Archived entries for Calgary

Sad times in Vancouver

The controversial public sculpture “Device to Root Out Evil,” has picked up and left its home in cosmopolitan Vancouver for the Glenbow Museum in ho-hum Calgary (“And people keep trying to call Vancouver a world-class city,” a snarky blogger says). It’s hard to say whether the massive piece of art was more controversial with the religious right or the yuppies of Coal Harbour, many of whom decried the sculpture for blocking their views (incredibly difficult to believe). Either way, it’s sad to see it go.

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Where the hell is Calgary?

Great news! Lufthansa is starting to fly to Calgary from Frankfurt. But unfortunately they seem to think Calgary is in British Columbia. This error is slightly more egregious than the Alaska Airlines Columbia/Colombia debacle I blogged about last year.

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Calgary bans spitting

I totally missed this story. It seems Calgary has decided to ban spitting in public. They’ve also made it against the law to pee in public or kick your feet up on a park bench!

Calgary’s housing boom misses many

calgary_dontmovethereCalgary may be experiencing the strongest economic growth in all of North America right now, but the rapidly rising housing costs are locking out many people.

CBC reports, “A community activist in Calgary has started a large-scale e-mail campaign warning workers coming to the city that they might not be able to find a place to live. Rev. Susan Brandt has sent e-mails to about a thousand people across the country, telling recipients: ‘Do not come to Calgary. There is nowhere to live.’”

Only I could have a nightmare like this

Many people know about my affection for the city of Calgary. So it was very unusual that last night I had a really disturbing nightmare about the place (perhaps prompted by my visit to western Canada later this week). The gist of the dream was that I was wondering around downtown, circa 1960, when the city looked a lot like the shot below, still a sparsely populated dusty frontier town. (OK, so maybe the dream was silly, because that’s where the nightmare part came in.) I was scared about my surroundings, plain and simple, because I tend to be a snob about these things. Thank god Calgary today looks like the second photo below, with more high rises than Boston and enough money to make it one of the wealthiest areas on earth.

Alberta’s oil boom drains Calgary of porta-potties [Globe and Mail]

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Swingin’ Calgary

Everyone, it seems, is talking about swingin’ Calgary and its free-flowing oil money that is rapidly changing the place into one of the wealthiest cities on the continent.

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Maclean’s ran a front-page spread last week that was a very interesting read. But they do keep things real by reminding us that despite its impressive skyline, the growing city is truly “a mass of bland modernity.”

Here are a few other choice quotes, in no particular order:

“Get over it, Toronto. Oil-rich Calgary is the new centre of the universe — and the party’s just getting started,” the magazine says.

“‘Calgary is a city on steroids,’ Vince Wong, the owner of a popular nightclub says. ‘I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s non-stop.’”

“A vital marker of Calgary money is having at least one other house, with Phoenix or Hawaii being favoured hot-weather destinations. ‘The only way to enjoy Calgary is to leave Calgary,’ Peter Linder, an oil and gas analyst at DeltaOne Capital in Calgary, says, half in jest.”

“The artist Jenny Holzer once created a bold installation piece that read ‘money creates taste.’ The maxim plays out in Calgary.”

Calgary

I was once an urban studies major, so I am obsessive about cities. Calgary is one of the more fascinating ones (which, if you read my blog with any regularity, you may realize by now). Christopher DeWolf at Urban Photo has posted some new photos of Calgary that are great! And his musings of city life, including a new one about the changes being seen in Calgary, are always interesting.

“I grew up there and moved away nearly four years ago, sick of its banal architecture, lack of streetlife and provincial shelteredness. There’s no hard feelings, though, especially since Calgary has changed so much in the short time since I left. As it grows, it is becoming a more dynamic place, something reflected in its streets.”

“What impresses me most is that Calgary has gained a sense of self-awareness. Five years ago, the lack of introspection was infuriating. Few seemed interested in their city, its history, culture and built environment. That’s changed.” Still, “Calgary still has a dusty, quiet quality to it. Too many of it streets are cold and sterile.”

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A couple interesting points: DeWolf says that after Boston, Calgary has North America’s busiest light rail system. He also says that city planners are aiming to increase the downtown population, already growing, as much as twelve-fold. Who knew?

Waterton Lakes

I’ve gotten a few emails about my latest header photo, so I thought I’d share another similar one. These are from last summer in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta. The park is essentially the Canadian side of Montana’s Glacier National Park. If you’ve seen Brokeback Mountain, you may recognize the scenery since the film was shot nearby. In the header image, you’ll notice the Prince of Wales Hotel in the extreme right, one of Canada’s famed railway hotels.

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Time gets its geography wrong

I have a bit of a fetish about geography, so I was particularly appalled to see this reference to a “province of Calgary” in a Time magazine article about the Canadian election:

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True, there are multiple definitions of “province,” but in this case I just know they’re wrong!

Retail the hot new thing in Calgary

I love to shop, so I thought it interesting that after New York City, the highest-grossing first day sales at a Williams-Sonoma store were in Calgary last summer. Retail is booming in Alberta’s biggest city, helped by the fact that there are more head offices per capita and a higher rate of home ownership than anywhere else in the country. Not to mention a highly paid work force and a constant flow of oil money.

A few new developments in the works include the 1.4 million square foot Deerfoot Meadows, a shopping centre boasting an IKEA as well as Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW dealers, and the adjacent Village at Deerfoot Meadows, a dining and retail “lifestyle centre” designed to look like an old-fashioned village.

Calgary, awash in cash, sees homeless numbers rise

The well-off city of Calgary faces an incongruous challenge this holiday: an increasing number of homeless people in the city.

“We’re advertising what a great city it is to come to . . . but everything grows along with it — including poverty and hardship,” says Dermot Baldwin, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, the city’s largest homeless facility.

Brad Pitt in trouble

brad_pitt_calgaryBrad Pitt, filming a movie in Alberta, has been reprimanded by forest rangers after breaking wilderness rules about keeping doors and windows locked at all times. He returned home one day to find brown bears in his rented cabin. Apparently, bears had been attracted to the smell of food coming from the place.

The road to Calgary is paved with gold

calgary_1025Times they are a changin’ in Calgary,flush with oil cashHolt Renfrew now has three personal shoppers instead of just one. “You can hear the money sloshing around,” one luxury car salesman told the Globe. At one gourmet store, “customers don’t balk at paying $6,000 a kilogram for white truffles.”

“Calgary is enjoying its moment in the sun, although the memories of the gloom of previous crashes is always lurking in the background. That worry is no hindrance to the era of excess — if anything, it is just one more reason to load up on luxury.” One man said, “People are just saying, ‘Well, just screw it. While I can buy this thing, I’ll buy it. And if I have to sell it, I’ll sell it’.”

Pastor accused of anti-gay hatred

Alberta pastor Stephen Boisson will face a human rights tribunal in Calgary over accusations that he exposed the gay community to hatred. Three years ago he argued in a local newspaper that gay rights activists and the “homosexual machine” are as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.

“This case will be precedent setting for Albertans, and if forced to go before the Supreme Court of Canada, for Canadians at large,” says a web site operated byConcerned Christians Canada. “This is not just a battle against free speech by the militant and well-funded homosexual radicals, but this is even more importantly an attack on clergy and religious organizations.”

Boisson operates a youth outreach program and has accused the public school system of subjecting kids to psychologically damaging pro-gay materials to foster equal rights. “My banner has now been raised and war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth, that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume.”

Pastor accused of anti-gay hatred

Alberta pastor Stephen Boisson will face a human rights tribunal in Calgary over accusations that he exposed the gay community to hatred. Three years ago he argued in a local newspaper that gay rights activists and the “homosexual machine” are as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.

“This case will be precedent setting for Albertans, and if forced to go before the Supreme Court of Canada, for Canadians at large,” says a web site operated by Concerned Christians Canada. “This is not just a battle against free speech by the militant and well-funded homosexual radicals, but this is even more importantly an attack on clergy and religious organizations.”

Boisson operates a youth outreach program and has accused the public school system of subjecting kids to psychologically damaging pro-gay materials to foster equal rights. “My banner has now been raised and war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth, that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume.”

Free college for Albertans

alberta_legislatureOil money flows like water in Alberta, and provincial leaders have had a hard time figuring out what to do with all their riches. Not only will every man, woman, and child in the province be getting a strings-free cheque for $400 at the end of this year, but leaders in Edmonton are now discussing the idea of spending some of their oil revenue surplus to provide a free college education to residents.

Under the plan, the first two years of postsecondary education would be free to Albertans. A year’s university tuition in province costs $5,100 per year, the second-highest in Canada.

More on Fort McMurray

oilsandsThere must have been a good press-op in Fort McMurray, Alta., last week since the the Times joined the Globe in devoting a chunk of space to theregion’s booming economy and the impact on the environment that oil extraction has and will cause.

“Just north of this boomtown of saloons and strip malls, a moonscape is expanding along with the price of oil. Deep craters wider than football fields are being dug out of the pine and spruce forests and muskeg swamps by many of the largest multinational oil companies. Huge refineries that burn natural gas to refine the excavated gooey sands into synthetic oil are spreading where wolves and coyotes once roamed.”

“Beside the mining pits, propane cannons and scarecrows installed by the companies shoo away migrating birds from giant toxic lakes filled with water that was used in the process that separates oil sands from clay and dirt. About 82,000 acres of forest and wetlands have been cleared or otherwise disturbed since development of oil sands began in earnest here in the late 1960′s, and that is just the start. “

The Globe goes to Canada!

syncrude_fmmI’m pretty impressed that a reporter from the Globe ventured to Alberta to tour themassive oil extraction projects around the now-booming town of Fort McMurray, a frontier town that has grown 75 percent in recent years. The Globe never sends its own people to Canada, preferring instead to run wire reports whenever news happens north of the border.

Canada is already the largest provider of foreign oil to the U.S., and the huge oil sands projects in northern Alberta — where tarry sands are processed to extract the crude oil component — are poised to make the region even wealthier and strategically more important than they already are. The cost of extracting oil from the sands is expensive (about $24 per barrel) and extraordinarily labor-intensive (it takes 2 tons of the oil sands to produce 1 barrel of oil), but optimists say they hold the promise of reducing dependency on Middle East oil.

Extraction is also environmentally risky: “We’re dealing with a form of oil extraction where the intensity of environmental impacts is at an order of magnitude greater than any other form of oil extraction we have seen on the planet,” a policy analyst told the paper.

Metrosexuals hit Calgary

Apparently, metrosexuals are now running rampant in Calgary.

Conflict looms over Alberta oil money

As oil prices soared in recent months, Alberta was estimating they’d take in up to $7 billion more than they had budgeted thanks to the province’s immense oil wealth. The windfall was believed to be so great that provincial finance officials nearly began a road trip earlier this year to ask constituents how they should spend all that money.

Premier Ralph Klein has finally come up with a solution for the billions: give it away. Every Albertan will receive a tax-free $400 “prosperity cheque” by the end of the year. The issue has already begun to divide Canadians, many of whom say Alberta’s oil wealth belongs to Ottawa — not to Edmonton.

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The premier takes a “keep your hands off it” attitude about the oil riches while the federal government has been mum on the issue, probably with good reason. The Globe reported that any political party “would face a national-unity powder keg should it wade into the issue, particularly during the coming election campaign.”

Alberta is one of only two “have” provinces — ones that pay more into the federal coffers than they get back. The oil bounty will only be increasing the divide between Alberta — which is increasingly vocal about having to support the fiscal imbalance between it and the poorer provinces — and the rest of Canada. Already the province has no debt, no sales tax and is a corporate tax haven; Calgary boasts more company head offices than all other cities in Canada except for Toronto.

This is all fine and dandy for Alberta right now, but what happens in a few decades when prices hit $200 a barrel and the province is tapped out of oil? A piece in the Star hypothesizes: “In Canada, it meant the decline of Alberta. With oil at anywhere from $40 to $70 a barrel, Alberta had prospered. But when its petroleum and coal reserves ran out, Alberta had little else. By the time the price of the world’s dwindling supplies of oil finally hit $200 a barrel, Alberta was a have-not province. Calgary, population 1 million, became a ghost town.”



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