Priority #3: Focus on the Economy

Rebuilding Calgary’s economy will not be an easy task, nor will it be accomplished overnight. Collective action and collaboration is needed to help Calgary rebound from this disruption and secure our economic future. It’s going to take cooperation between the private, public and social sectors. And we’ll need to check our egos at the door. There’s no single person or organization to blame for the downturn, so let’s stop trying to take individual credit for the ideas that can improve our economic situation.

City Council’s approach to our economic reality must reflect what most of us have been doing at home: assessing our income and expenses, making changes to our habits, and accepting that it is time to tighten our belts. That doesn’t mean we can’t be forward focused and optimistic. We just have to plan for our future in a way that includes restraint in the present. 

There are some important steps we need to take, together, to show ourselves and the world that Calgary has not been and will not be defeated:

  • Change our property tax assessment system. For too many years, it has been based on market evaluations. If we hope to be a progressive city, it’s time to evaluate how property taxes can be better assessed and managed through an examination of what works in other places.
  • Fix our non-residential property tax system. The Municipal Non-Residential Phased Tax Program was created to soften the blow of property tax increases for business in 2017. There are multiple steps in the calculation for eligibility, which is often not easy to understand. In reality, this program is extremely complicated and quite often results in absolutely no benefit to those businesses in areas like Ward 3 who need it the most.
  • Accelerate “zero based” departmental reviews to realize better and more efficient services across the City of Calgary. In plain language, have all departments conduct an assessment of current needs and projects, drafting a realistic budget that is right for the times. Stop the practice of regenerating the same budgets year after year without a review of current needs and potential cost savings through partnerships, technology and/or innovative practices that have been proven in other cities.
  • Loosen unnecessary restrictions on land use. One of the biggest reasons for lack of diversity in business districts – both downtown and other parts of the city – is the restrictive nature of our land use processes. Land use and zoning regulations are often created to keep uses apart, resulting in districts where you can only shop or eat or access professional services. In reality, we need spaces where many of those things can be done in one trip.
  • Leverage our universities and colleges. With multiple post-secondary institutions in Calgary, there is an opportunity to partner with research experts and students to conduct many of the studies that are currently being assigned to City Administration. The ability to collaborate on research to produce great results should be a priority, delivering results in a more efficient manner and allowing administrators to focus on other tasks.
  • Invite financial experts to our city to show them the true diversity of our business sector. Many eastern Canadian and US companies are hesitant to invest in Calgary because they have never been here or interacted with our business community. We need to dispel the myths about our city and start the process of establishing faith in our future.
  • Identify leaders in the business community who can accompany Calgary Economic Development representatives to other cities where we are pitching Calgary as an ideal head office, franchise or craft market location. Companies and entrepreneurs are more likely to relocate after speaking with someone who shares their experiences.
Jyoti Gondek for Ward 3 Calgary City Council 2017