Abstract The past two decades in Canada have witnessed significant economic restructuring and public policy innovation. While most research concentrates on federal recovery plans and provincial adjustment strategies, this article makes the case for studying actors and places on the restructuring front lines. Offering an ideational analysis of change dynamics in London, Ontario, a mid-sized manufacturing city, the article reveals a pattern of incremental policy adjustment even as bold ideas contesting the status quo were brought forward. Arguing that particular institutional-political settings operative at different governance scales shape the policy influence of ideas, the article situates the London experience in broader theoretical debates about institutional innovation. At the national level, ideas often supply "weapons of mass persuasion" for political parties seeking electoral breakthroughs. At the local level, ideas serve a different purpose--providing focal points for problem-solving networks that over time and across issues may bring about significant change.