Calgary’s vision: A great place to make a living, a great place to make a life.
We have a long history of imagining our community, developing actions to accomplish our collective goals, and together chartering new aspirations. Along this journey we have had our share of disruptions — the chronic stresses, such as not being inclusive of multiple perspectives, and employment rates that shadow our economic downturn, and acute shocks, such as the 2013 flood — that can keep us from reaching our vision.
Time and time again, we join together, support each other, learn from our experiences, and use this shared journey to set new goals. In 2013, Calgary experienced a significant disaster event that disrupted our community, our economy, our infrastructure and our natural environment. Water from our mountain-fed rivers, combined with saturated earth from a long winter and recent heavy rainfall created a flood not experienced in a century. Our downtown, the heart of Calgary, was closed as water drained from its streets. People and businesses were evacuated from their homes and livelihoods, and critical infrastructure impacts halted services. We learned a lot, together, about responding and recovering, repairing and funding, communicating priorities and setting recovery goals.
What is most memorable is the community spirit that lifted our hearts, hands working together to support each other, and the commitment by all to regain our beloved Calgary. This optimism and hope experienced during the 2013 flood has driven us to be better, to invest in resilience, and to continue efforts together to meet our vision for Calgary. We have learned that a city’s ability to function is often weakened by chronic stress (such as economic uncertainty, climate change, poverty, increased unemployment) and acute shocks (like financial crisis, extreme weather, infrastructure failure). Careful attention to local, regional and national trends and events, intentional goal setting and taking collective action can help a city improve its ability to respond effectively and serve its population.
The journey to develop this Resilient Calgary strategy has helped us identify what our greatest stresses and shocks might be, encouraged us to explore these disruptors and gather knowledge about our readiness for them, and compelled us to identify the specific goals and actions to move us forward toward our vision of Calgary as a sustainable, resilient place.
The resilience of a city improves when all are encouraged and able to participate in a diverse and strong economy. This enhances the community’s ability to attract business, talent and investment. Calgary can capitalize on its high quality of life, available commercial real-estate and educated workforce as it continues to bounce back from the recent economic downturn. The community is engaged with local businesses, other orders of government and City partners cooperating and exploring opportunities to build a resilient economy. The importance of becoming a more economically resilient city is increasingly urgent.
Our efforts undertaken developing the Preliminary Resilience Assessment as well as learnings from the economic collaboration circle showed considerable vulnerability to the long-term stresses of economic uncertainty, inequality and lack of social cohesion, lack of economic diversification, and increased unemployment and poverty rates. Many of these stresses can be amplified with exposure to the key shocks identified in our work including, financial and economic crisis, cyber-attacks and extreme weather incidents.
Key actions include:
- Develop Talent for Emerging Economies
- Understand Digital Disparity
- Be 5G-Ready
- Business Continuity Planning
- Attraction, Growth and Resilience Dividend
- Implement a Living Lab Strategy and Governance Model
- Future of Calgary’s Centre City
The resilience of a city improves when:
- Equity-seeking communities (escs) are regarded as strengths to society and have meaningful voices in
decision-making and leadership.
- Communities are connected and feel empowered to act.
- Power is distributed fairly in our systems.
- Differing opinions that challenge our thinking are valued and accepted.
Communities and various sector partners agreed that a key resilience challenge in Calgary was the lack of
inclusion in leadership and decision-making. One reason for this was that institutions did not trust the expertise
and experiences that ESCs brought to the decision-making and leadership tables. The best way forward was for
Calgary institutions to recognize these strengths and focus on building trusted relationships with ESCs.
Key actions include:
- Diversify representation on boards
- Open spaces for inclusive conversations
- Advance equity in organizations with a multi-sectoral community of practice
- Support to revitalize Indigenous cultures and languages
- Build a governance systems map
- Encourage business investments addressing inclusion
- Develop a social procurement policy
Our connection to our natural environment is deeply tied to our daily activities: during any season, we are acutely aware of the icy coldness dropping temperatures can bring, the warmth of a winter Chinook, the long dry and hot days of our summers. We bravely face these weather changes, none more great in recent memory than the perfect storm of snow in our mountains, our water-saturated earth, and a well placed rainstorm to the west.
The flood of 2013 galvanized a city-wide response as rising waters forced the evacuation of thousands of people from more than 26 communities. This was not the first time Calgary faced flooding — in 1929 and 1932, both the Bow and Elbow Rivers breached their banks after heavy rain. We have learned from our past and are preparing for our future by learning the value of natural infrastructure and will be better at considering it as an asset when budgeting, planning and developing Calgary communities.
As part of this pillar we will include natural infrastructure as part of our corporate asset management framework
and measure their service value to inform investment and planning decisions.
This will be achieved through three focused themes:
- Learning through awareness of our key natural infrastructure and the role they play in contributing to
- Valuing through analysis of the services and multiple benefits they provide to inform decision-making
processes and reporting.
- Building through action by integrating our learning and analysis into City and regional policy and
Key actions include:
- Natural Infrastructure Awareness materials shared with different audiences to increase our understanding of the role of natural infrastructure.
- Natural Infrastructure Valuation Toolkit adopted to support integrated and informed planning, management and investment decisions.
- Policy Integration to align and embed natural infrastructure into current and new relevant policy.
Resilience of a city improves when the community has access to infrastructure. If the infrastructure is designed to accommodate the diverse and ever-changing makeup of the community, it will serve the intended purpose. If adaptable, it will accommodate unintended uses. Harder working, multi-use and co-created infrastructure or retro-fits may be solutions to consider in response to a growing and diverse population, emerging natural impacts due to a changing climate, and a value-based interest in public funded projects. We also must prepare for a future that is connected socially, digitally, automatically and technologically.
Key actions include:
- A resilience lens is applied to strengthen public infrastructure investment decisions.
- Maintain and improve the infrastructure that supports service needs.
- Implement the integrated water management plan.
- Watershed investment strategy.
These four pillars of the strategy are supported by outcomes of population wellness and performance change by government, business and institutions. The pillars are supported by a shared theme, A Future Focused Calgary, that includes the development of resilience tools to support our measurement and sustained resilience approach to planning and decision making.
Globally, cities are evolving with a future that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). If we want Calgary to have a resilient and prosperous future, we will benefit from better tools to engage with and consider numerous complex choices.
The resilience of a city improves when thoughtful, practical and creative tools are used to support our decisionmaking capabilities. It involves work that will: reveal novel ideas, challenge existing assumptions about the future, and explore the interactions between future trends and the forces driving change.
By adapting, engaging and innovating, Calgary can lead into the future. It will attract employment, stimulate local economies and create future sustainability and inclusion.