Monday, April 14, 2014

Toronto deemed world's most resilient city

TORONTO - Toronto has survived ice storms and floods, and even its admitted crack-smoking mayor can’t bring the city down.

According to Grosvenor Group, a London-based property company led by the Duke of Westminister, Toronto ranked top among 50 global cities for its resiliency.

In second place was Vancouver, followed by Calgary. The least resilient city was Jakarta, Indonesia.

“The Canadian cities came out overall very well,” Kate Brown, Grosvenor’s group director for sustainability team, said Monday. “They’ve got the brilliant combination for both low vulnerability and high-depth capacity.”

Two key elements of what makes a city resilient is its “vulnerability” and “adaptive capacity,” cites the report, which analyzed more than 100 independently verified data sets to come up with the two key elements.

Vulnerability was measured by things such as climate threats, environmental degradation — pollution and sprawl, energy resources, infrastructure, and community cohesion.

Adaptive capacity means a city’s ability to prevent and mitigate serious threats, governance — this includes democracy, freedom of speech, transparency, accountability, and long-term leadership vision. That also includes strong institutions, learning capacity, disaster planner and funding (budget, credit and access and global funding).

Dr. Brian Schwartz, chief of emergency for Public Health Ontario, said he feels the province is prepared for “moderate-sized” heath crises.

“I think we are prepared, frankly, because of our experience with SARS and to the lesser extent, the summer power blackout of 2003 — those were the last two provincially-declared emergencies in Ontario. And I think our experience in SARS has helped the health-care sector to be reasonably prepared for a communicable disease outbreak and the health impact of severe weather,” Schwartz said.

But Richard Kinchlea, chair of emergency management and public safety at Centennial College, said he’s surprised to hear Toronto made the top of the list considering the state of the city’s crumbling infrastructure.

“I wouldn’t have guessed that,” he said. “It might not cover what emergency managers might deem important aspects. In Ontario, there are sectors of critical infrastructure we need to invest in. We know from the ice storm Toronto is vulnerable.

“Resiliency is a spectrum from really bad to really great,” he said. “When you compare us to other cities, maybe other cities are in the same boat we are with infrastructure.”

Kinchlea said emergency response is “pretty good” across Canada, but “resiliency is not just how well we can bounce back from the bad stuff, but how are we preparing ourselves.”

As for Mayor Rob Ford, he in itself is the splitting image of “resiliency” even though he is embroiled in scandals, Kinchlea said.

“He shows incredible resiliency in staying in office,” said Kinchlea. “Does that impact that our resiliency or lack thereof in Toronto and I would say no, not really. The city will run as it needs to run.

“There’s less of an impact on the city from the mayor than people might think.”
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