Historic, Social & Economic Disruption in Calgary

Written by: Gary Davies

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Calgary is experiencing a historic, social and economic disruption, the likes of which it has never seen. It is going through a period of disruption that is defying old labels about our city, says Tim Olafson and Matt Stone, the partners behind Calgary’s largest research firm, Stone Olafson.

“As a community, we will need to adapt, adjust or change to suit community expectations,” Stone says. “We need to understand that communities of the future will want or need more specific programming, facilities or products.”

Olafson and Stone made their presentation during CMLC Community Day at the historic St. Louis building, as part of Best of Calgary Ideas Week.

This is mainly due to a change in immigration patterns – nearly 30% of our city is now a visible minority – and due to the economic change the city has recently experienced.

“In the 1950s, one in 350 Calgarians was white; now it’s one in three,” Stone says. “The national average is one in five, and Calgary is obviously exceeding that.”

According to Stone Olafson’s research, we are the youngest of all major Canadian cities, with an average age of 37, and we have the lowest percentage of seniors in Canada at just 11% of the total population. “We are one of the youngest, most diverse cities in the country,” Stone says.

But immigration patterns aren’t the only reason Calgary is experiencing a period of disruption. The oil price drop four years ago has also had an effect.

“The fact is the recession in Calgary put us in a different place economically,” Stone says. “This is not the same as (previous oil crashes).”

Our unemployment rate isn’t recovering as it used to – still at 8% –because oil and gas jobs aren’t coming back in the same way. “Median income in Calgary has dropped 15% during the recession,” Stone says.

"But we are seeing growth now, 2.5% this year, and our economy has in fact diversified," Stone says.

Stone Olafson’s research also revealed that, on the political spectrum, 51% of Calgarians consider themselves in the centre, with 26% saying they are right-wing and 13% align themselves to the left.

And from an artistic perspective, Calgarians are increasingly engaged with their community. Nearly 80% of Calgarians believe a strong arts and culture scene is vital to creating a vibrant, safe, and prosperous city.

Gary Davies is a co-founder of Best of Calgary

Kelsey Woods