A recent poll on Canadians’ perception of Calgary (Calgary Herald, Dec 10, 2014) wasn’t very flattering. While Calgarians have tremendous community pride, we shouldn’t look at our city though “rose- coloured” glasses. However, at some point in time, we also must recognize our city can’t be all things to all people.
In many ways, the results aren’t that surprising. Calgary isn’t going to appeal to people who don’t like winter - we have six months of it. Our city won’t be loved those who lust after beaches and water – the Bow and Elbow Rivers, plus the Glenmore Reservoir just don’t compete. Calgary doesn’t have great retirement appeal, as retirement dollars won’t go further here. That being said, many empty nesters will move to Calgary, largely to be closer to their children and grandkids who have relocated here to advance their career.
Calgary is not a major Canadian tourist destination – Banff is! For some reason, Calgary and Banff have not been linked in the minds of Canadian tourists in the same way as Vancouver and Whistler are linked.
Calgary is most attractive to Canadians of all ages who want to “work hard and get ahead.” In many ways Calgary is still a “frontier city.” Just like at the beginning of the 20th century when farmers and ranchers moved here, Canadians from the east are still migrating here to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Canada’s Young Career Class
“Why the West has won Canada’s youth” was the title of Mike Milke’s (Senior Fellow, Fraser Institute) Herald column November 22nd, 2014. In it, he provided interesting facts about what he called “Canada’s young career class (YCC),” i.e. those 25 to 34-year olds who have finished their education and are seeking to establish their careers. From 2003 to 2012, Alberta gained 60,855 YCCs on a net basis; British Columbia gained 10,643 and Saskatchewan 581. On the “losing” side, Quebec lost 24,355 and Ontario lost 27,451. He didn’t give numbers for Manitoba or the Maritime provinces except to say “Manitoba and Atlantic Canada also bled young adults but that’s been a constant for some time.” If you do the math, they collective lost a whopping 40,000+.
Calgary’s oil patch has been a magnet for Canada’s YCC for over 50 years - it is not a new phenomenon. Today, it is Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray that are the magnets for young Canadians who want to establish their career, with Calgary being especially attractive for those wanting a career in Geology, Accounting, Banking, Brokering (stocks, land, commercial space) and Engineering or as I call them GABEsters.
Calgary’s got its mojo working
Since the beginning of the new millennium, Calgary has evolved significantly. We have become a better “Festival City” with Beakerhead and SLED Island being two key examples. We are a better “Foodie City,” often placing one or more restaurants in enRoute Magazine’s annual Top 10 New Restaurants and our chefs are regular medal winners at international competitions. Cowtown will also become more attractive to the YCC when the National Music Centre opens in 2016.
Calgary is also a leader in new community planning with new communities like Brookfield Residential, McKenzie Towne, SETON and Canada Lands’ Garrison Woods and Currie Barracks. We have also become North America’s newest “Design City,” with world-renowned architects and artists creating work for Calgary – Calatrava (Peace Bridge), Foster (The Bow), Ingels (Telus Sky), Plensa (Wonderland sculpture) and Snøhetta (New Central Library).
We’ve also got some of the best urban neighbourhoods in Canada – Inglewood, Beltline, Kensington and Bridgeland/Riverside. The Canadian Institute of Planners named Inglewood Canada’s Greatest Neighbourhood in 2014 and Kensington was a finalist.
We are currently ranked #5 as one of the world’s most liveable cities (Economist Intelligence Unit) and #1 in Canada for family living (MoneySense Magazine). And, one thing most Canadians probably don’t know is that Calgary has been ranked the “Cleanest City” in the world (Mercer Global).
Calgary has also diversified its employment base. We are now Western Canada’s financial centre and the distribution hub, which means more opportunities for YCC.
Calgary has also become Canada’s leading political city - the Prime Minister is from Calgary and our Mayor is respected internationally.
Many young Canadians come to Calgary for the job and stay for the lifestyle. I know that happened for us. We moved to the Calgary area in 1981 thinking it would be an interesting adventure never thinking that 33 years later we’d still call it home.
In the words of iconic bluesman Muddy Waters Calgary has "got our mojo working, but it just won't work on you!" And really, do we really care what Canadian's think of our city?