News / Toronto

Chief Resilience Officer to steer Toronto through future risks

Meet the person tasked with the job of making Toronto more resilient.

Elliott Cappell, chief resilience 

officer for the City of Toronto.

Natasha Gerschon/for Metro / For Metro

Elliott Cappell, chief resilience officer for the City of Toronto.

Elliott Cappell wants Toronto to stay vigilant in the face of “shocks and stresses” threatening its growth.

Climate change, congestion and inequality are all risks, the city’s first chief resilience officer told Metro in a recent interview.

He doesn’t have solutions yet, but the former consultant to the United Nations and World Bank has a timetable.

“There’s a lot that we could do. Some of it is far too large for two years and one person,” he said. “I’m trying to find that medium-sized stuff that will make a difference in people’s lives.”

Cappell is one of 79 chief resilience officers in cities around the world funded by the U.S.-based Rockefeller Foundation through its 100 Resilient Cities program. In Amman, Jordan, there is a focus on refugees from Syria, said Cappell. In Johannesburg, South Africa, the focus is on crime. San Francisco prioritizes sustainability.

Cappell plans to produce a “preliminary resilience assessment” for council in October and a detailed strategy in March. But in addition to writing reports, he wants to institutionalize the chief resilience officer role and get all divisions across the city to think about issues through that lens.

That could mean looking at whether a planned development will be in a flood plain in 20 years, or preparing for health threats caused by climate change.

Cappell is planning a number of “demonstration projects” to help get the city started.

“Toronto is one of the most resilient cities in the world,” he said, citing political stability, diverse economy and growth. But the city also faces significant challenges as millions more people are expected to move to the GTHA in the coming decades.

Cappell was encouraged by council’s unanimous endorsement of TransformTO, its climate-change plan for 2050. When asked about implementation, he deferred to council’s authority but added, “I hope to see it fully funded.”

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