The Calgary Agenda
Mayor Nenshi and the City of Calgary have put forward their agenda for the Alberta government following the 2019 election.
However, their list of identified priorities bears little resemblance to the most often cited issues from everyday Calgary voters.
Perhaps this isn't surprising from a City Council more used to meeting in secret than in engaging with voters.
Nor is it surprising given Mayor Nenshi's negative relationship with Alberta's likely next Premier Jason Kenney.
The City has put forward four priorities that it wants supporting by the Government of Alberta - they are:
1. Honouring Commitments.
2. Promoting Economic Recovery.
3. Supporting Calgarians.
4. Closing Infrastructure Gap.
Given that there is likely to be a change in provincial government in the next few weeks, let's look into these priorities in more detail and what the likely response from the United Conservative Party will be.
For "Honouring Commitments," the city identifies three points - building the Springbank Reservoir, Funding the LRT Green Line, and Honouring City Charters.
The Springbank Reservoir is an important piece of flood prevention infrastructure, although it hasn't received the level of municipal attention such a project deserves. A quick internet search for news stories related to City of Calgary comments on funding the Springbank Reservoir compared to funding Calgary's failed 2026 Winter Olympics bid shows that for Mayor Nenshi and other Olympics boosters on Council, the Olympics were a much higher priority than saving Calgary homes from flooding.
For the Green Line, funding for this project was announced by Jason Kenney when he was still a federal Cabinet Minister, and he has been supportive of further LRT construction in Calgary. However, he did rightly point out that the cost estimate of the Green Line has ended up nearly doubling since it was first proposed. Calgary has an obligation to do a better job forecasting and controlling costs rather than simply expect a blank cheque from the provincial government every time one of their projects goes massively over budget.
Finally, with regard to City Charters (a pet issue for the Mayor and other so-called progressives on City Council), this is nothing more than a blatant attempt for cities like Calgary and Edmonton to take more money out of the pockets of taxpayers. City Charters would give Calgary more "revenue tools" - meaning ways to tax - in order to fund Calgary's bloated government. We hope that the next provincial government does away with them and forces the City of Calgary to live within its means.
The next priority for Calgary is "Supporting Economic Recovery," which on the surface sounds like something we would support.
However, again, the devil is in the details, and it becomes clear quickly that what the City of Calgary believes is the path to economic recovery is drastically different than what most Calgarians think it should be.
For the Mayor and the bureaucracy, economic recovery in Calgary apparently means building infrastructure in Calgary, giving special tax breaks to film and television companies, a one-time financial transfer from the Province to the City to cap property tax increases for businesses, and the provincial government giving money to the controversial Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (which gives taxpayer dollars to private businesses to maybe create jobs - especially if you're a close friend and political ally of the Mayor).
What isn't included in their "economic recovery" section is any mention of building new pipelines, supporting Alberta's beleaguered energy sector, reducing provincial business taxes, or rolling back labour law changes that have made doing business in Alberta more costly.
Instead of advocating for special tax breaks and corporate welfare, the City of Calgary should be pushing to make Calgary and Alberta the best place in the country in which to start and grow a business.
The third priority for Calgary is "Supporting Calgarians."
Sadly, their policy agenda for this category leaves the vast majority of Calgarians out in the cold.
Policy initiatives like funding low-income transit pass and funding affordable housing, while well-intentioned, don't in any way provide the kind of meaningful, long-term support that will help everyday Calgarians.
Job creation and kickstarting economic growth are what will help not just handfuls of people, but the tens of thousands of Calgarians who have struggled with job losses, wage reductions, and a rising cost of living.
Finally, the final priority for the City's Calgary Matters agenda is "Closing the Infrastructure Gap."
This is just a list of infrastructure projects in Calgary that the City wants provincial funding for over the near term.
Overwhelmingly, the City of Calgary's agenda for Alberta provincial political parties can be summed up with the phrase, "Send us an ever-increasing amount of tax dollars so we can pay for bigger, more intrusive city government."
And it accepts no responsibility for the things which have hurt Calgary homeowners and businesses, like year-over-year property tax hikes, excessive municipal red tape, and a failure to control costs down at City Hall.
Should Albertans choose to elect a new United Conservative government in the next election, we believe that they should require Calgary to undergo an extensive audit and cost reduction program before considering providing any additional financial transfers.
The City of Calgary has become too big and too costly for taxpayers to afford, and the answer isn't to ask for more taxpayer money from a provincial government already posting massive annual deficits.
It's time to put taxpayers, and not special interests or political insiders first both down at City Hall and in the Alberta Legislature.