Calgary is the largest city in the Canadian province of Alberta. It is situated at the confluence of the Bow River and the Elbow River in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairie, about 80 km (50 mi) east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. The city anchors the south end of what Statistics Canada defines as the “Calgary–Edmonton Corridor”.
The city had a population of 1,246,337 in 2017, making it Alberta’s largest city and Canada’s third-largest municipality. Also in 2016, Calgary had a metropolitan population of 1,392,609, making it the fourth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada.
The economy of Calgary includes activity in the energy, financial services, film and television, transportation and logistics, technology, manufacturing, aerospace, health and wellness, retail, and tourism sectors. The Calgary CMA is home to the second-highest number of corporate head offices in Canada among the country’s 800 largest corporations.
In 1988, Calgary became the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympic Games.
Geography and Climate
Calgary is located at the transition zone between the Canadian Rockies foothills and the Canadian Prairies. Downtown Calgary is about 1,042.4 m (3,420 ft) above sea level, and the airport is 1,076 m (3,531 ft). The city covered a land area of 848 km2.
Two rivers run through the city. The Bow River is the larger and it flows from the west to the south. The Elbow River flows northwards from the south until it converges with the Bow River at the historic site of Fort Calgary near downtown.
Calgary experiences a humid continental climate. According to Environment Canada, average daily temperatures in Calgary range from 16.5 °C (61.7 °F) in July to −6.8 °C (19.8 °F) in December.
Winters are cold and the air temperature can drop to or below −20 °C (−4 °F) on average of 22 days of the year and −30 °C (−22 °F) on average of 3.7 days of the year, and are often broken up by warm, dry Chinook winds that blow into Alberta over the mountains. These winds can raise the winter temperature by 20 °C (36 °F), and as much as 30 °C (54 °F) in just a few hours, and may last several days. As well, Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains affects winter temperature average mean temperature with a mixture of lows and highs, and tends to result in a mild winter for a city in the Prairie Provinces. Temperatures are also affected by the wind chill factor, Calgary’s average wind speed is 14.2 km/h, one of the highest in Canadian cities.
In summer, daytime temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86 °F) an average of 5.1 days anytime in June, July and August, and occasionally as late as September or as early as May, and in winter drop below or at −30 °C (−22 °F) 3.7 days of the year. As a consequence of Calgary’s high elevation and aridity, summer evenings tend to cool off, with monthly averages below 10 °C (50 °F) throughout the summer months.
Calgary has the most sunny days year round of Canada’s 100 largest cities, with just over 332 days of sun; it has on average 2,396 hours of sunshine annually. With an average relative humidity of 55% in the winter and 45% in the summer.
The population of the City of Calgary according to its 2017 municipal census is 1,246,337, a change of 0.9% from its 2016 municipal census population of 1,235,171.
As of 2016, 36.2% of the population belong to a visible minority group. Of the largest Canadian cities, Calgary ranked fourth in proportion of visible minorities, behind Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton. Among the immigrants arriving in Calgary between 2001 and 2006, 78% belonged to a visible minority group. South Asians (mainly from India or Pakistan) make up the largest group (7.5%), followed by Chinese (6.8%). There were more than 200 different ethnic origins in Calgary, the most frequently reported were English, Scottish, Canadian, German and Irish.
Calgary is recognized as a Canadian leader in the oil and gas industry as well as for being a leader in economic expansion. Its high personal and family incomes, low unemployment and high GDP per capita have all benefited from increased sales and prices due to a resource boom, and increasing economic diversification.
Calgary benefits from a relatively strong job market in Alberta, is part of the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor, one of the fastest growing regions in the country. It is the head office for many major oil and gas related companies, and many financial service business have grown up around them. Small business and self-employment levels also rank amongst the highest in Canada. It is also a distribution and transportation hub with high retail sales.
Calgary’s economy is decreasingly dominated by the oil and gas industry, although it is still the single largest contributor to the city’s GDP. In 2006, Calgary’s real GDP (in constant 1997 dollars) was C$52.386 billion, of which oil, gas and mining contributed 12%. The larger oil and gas companies are BP Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy, Encana, Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, Shell Canada, Husky Energy, TransCanada, and Nexen, making the city home to 87% of Canada’s oil and natural gas producers and 66% of coal producers.
In Canada, Calgary has the second-highest concentration of head offices in Canada (behind Toronto), the most head offices per capita, and the highest head office revenue per capita. Some large employers with Calgary head offices include Canada Safeway Limited, Westfair Foods Ltd., Suncor Energy, Agrium, Flint Energy Services Ltd., Shaw Communication, and Canadian Pacific Railway. CPR moved its head office from Montreal in 1996 and Imperial Oil moved from Toronto in 2005. EnCana’s new 58-floor corporate headquarters, the Bow, became the tallest building in Canada outside of Toronto. In 2001, the city became the corporate headquarters of the TSX Venture Exchange.
WestJet is headquartered close to the Calgary International Airport, and Enerjet has its headquarters on the airport grounds. Prior to their dissolution, Canadian Airlines and Air Canada’s subsidiary Zip were also headquartered near the city’s airport. Although the main office is now based in Yellowknife, Canadian North, purchased from Canadian Airlines in September 1998, still maintain the operations and charter offices in Calgary.
Calgary International Airport (YYC), in the city’s northeast, is a transportation hub for much of central and western Canada. In 2013 it was the third busiest in Canada by passenger movement, and third busiest by aircraft movements, is a major cargo hub, and is a staging point for people destined for Banff National Park. Non-stop destinations include cities throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Central America, and Asia. Calgary/Springbank Airport, Canada’s eleventh busiest, serves as a reliever for the Calgary International taking the general aviation traffic and is also a base for aerial firefighting aircraft.
Calgary’s presence on the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline (which includes the CPR Alyth Yard) also make it an important hub for freight. The Rocky Mountaineer and Royal Canadian Pacific operates railtour service to Calgary.
Much of Calgary’s street network is on a grid where roads are numbered with avenues running east–west and streets running north–south. Until 1904 the streets were named; after that date, all streets were given numbers radiating outwards from the city centre. Roads in predominantly residential areas as well as freeways and expressways do not generally conform to the grid and are usually not numbered as a result. However, it is a developer and city convention in Calgary that non-numbered streets within a new community have the same name prefix as the community itself so that streets can more easily be located within the city.
Calgary Transit provides public transportation services throughout the city with buses and light rail. Calgary’s light rail system, known as the C-Train, was one of the first such systems in North America (behind Edmonton LRT). It consists of four lines (two routes) and 44 stations on 58.2 km (36.2 mi) of track. The Calgary LRT is one of the continent’s busiest carrying 270,000 passengers per weekday and approximately half of Calgary downtown workers take the transit to work. The C-Train is also North America’s first and only LRT to run on 100% renewable energy.
As an alternative to the over 260 km (160 mi) of shared bikeways on streets, the city has a network of multi-use (bicycle, walking, rollerblading, etc.) paths spanning over 635 km (395 mi). The Peace Bridge provides pedestrians and cyclists, access to the downtown core from the north side of the Bow river. The bridge ranked among the top 10 architectural projects in 2012 and among the top 10 public spaces of 2012.
In the 1960s, Calgary started to develop a series of pedestrian bridges, connecting many downtown buildings. To connect many of the downtown office buildings, the city also boasts the world’s most extensive skyway network (elevated indoor pedestrian bridges), officially called the +15. The name derives from the fact that the bridges are usually 15 ft (4.6 m) above grade.
The publicly funded University of Calgary (U of C) is Calgary’s largest degree-granting facility with an enrolment of 28,464 students in 2011. Mount Royal University, with 13,000 students, grants degrees in a number of fields. SAIT Polytechnic, with over 14,000 students, provides polytechnic and apprentice education, granting certificates, diplomas and applied degrees. Athabasca University provides distance education programs.
Other publicly funded post-secondary institutions based in Calgary include the Alberta College of Art and Design, Ambrose University College (associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Church of the Nazarene) and Bow Valley College. The publicly funded Athabasca University, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), and the University of Lethbridge also have campuses in Calgary.
Several independent private institutions are located in the city. This includes Reeves College, MaKami College, Robertson College, Columbia College, and CDI College.