Sunday, April 22, 2018

Celebrating Earth Day: Calgary Climate Symposium and five climate-smart actions

At The City of Calgary, Earth Day is an opportunity to show our commitment to environmental protection. Addressing climate change is one way that we are demonstrating that commitment by investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, expanding public transit, capitalizing on renewable energy, retrofitting streetlights to LED, managing our waste as a resource, supporting innovative community design and much more. Today, we are sharing some of the highlights from our recent Climate Symposium and we’ve compiled a top-five list of climate smart actions citizens can take to celebrate Earth Day with us.

Last month The City of Calgary hosted the Calgary Climate Symposium, bringing together community leaders, entrepreneurs, prominent climate experts and City of Calgary staff for a series of unique networking and learning opportunities.

This was the first symposium of its kind The City has hosted and all five public events sold out. With so much interest and many requests to hear what was talked about, a playlist of videos is now available on the program website at calgary.ca/climateprogram with all of the presentations as well as feature interviews with many of the speakers.

The symposium aimed to open up a Calgary-specific conversation about how a changing climate will impact our city, and explore opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

“Climate change acts as a risk multiplier,” says Tom Sampson, Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, referring to large-scale events he has responded to such as the 2013 Southern Alberta flood and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires.

“Alberta has become the hotbed of severe weather events,” Bill Adams, Vice President, Western Region, Insurance Bureau of Canada, explains with a bar chart showing seven of the top 10 weather-related insured loss events in Canada have been in Alberta. “Understand that you are vulnerable, understand what your specific risks are at your home and at your business, and then take steps to address those risks.”

And while a changing climate poses risks and vulnerabilities for Calgarians, there are also opportunities.

“Climate change should be seen as a huge opportunity rather than a threat,” says Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy and Dean of Interdisciplinary Research, University of Leeds. “All of our work shows really clearly that addressing climate change can create jobs, improve public health, lead to better, more vibrant cities and enhance the quality of life.”

Gouldson is part of a team at the University of Leeds who recently published the Economics of Low Carbon Development Report for Calgary, evaluating and prioritizing a list of actions in the residential, commercial, transport, industrial and waste sectors that will provide the largest impact on the local economy and global climate. This study will inform the Climate Program’s upcoming Climate Resilience Plan to be presented to Council in June 2018.

Presenters from the symposium also outlined simple steps citizens can take today to be climate smart. These are outlined in their video interviews, and we’ve compiled the top five:
  1. Install an energy efficient furnace and/or windows – Guy Huntingford, BILD Calgary 
  2. Use the My Energy IQ tool to understand your energy usage – Jeff Hilton, ENMAX 
  3. Use alternative transportation options (bike, walk, public transit) – Caroline Saunders, British Consul General 
  4. Be active in your community: participate in community gardens, car share programs and more – Anika Terton, International Institute for Sustainable Development 
  5. Be aware of your risks and prepare a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit – Tom Sampson, Calgary Emergency Management Agency

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

New Centre City banners celebrate Calgary’s connections

Next time you’re entering Calgary’s Centre City, be sure to take a look at the new banners up on the bridges leading into the core and the Olympic Plaza pergola. Created by artists Mary Haasdyk and My-An Nguyen, the series of six banners build on the concept of bridges being connectors to people and places all over The City. 



Haasdyk and Nguyen worked together to create the series over the course of 2015 and 2016, with Nguyen developing the environments and Haasdyk creating the characters within them. Each banner acts as a bridge between the different worlds and the viewer.

“As an illustrator, storytelling is something I’m always thinking of in my work,” says Haasdyk.  “These banners have a playful side, but they merge that with the idea of showing the viewer the value of connecting with other people and our community.”

Haasdyk and Nguyen, both local artists who attended ACAD, saw The City’s request for banner proposals and decided to submit a joint proposal for the project in 2015 when they saw the request. 

“We really just applied on a whim,” says Nguyen. “We were surprised when we heard that we got it – we had looked at the previous artists who had won contracts and they were already well-established, whereas we had just graduated and trying to get some experience by working together.”


Both artists say that working as a team was not without its challenges – they were able to overcome
this by breaking up the work to capitalize on their strengths in order to create banners that would capture the public’s attention in a fresh and interesting way. Both say that it was a good learning experience, and hope that those who see the banners will use their imagination as they engage with them.

“We didn’t want to just represent traditional environments,” says Nguyen. “We both agreed that we wanted each image to take on a fantastical element and sense of surrealism. We want to catch the viewer’s attention, and give them things to explore.”  “We also wanted a sense of celebrating our City and aspects of our history,” adds Haasdyk. “We hope that the public will see the beauty and the value of our city and our community in these pieces.”

The banners will remain in place for one year. Visit calgary.ca/centrecity for more information on the Centre City banner project and to view past and present artwork.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Warm weather bringing pothole relief for Calgary drivers

With the weather warming up, City Road crews are now out in full-force repairing all those pesky potholes. And we’re asking residents to let us know if you see potholes popping up in your neighbourhood.

“About a month ago, we started to see many potholes forming on the all roads in Calgary,” says Road Maintenance Manager Bill Biensch. “Now, with the snow melting in the communities, we expect to see many more in those areas.”

Potholes form when snow melts into cracks in the asphalt and then freezes, expanding in the cracks. As vehicles drive over these areas, the asphalt breaks away, creating a hole in the road.

So far this year, The City has received about 2,000 service requests for potholes. Biensch says these numbers are similar to most years, but we are seeing the potholes form in a compressed time frame.

“It may seem like more this year because crews were not able to fix any potholes this winter,” he adds. “Typically, we fix potholes throughout the winter, every time we get a chinook. But this year, we had very few warm days, so we were not able to get that work done.”

Now that the weather has improved, extra crews have been assigned to potholes. Biensch says the extra crews will be filling about 300 potholes a week, so Calgarians should see a big improvement quickly.

To identify pavement in need of repair, The City inspects major roads twice a month and collector roads once a month. In residential areas, however, we rely on citizens and City crews to report concerns.

“We are asking for the public’s help in locating potholes on less-travelled streets and in laneways,” says Biensch. “Once we know about them, we can add them to our list and send crews out to fix them.”

If residents spot a pothole, they are asked to report them by submitting a Service Request form on Calgary.ca’s Pothole Repair page or through the City 311 app, with a photo if possible.





Monday, April 9, 2018

How snowpack affects river flood risk

Bow river snow pack, Centre Street Bridge
While skiers and snowboarders celebrated the season’s higher-than-average snowfall, some Calgarians have been less enthusiastic, concerned that all this snowfall – once it melts – may increase our risk of river flooding. That risk is what The City of Calgary’s River Engineering Team monitors.

“We track weather and river conditions year-round,” says Sandy Davis, planning engineer. “We work with Alberta Environment’s River Forecast group, who also monitors conditions and river flow forecasts on an ongoing basis.”

And while the snowpack within the watershed that feeds the Elbow and Bow Rivers is higher than average for this time of year (approximately 120% of our average snowpack), Davis explains it is not too unusual, nor does it significantly increase our risk of river flooding.

“The important thing to remember is that, in Calgary, a high snowpack alone does not cause our rivers to flood,” says Davis. “There are many factors that influence our flood risk, the most important one being heavy rainfall upstream of Calgary.”

The data Davis’s group collects shows many other years in which similar high snowpacks did not result in river flooding. For example, in 2017, a high snowpack and a warm spring led to a quick melt and high river flows. While that prompted a temporary boating advisory on the Bow River, there was no flooding.

“The main driver of river flooding is heavy rainfall events, which are challenging to forecast because we are so close to the mountains,” explains Davis. “We can usually see large rain events about five to seven days out, but they may change course and may not hit our area. At the same time, once a large rainfall event is on its way, we may only have 24 hours or less to fully understand its scale.”

These kinds of rainfall events are most likely to occur mid-May through mid-July, so it is important for citizens to be aware of their risks and, if they live, work or commute in flood-prone areas, to be prepared to respond on short notice, if required.

For more information on how to understand, prepare and stay informed about flood risk, visit calgary.ca/floodinfo and sign up to receive our e-newsletter, which will be distributed biweekly throughout flood season.

Friday, April 6, 2018

First phase of City Charters complete

The first phase of City Charters for Alberta’s two largest municipalities has been completed, providing the cities with the ability to adapt municipal laws to better fit their needs.

This phase of City Charters gives more flexibility and autonomy to Calgary and Edmonton, to improve administrative efficiency, support community well-being, empower environmental stewardship and enable smarter community planning. It also aims to strengthen the relationship between our large cities and the province, while providing better service to citizens.

Examples of what the first round of city charters could mean for The City and residents include:
  • Sending electronic assessment and tax notices to citizens who ask, instead of paper copies; 
  • Establishing a municipal administrative tribunal system to streamline and improve customer service for transit and parking bylaw infractions; 
  • Varying parts of the Traffic Safety Act to allow for the use of variable speed limit signage; 
  • Developing mandatory municipal climate change adaptation and mitigation plans; 
  • Working with Edmonton and the province at collaboration tables to find solutions to common issues, such as planning. 

What’s next for City Charters?


The second phase of City Charters will focus on a new fiscal framework to ensure each city’s economic future is secured for decades to come. Over the coming months, Calgary, Edmonton and the province plan to develop a long-term revenue sharing agreement and make legislative changes this year.

To learn more, visit the City Charters page on Alberta.ca.