City builder // Best Practices

David Bronskill on municipal law and his love of Toronto

By Lia Grainger

On Wednesday November 30th, 2011

 David Bronskill is a true Torontonian. Raised in Leaside, the Goodmans LLP partner completed his bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees at University of Toronto and both summered and articled at Goodmans’ downtown office. “It’s funny, I never really thought about leaving,” says Bronskill. “And if I had, there’s no doubt I would have come back.”

It’s fitting, then, that the 37-year-old chose to make a career in municipal law, a practice area so closely tied to the city he loves. “As a lifelong citizen of Toronto, I’m sort of an urban geek,” says Bronskill. “This is an area of law that rewards you for that.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean practising municipal law was an easy choice. As a summer student he worked in intellectual property and commercial litigation, but then did a rotation in the firm’s municipal section.

“I always thought I’d be a court litigator, so my enjoyment of municipal law took me by surprise,” says Bronskill. He was torn between the two areas until the last minute, but was won over by the mixture of advocacy, social science and public policy that municipal law offers.

On this particular day, for example, he’ll be working on two downtown intensification files, an infill proposal near Lake Ontario in Oakville and some retail issues involving a mall owned by one of Mississauga’s big retail landlords.

Bronskill likes the variety, but what really gets him excited is the opportunity to make the city a better place.

“I’ve been able to sculpt my practice over the last few years so I’m working on matters I support, like high quality design, intensification projects in appropriate locations and alternatives to building out,” says Bronskill.

“If it’s something I firmly believe in, it’s that much easier for me to advocate for it.” Being a young lawyer with a passion for civic improvement raises a question that Bronskill hears a lot: Ever thought about politics? “Politics is a huge interest and a huge part of my job, but I’d never want to be in office.” He pauses, carefully choosing his words, “It takes a very special kind of person to be in politics.”

Special indeed. Goodmans’ client Waterfront Toronto recently made news by overcoming Mayor Rob Ford’s efforts to replace the ongoing development of a multi-use waterfront with a glitzy tourist zone featuring a Ferris wheel, monorail and megamall.

Ask Bronskill about Ferris wheels and you’ll get a cheeky grin, but a very diplomatic answer: “A debate was sparked by monorails and Ferris wheels, and that’s engaged a larger sector of the city in the discussion of the waterfront, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Bronskill and his partner, Mark, regularly walk their two dogs on the waterfront’s Cherry Beach and at the Evergreen Brick Works park. They live in Cabbagetown, and Bronskill says they do everything they can to get out and enjoy the city, taking in a movie, checking out a new restaurant or catching a play.

And whether working or relaxing, it’s not unusual for Bronskill to happen upon a project or edifice that he had a hand in creating. “This is a very a tangible area of law — you work on something and then it actually gets built and the results of your arguments can be evaluated,” says Bronskill. “It’s unique and humbling to advocate for something and then one day be able to reach out and touch it.”

The Lowdown: David Bronskill

  • Year of Call: 2002
  • Current Job: Partner in municipal law, Goodmans LLP
  • Favourite Item in Closet: A pair of jeans after coming home from work — if I haven’t already worn them to the office.
  • Pet Peeves: Slow walkers at the mall.
  • If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be… the owner of a farm with a doggy daycare.
  • Most Treasured Possession: The collar of our dog AJ, who passed away.

Photography: Markian Lozowchuk