US and Canadian cities face many of the same imperatives of competition for development and growth. Yet cultural differences and the role of higher level governments produce different outcomes. This is tested by examining two cities, London, Ontario, and St Cloud, Minnesota, chosen for their economic and demographic similarities. The Ontario provincial government is found to have a more substantial role in managing urban development issues than its Minnesota state counterpart. This reflects differing Canadian and US assumptions about the scope and purpose of government. Further paired comparisons are needed to assess the effect of other variables.