaborative approach to city-building. Now a Distinguished Visitor in Residence at the University of Toronto, Keesmaat shares her vision for cities of the future, and her belief in inspired leadership.

Over the past fifteen years, Keesmaat has worked in municipalities across Canada on urban design guidelines, official plan reviews, culture strategies, and university campus master plans. Her planning practice has been characterized by an emphasis on collaborations across sectors, and broad engagement with municipal staff, councils, developers, business leaders, NGO’s, and residents associations.

Keesmaat is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, and has a Master in Environmental Studies from York University. She is a Registered Professional Planner, and her innovative work has been repeatedly recognized by the professional associations,  including the Canadian Institute of Planners, OPPI, the Design Exchange, and  + EDRA.

Our Cities Will Define Our Future

While some may argue that the issues we face in the 21st century are insurmountable – global warming, peak oil, economic collapse – Jennifer Keesmaat believes that now is the best possible moment, locally, nationally, and internationally, to engage in city building and taking ownership of our shared future.

Jennifer issues a call to action which implores cities to best address the most pressing challenges of our day: global poverty, affordable housing, quality of life, the need for innovation, the economy, traffic congestion, and climate change.

Own Your City

Amid burgeoning deficits, growing environmental concerns, and disillusionment with our political processes, Jennifer Keesmaat is an advocate of Owning Your City – and thereby owning the world in which you live.

Young Leaders

In this age where so much of our lives have been reduced to something to consume, where are we to find inspiration to pursue meaningful work that seeks to solve the most complex issues we face as a society? We need our brightest and our best to raise their expectations, to believe in the power of their own creativity, and to take bigger risks than they have ever been taken before.

Focusing on meaningful choices, Jennifer Keesmaat extolls the rewards of hard work, engaging in the world in which we live, and bringing the full weight of your passion to every moment of your life.

Women In Leadership

It’s a man’s world. Or is it?  As a woman, navigating professional life and defining leadership in your sector is contingent on pushing past boundaries, inventing new ways of being, and drawing on the power of collaboration to nurture success for all in your workplace.

As the first woman – and youngest person – to hold the post of Chief Planner in the City of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat has a pretty interesting case study on this subject that she shares: her own story.

Walk To School

Remember your walk to school?  Remember how it took you 15 minutes to get there, but an hour and a half to get home?  Jennifer Keesmaat proposes that that hour and a half mattered to your growing autonomy, your health, and to the kind of society that we are creating.

Walking not only tells us something important about what we value – like our communities, our neighborhoods, and our environment – it might also be the key to unlocking our public health crisis.

Event Host/Master of Ceremonies

Looking to give your event some flair that will make it light, inspiring, and worth the attention you have given to every detail? Let Jennifer Keesmaat, as the face and voice of your program, set the tone and create a lasting presence with her ability to weave together the context, commentary, people and personalities of the event into a warm and unique memory.