The federal External Advisory Committee on Cities and Communities, led by former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt, outlines four key dimensions in creating sustainable communities: economic, environmental, social and cultural. The report states that "cultural sustainability ties together the other three dimensions, and is essential to community success". In short, "Canadian communities need to sustain culture to achieve vibrant, secure and sustainable cities and communities".
The Committee's report recognizes that "culture is often given short shrift" and is sometimes seen as a frill or a luxury, while hospital wait times, environmental issues and economic productivity receive much more attention.
The report outlines some impacts of culture on local sense of neighbourhood and community as well as on the economy and society: "strong cultural engagement can substantially improve the cohesiveness, confidence and international image and attractiveness of places". The report also highlights how "distinctive places attract and retain talented people, encourage development and growth, and drive tourism and migration." The report argues for a greater understanding of the linkages between culture and Canada's competitiveness.
Given the benefits of culture in communities, the report argues that culture should be placed "at the heart of the community, not as an afterthought but an underpinning to our communities". Among its recommendations, the Committee outlines the need for a "Culture in Place Foundation" that "would act as a catalyst in building capacity for culture and cultural planning and foster best practices and innovation in communities of all sizes".