Opinion: It's time for Calgary to take back our story

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Stories help us understand the world and our place in it. It’s time to tell Calgary’s story — one that better reflects who we are and who we want to be.

For too long, we’ve let others tell a one-dimensional story about our city. This was recently confirmed by Calgary Economic Development’s annual perceptions survey that saw positive perceptions of Calgary take a bit of a hit last year. It found that 82 per cent of business leaders held a favourable view of Calgary in 2023 and 59 per cent of those surveyed believe Calgary has a diverse economy — an eight per cent and 18 per cent decrease from the previous year, respectively. It also found that people outside our city continue to associate Calgary with a cold climate that lacks diversity in our people, culture and economy.

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Through research and engagement, it was also discovered that Calgary is a place where people didn’t see themselves in the existing brand. So, Calgary Economic Development and Tourism Calgary, in partnership with the City of Calgary, embarked on evolving Calgary’s brand to ensure the city’s narrative is authentic, aspirational and reflective of all Calgarians.

What was uncovered has been collected from a vast array of Calgarians who shared their ideas, experiences and truths with us. Business and community leaders, government, and the voices less often heard — equity-deserving communities, Indigenous individuals and groups, youth groups, not-for-profits, community associations and arts groups — were engaged. In total, 129 organizations across 26 sectors provided input through interviews, workshops, cross-country focus groups and surveys.

We heard that Calgary is an incredible place to call home. We are consistently given top marks for livability, affordability and quality of life. And we are a place where people are filled with hope and the can-do spirit to match.

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We heard that we are a city of unexpected possibilities where our imaginations and dreams are as big as the blue sky above us. There is a deep love for this city, a love that gathers people to volunteer and to visit our amazing home. It also inspires people to start and grow businesses, to build a world-renowned library and music centre, to reimagine spaces for the arts and culture, and to host The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

We heard that we all live under the same blue sky, without differentiation between ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. And while we understand that some people do not feel included, the sky can remind us that we all belong.

Finally, we heard that you can’t think about Calgary without envisioning its big blue skies — 333 days a year of sunshine to be precise. This sets us apart from other cities in Canada, and while we can have snowstorms in April, we always return to the proverbial and literal blue skies.

Calgary’s story is a place of confluence — where rivers, ideas, peoples and cultures converge. It’s about opportunity and unexpected possibilities that can be distilled into one simple message: Blue Sky City.

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The hope is that by distilling who we are, Calgary can align around a shared vision of a future where every citizen sees themselves.

Calgary’s story doesn’t belong to any one group; it belongs to those who were born here, grew up here or chose to build a life here. It belongs to Calgarians across diverse backgrounds, all strata of society and all walks of life. And it’s a story about our collective voices that come together to tell a larger story about who we are as a city.

By doing so, we can create a brand that resonates, inspires and draws people to Calgary to keep building on this story and discover what’s possible in the Blue Sky City.

Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary; Brad Parry, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development and CEO of Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund; Joel Cowley, CEO of the Calgary Stampede; Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce; Alex Sarian, president and CEO of Arts Commons; Crystal Blain, founder of Ask Auntie Consulting; Anila Umar, president and CEO of the Centre for Newcomers Calgary; Sol Zia, executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association; Terry Rock, president and CEO of Platform Calgary; Patti Pon, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development; Paula Calderon, CEO of the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association; Roderick Tate, president & CEO, TELUS Spark Science Centre;
Kate Thompson, president & CEO, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation; Jennifer Thompson, President, Fort Calgary; and Lindsay Peace, executive director of Skipping Stone.

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