After months of searching, Toronto has finally appointed its first Chief Resilience Officer.
The city has tapped Elliott Cappell for the position, which will involve developing and leading a city-wide resilience strategy to help Toronto prepare for disruptive events and urban stresses that are increasingly becoming a major part of 21st century life.
“Toronto is a diverse, dynamic and growing city,” Cappell says in a June 15 press release. “I am thrilled to become the City’s first Chief Resilience Officer and am excited to begin working with City Council and staff, residents, businesses and community stakeholders on a strategic action plan for resilience.”
He will “break down existing barriers in government, lead a process of uncovering a city’s major challenges, support the design of initiatives that address many of those challenges simultaneously and help the city become better in both good times and bad,” according to the city of Toronto.
Mayor John Tory explains that “Toronto needs to be ready to meet unexpected challenges, such as the recent flooding caused by rising water levels in Lake Ontario, as well as the everyday stresses facing our growing city, including lack of affordable housing, overtaxed transit systems and the costs associated with aging infrastructures,” adding that Cappell is “the prefect person” to guide the city in a more resilient direction.
The Toronto native will report to city manager Peter Wallace, and has previously served as the head of climate change strategy at Adam Smith International, an international policy development firm, as well as a consultant for the World Bank and United Nations.
“I anticipate that Elliott will play an invaluable role in the City’s efforts to ensure a strong and resilient future for Toronto,” Wallace says. “His work on urban development action plans and his understanding of climate change issues gives him a unique and informed perspective that will enrich Toronto’s resilience planning.”
The two-year position will be fully funded by the 100 Resilient Cities project, which was founded in 2013 by the Rockefeller Foundation and aims to help cities across the globe become more resilient in the face of modern social and economic challenges. The Foundation will allow cities access to almost $200 million in funding for research and consultations, as well as a network of CROs for building relationships and sharing advice.
“City governments are on the front line of dealing with acute shocks and chronic stresses. Toronto is part of a group of cities leading the way on resilience to better prepare for, withstand and recover more effectively when disruption hits,” Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities, says. “Elliott joins a network of peers from cities across the globe that will share best practices and surface innovative thinking on urban resilience. He will become a global leader in the field, and will be an asset for Toronto and other cities around the world.”
As the name suggests, the project chose 100 cities over the last few years and, in three different phases, implemented a CRO in each. Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary were chosen in most recent third and final round, while Montreal, the only other Canadian city involved in the project, was named in the second phase in 2014. Montreal’s CRO, Louise Bradette, has been on the job since the beginning of 2016.
“I look forward to collaborating with The Rockefeller Foundation and other 100RC cities around the world. Toronto will be an active member of 100RC’s global network, sharing lessons and experiences on resilience,” Cappell adds.
As his first order of business, the CRO will speak with residents of the city and other stakeholders to determine key focus areas that will shape Toronto’s Resilient City Action Plan. So far, Toronto has already highlighted housing and transit as key issues to be addressed in this action plan.