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2007 Planning

City of Calgary


Population: 988,193

More than 18,000 citizens of Calgary helped to create a 100-year vfor their city. In 2004, Calgary joined an international network of cities and communities committed to long-term urban sustainability — the Sustainable Cities: PLUS Network. One year later, through a projecalled imagineCALGARY, the city immersed itself in 18 months of planning for its future. Citizens first identified goals that will help the community meet its needs for water, energy and transportation and then set 10- to 30-year targets to advance the vision and goals. The imagineCALGARY process has resulted in a greater pride of place for residents and widespread support for clear sustainability targets from a growing number of institutional and organizational partners based in the city.


As one of the country's fastest growing and most prosperous cities, Calgary knows first-hand about the many benefits and challenges created by "boom" times. With a population of nearly one million (up from 749,000 in 1995), the city had faith in its citizens' capacity to create an urban sustainability plan that would ensure a high quality of life for current and future generations.

In 2004, the City of Calgary joined the Sustainable Cities: PLUS Network. This network supports long-term urban sustainability by giving like-minded cities around the world a chance to share their experiences, tools and talents. Cities that belong to the network aim to build resilient communities by integrating economic, ecological and social well-being into long-term plans. In most cases, planning is for the next 100 years.

By early 2005, Calgary was ready to commit resources and time to imagineCALGARY. The slogan for the project was "city-led, community-owned," the idea being that the resulting sustainability plan would be adopted and acted on by the wider community.

Ten municipal staff members were assigned to work as the project team for imagineCALGARY. Their first task was to develop a method for delivering the project. After searching in many quarters for advice and insight, they took an approach that included elements of a number of initiatives, including Imagine Chicago, citiesPLUS, the EarthCAT methodology and systems thinking.


  • Twenty-eight 100-year goals form the backbone of the Urban Sustainability Plan. The plan contains 114 targets that will be reached in 10- to 30-year spans.
  • As part of its commitment to the sustainability plan, the City of Calgary is reviewing its 2006-2008 Corporate Business Plan to determine how it agrees and meshes with the sustainability plan. When the city develops its next business plan for the years 2009-2010, this review will inform those plans.
  • Calgary's Environmental Footprint Project is bringing its measures into agreement with the targets of imagineCALGARY. The goal of the Footprint Project is to help the community act in more sustainable ways.
  • An important first step for the city's new Land Use and Mobility Plan involved creating a set of sustainability principles to guide the plan. Transportation and land-use goals and targets in the imagineCALGARY plan have provided direction and clarity to that process.

Lessons Learned

  • GO TO THE PEOPLE. Strategic planner John Lewis says that when imagineCALGARY went to the Calgary Stampede, to the folk festival or to community meetings where people were already gathered, "they were relaxed and open to talking about their vision for Calgary. When we did an open house type of meeting that they had to come to for that specific purpose, it flopped in terms of attendance."
  • BUILD IN DIVERSITY. When developing the Urban Sustainability Plan, the team learned it was important to "come at the targets from as many perspectives as possible." Having five working groups composed of people from diverse organizations allowed for a diversity of viewpoints. "In the governance working group, for example, we had an environmental group represented. When we met for the first time and started talking about a 'voice for the voiceless,' the Sierra Club person suggested we include the natural environment in that group. A lot of light bulbs went on in people's heads when she said that."
  • REFINE THE PLAN. Lewis says that having more time to refine the plan would have been helpful. The team was working toward a June 2006 deadline to present its plan to city council. "It's a pretty big plan (205 pages), and maybe we could have tied things up more neatly if we'd had more time to prepare it."

Partners and Collaboration

  • FCM's Green Municipal Fund
  • More than 18,000 groups, individuals and governing bodies
  • More than 300 actively involved stakeholders
  • Western Economic Development Canada
Page Updated: 21/12/2015