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Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary Are The Most Resilient Cities In The World
April 9, 2014
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After experiencing a devastating flood last summer, Calgary is the third-most resilient city in the world according to a recent study. (Photo: DAVE BUSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

We always knew Canadians were tough. Now, we're officially the most resilient people on earth. 

A new report funded by global real estate firm Grosvenor ranked the resilience of cities around the world — that is, "the ability of a city to avoid or bounce back from an adverse event" — and three Canadian cities topped the list. Toronto was first overall, followed closely by Vancouver and Calgary. (Chicago and Pittsburgh rounded out the Top 5.)

The research looked at two main themes: vulnerability and adaptive capacity. Vulnerability refers to a city's exposure to potentially devastating occurrences, including natural disasters like earthquakes or floods and human-caused problems like rampant industrialization and pollution. And adaptability refers to a city's ability to bounce back, and is influenced by factors such as government, wealth, technology and institutions. Researchers used more than 100 different data sets covering all aspects of these criteria to arrive at their conclusions. 

The results offer an assessment of resilience based on Grosvenor's broad definition of the term: "that a city be able to maintain itself as a centre of production and culture in the face of adversity while offering its inhabitants a decent standard of living."

Canadian cities rank highly because of their relatively stable and functional governments and institutions, and their access to resources that might help in rebuilding efforts. And all of that remains true despite obvious vulnerabilities, like Vancouver's ever-present threat of earthquakes, and past events, like the ice storm that hit Toronto in December and the major flood experienced in Calgary last year.  

After the Canadian contingent, the top end of the rankings is dominated by U.S. and European cities, with very little quantitative difference between first-ranked Toronto and 32-ranked Singapore. The bottom five cities are Dhaka, Jakarta, Cairo, Manila and Mumbai. Cities at the bottom of the rankings tend to be in developing countries and, notably, experiencing rampant population growth. 

"High rates of population growth, while beneficial to production and culture in the long term, are likely to challenge improved adaptive capacity in the short term," the report notes. "The analysis reminds us that a large proportion of the world’s population live in settlements that are much less resilient than the ones for which we have data. Intelligent transfer of financial, technological and intellectual resources is an urgent continuing priority."

Here are the top 10 on the list:

  1. Toronto
  2. Vancouver
  3. Calgary
  4. Chicago
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Stockholm
  7. Boston
  8. Zurich
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Atlanta

And here are the bottom 10:

  1. Sao Paulo
  2. Delhi
  3. Guangzhou
  4. Mexico City
  5. Rio de Janeiro
  6. Mumbai
  7. Manila
  8. Cairo
  9. Jakarta
  10. Dhaka

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