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Embedding ERM into Strategic Planning at the City of Edmonton


ERM Program Manager at the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

To me, the only good reason to take a risk is that there's a decent possibility of a reward that outweighs the hazard. Exploring the edge of the universe and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and capability strike me as pretty significant rewards, so I accept the risks of being an astronaut, but with an abundance of caution: I want to understand them, manage them, and reduce them as much as possible.

– Commander Chris Hadfield[1]

The Administration of the City of Edmonton in 2012-2013 explored ways to implement enterprise risk management (ERM), with a focus on strategic risk.

Previous attempts at ERM were not fully implemented, but a new opportunity arose when Edmonton created a new strategic plan, The Way Ahead, in 2008. With the strategic plan and goals well established, they required risk analysis to determine what could prevent the city from achieving its goals and objectives, and how to allocate scarce resources most effectively to mitigate risks to achieving those goals and objectives.

The City Administration hired an Enterprise Risk Management Program Manager in 2012 to address the need to implement ERM at a strategic level.

After studying several models and frameworks for addressing risk, and conducting pilot workshops for two of the six directional plans that supported the strategic plan, The Way Ahead, the ERM Program Manager worked with the Administration to determine a course of action going forward based on these workshops.


The City of Edmonton, capital of the western Canadian province of Alberta, has been a meeting place since the end of the last Ice Age. First settled by Europeans as a fur-trading post in 1795, Edmonton has grown incrementally, driven by prairie settlement in the 1880s, rail connections in 1891 and 1905, and the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Already an agricultural center, its reputation as "Oil Capital of Canada" was cemented in 1947 with the discovery of major oil deposits nearby. Growth since that time was largely based on resource development, and further accelerated as Edmonton served as hub for new oil sands development in northern Alberta starting in the 1970s.

Edmonton has grown significantly. In 2013, it was a city of over 800,000, anchoring an Alberta capital region of over 1.1 million. The city is experiencing nation-leading economic and population growth[2] and is expected to reach 900,000 by 2018.[3] It is home for world-leading research in several fields, including medicine, energy, nanotechnology, and winter city design. Its commercial and cultural life has earned it the nicknames "Gateway to the North," "Canada's Festival City," and "City of Champions."

City Government

Constitutionally, municipalities in Canada are the responsibility of their respective provincial governments. As such, the City of Edmonton is subject to provincial legislation, mainly the Alberta Municipal Government Act. In 2013 the elected City Council consisted of the mayor as well as a councillor for each of Edmonton's 12 geographic divisions (wards). Reporting to Council is the City Manager, and through him the City's 11,000 employees,[4] divided into five departments.

The Edmonton City Council operates the two-employee model, the second employee being the City Auditor.

  • [1] Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2013).
  • [2] Conference Board of Canada, "Economic Insights into 13 Canadian Metropolitan Economies," August 20, 2013.
  • [3] City of Edmonton, "Economic Insights, Economic Outlook 2012-2013," October 26, 2012.
  • [4] City of Edmonton, Corporate Services, Human Resources Branch, HR Research, Statistics & Reporting Group, November 25, 2013.
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