Calgary: 100 years of policies and plans.

Author:Jacyk, Chris
Position:Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Report


A budget is the culmination of past decisions and current investments, combined to reach a future vision. The City of Calgary, Alberta, uses a three-year budget process, which makes sure the implications of budget decisions beyond the current year are understood. This process works well, but true sustainability is measured over the long term, through the city's ability to meet the long-term vision of the community. Building a truly sustainable budget requires an understanding of what sustainability means to the community over the long term and what challenges the jurisdiction faces in achieving that vision. Therefore, the city also produces a 10-year long-range financial plan in advance of the three-year budgets to provide a longer-term context for those shorter-term decisions. There are also policies for development over the next 60 years, and a 100-year vision comprising high-level statements that affect business plans across the organization.


Although sustainability is a broad concept, its key component is simple enough: For a government to reach its goals and vision, it needs resources, which ultimately means money. Unless a government is financially sustainable, any other sustainability plans are at risk of being derailed by the next crisis, or of never even getting past the planning stage. A long-term financial plan is, therefore, a key strategic document. However, financial sustainability still has to be achieved in the context of other sustainability plans and needs to work effectively with other plans.

The City of Calgary has chosen to focus on sustainability in this way as a risk management tool; concentrating only on short-term decisions increases the risk of a crisis situation, and of being unprepared when it arises. An organization that doesn't integrate all its policies and plans--in different areas and with different time horizons--faces a significant risk that these plans won't work together efficiently, or worse, that they will be at cross purposes. Linking the goals and targets of these policies needs to be a jurisdiction-wide goal.


Calgary's policies and plans fit within time horizons from the current year to the 100-year vision, as illustrated in Exhibit 1. These cascading layers of plans and policies provide the continuity that moves the city toward its long-term community vision within the current budget cycle.

Vision Layer (100 Years)

Calgary's 100-year vision was developed in 2006 under the imagineCALGARY banner. While the city led the process, it is really the community's vision, the result of consultations with more than 18,000 citizens of all ages. ImagineCALGARY presents a number of goals and strategies and identifies some shorter-term targets. These are high-level statements, as it is difficult to include specifics that will remain meaningful through the changes future decades will bring. However, the targets included in the vision layer have influenced the way business plans are developed across the city.

Policy Layer (30-60 Years)

The policy layer uses the 100-year vision as a baseline to start defining how Calgary will...

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