Intro: To be, or not to be, that is the question… does Calgary have the potential to be a modern Renaissance city?

Or do complacency and constraints - both in thought and the economy - mean it is not to be? Based on much research and interviews with our experts, I strongly believe that Calgary is not on the road to becoming a modern Renaissance City. Since the arrival of the Northwest Mounted Police in 1875, Calgary has endured the great fire of 1886, the harsh realities of the great depression and two world wars and the challenges of economic “busts”. Calgarians have also enjoyed multiple economic boom times and the privilege of hosting the 1988 Olympic games. But through all of these ups and downs, Calgary has not emerged as a Renaissance city. And it never will. There are three compelling reasons Calgary is destined to remain an energetic, livable, but ultimately uninspiring city. First, without a significant external event to force change, it’s abundantly clear that Calgarians are content with the status quo. Second, we refuse to generously fund the arts and as a result, the creative arts struggle to flourish in our city. Finally, Calgary’s economic foundations rest on a narrow, carbon-intensive and ultimately declining resource, which means it is destined to slowly crumble away. Body: In the mid-14th century, one of the key factors that set the stage for the Italian Renaissance was the Black Death, which made people question the world around them – especially the strong authority of the Catholic Church. Calgary lacks the modern equivalent – a major event or force that will force a fundamental re-examination of our beliefs and priorities. In fact, according to the Alberta Elections website, since 1971 Calgary has helped to elect 10 consecutive Conservative provincial governments. This goes to show that the citizens of Calgary are content. We generally lack the desire to question or challenge the status quo. Since there is no drive for basic reflection or change, there will be no revitalization of Calgary’s society. Consequently, there can be no modern Renaissance in our city.

During the Italian Renaissance, patrons donated large sums of money to fund the arts and culture of their cities. There is no parallel in Calgary today. Despite enjoying 5 economic “booms” since 1947, according to Hill Strategy Research Inc., only 0.8% of Calgary’s labour force is engaged in the arts. And those artists earn only 43% of the average wage. This is because even though there are several super-wealthy people in Calgary, the bulk of Calgary’s wealth is in corporations. And their shareholders must approve corporations’ charitable donations. Canada’s five largest companies are Royal Bank of Canada, EnCana, Research in Motion, Imperial Oil Ltd. and Toronto Dominion Bank. A review of their corporate websites makes it clear that shareholders strongly prefer to fund education, health, youth and community initiatives over the arts. This goes to show that funding for the arts is not a priority for the wealthiest entities in our city. Nor are arts and culture a top concern for Calgary’s citizens. The economy of the Italian Renaissance was based around trade, banking, art, guild activities such as wool, etc. In modern day Calgary, our economy is focused on primary resource industries: forestry, mining, fishing, oil and gas. In fact, according to Calgary Economic Development, these sectors contributed over $10 billion to Calgary’s economy in 2008 – 14.5% of the total economy. Since Renaissance Italy’s economy was more widespread and diverse, if one industry crashed then it was still stable. In Calgary, if the primary resource sector starts to fail, we’ll be in trouble. This seems inevitable. In fact, the World Energy Council's 2007 Survey of Energy Resources stated: "The evidence suggests that the peak of world discovery was in the 1960s, meaning that the corresponding peak of production for 'conventional oil' (oil from oil wells as opposed to synthetic oil from tar sands, shale or coal) is approaching. The world started using more than it found in 1981 and that gap has widened since." The study went on to warn: "Given the central position of oil in the modern economy, the onset of decline threatens to be a time of great economic and geopolitical tension." The study suggests production will peak around 2011 when the age of oil will begin its inevitable decline. With one-seventh of Calgary’s economy tied to the oil and gas sector, it’s clear that our limited

economic diversity means we will face troubling times in the years and decades as the oil and gas sector inevitably starts to decline. Conclusion: As I’ve so clearly shown, Calgary is not well positioned to become a modern Renaissance city. Three major, limiting factors are: 1. Unwillingness to change 2. Lack of funding for arts and culture 3. A narrow economy based on a declining resource. In conclusion, it is quite apparent that Calgary is missing many key factors that are necessary for it to be a flourishing Renaissance city.
 

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