Great Cities: Profiles in municipal excellence

Posted by: Aaron Kroontje on December 16, 2014

This is a broad overview of our recently launched Great Cities: Profiles in municipal excellence report by junior policy analyst Lauren Babuik. You can view the full report online or download it now.

When you think about the world’s greatest cities, what comes to mind? New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo would certainly top most lists, both as cultural influencers and economic powerhouses. It probably would not occur to the average reader, however, that Calgary can learn similar lessons from St. Albert than it can from Singapore.

What can Calgary learn from a small, Albertan city of 60,000 and an East Asian city-state megatropolis? These are the questions that the Chamber’s Great Cities: Profiles in Municipal Excellence, sets out to explore.

Calgary continues to lead Canada in terms of population growth and, as its economy continues to grow, increasingly competes on a global scale for both business and talent.  To better understand the impact that citizens and local governments have on the vitality of their cities, the Calgary Chamber has identified four areas where local government decision-making has the most direct influence on cities.

In the report, four examples of how great cities operate are explored:

  1. Great Cities Employ Innovative and Sustainable Finance Techniques
  2. Great Cities Amplify Municipal IQ
  3. Great Cities are Leaders in Regional Collaboration
  4. Great Cities Harness the Power of Human Capital

In looking at these topics, the Calgary Chamber has identified what the most successful cities do to remain globally competitive, what Calgary does well compared to these cities, and what Calgary can do to become a top international city that remains globally competitive, attracts world class businesses and retain top-tier talent. The greatest cities were not always great, and the Chamber’s Great Cities report seeks to frame the path to becoming great.

Singapore was not always Singapore. In fact, in 1960 a Dutch economist working for the United Nations described the city-state as a “poor little market in a dark corner of Asia.” Today, Singapore boasts the world’s seventh largest GDP per capita, and has unveiled a plan to become the world’s first smart nation as a leader in urban intelligence and one of the best places in the world to do business.

Cities change and they grow, they learn from each other, and compete with one another for markets, resources, and people. New Amsterdam became New York. Byzantium became Constantinople which became Istanbul. Before Beijing, London, and Rio de Janeiro, there was Carthage, Rome, and Constantinople, with the former growing stronger and more competitive by using the successes and failures of the latter.

While Calgary continues to lead Canada in population growth, and its economy becomes increasingly competitive, Calgary can learn from cities 13,000 km away as well as cities in its own backyard, and use new finance tools, new ways of collaboration, new technology, and new ways of improving social outcomes to become a globally great city. As Calgary becomes recognized as a global city, it needs to keep up with other Great Cities that are seen as key urban areas that attract successful businesses, elite-level talent, and provide critical infrastructure services for economic success.