You deserve a return on your investment in the form of critical community infrastructure, strong public transit, access to housing and the opportunity to start a business or work for a company that respects your talents.
To maintain Calgary’s edge, we need to:
Negotiate predictable funding streams from other orders of government that allow Calgary to complete its transit network and offer housing affordability in a way that cuts the red tape of applying for grants.
If Calgary retained even a portion of these funds, we could eliminate the
bureaucratic waste of sending money to the province only to later ask for it
back through grants, ultimately stabilizing and lowering your tax bill. Every
dollar of tax you pay – of investment you make in this city – deserves to be
spent on you and your community.
To eliminate the red tape and complete our communities, we need to:
Dedicate a portion of the 40% transfer payment toward offsetting the gap in operating revenues during this period of prolonged depreciating downtown market values.
We need to ensure that our businesses and social organizations are strongly connected to local government. Most critical is the building of cross-sector partnerships, supported by a strong team of councillors committed to fairness for all Calgarians.
We can foster strong city-building relationships by:
Engaging community leaders early and often, ensuring Calgarians’ lived
experiences shape the City of Calgary’s policies and practises.
We need to take more chances, be bold, and try the things that we have denied ourselves. Calgary’s downtown will require a combination of measures to evolve into a thriving space for those who wish to live, work, and play in our core. We need strategic investment, meaningful incentives, strong industry partnerships, and effective municipal leadership to get the downtown revitalized.
In a successful urban core, you can feel the excitement of people waiting at the light with tickets to the evening show proudly clutched in their hands. You can see the jerseys and cosplay gear of fans about to embark on an adventure that will transport them into an electric atmosphere for a few hours. You can hear the chatter and clinking glasses coming from restaurants and cafes, accompanied by the aroma of the masterpieces being assembled in bustling kitchens and smokehouses.
Think back to the “before times”, when a night out included starting off with your crew meeting up at the chosen spot, then walking to the next place and eventually wrapping up the evening with a dessert or nightcap in yet another location. No matter what city you’re in, what makes for a great experience is the loosely planned notion of setting out with a plan that would morph as your group decided “what’s next”. Knowing you’re in a district where “what’s next” is limitless should be ultimate goal of anyone planning for a vibrant city for residents and visitors alike.
Calgary has an incredible chance to get this right for our downtown core. We can evolve what we have into a thriving space for those who wish to live, work and play in our core. But this will require some strategic investment, meaningful incentives, strong industry partnerships and effective municipal leadership. It involves building the Green Line to ensure we have reliable transit service for people in all parts of the city wishing to engage with our downtown. And it requires a shift in mindset when we talk about downtown recovery.
Obviously, we need to address the vacancy crisis and we need to convert or create spaces for diverse types of businesses to occupy. We also need to understand how existing bylaws and policies hamper our ability to revitalize downtown. But the biggest factor in our success will be our ability to embrace the spirit of fun and excitement that we’re trying to create. If we go down the rabbit hole of treating this like an exercise in policy development, we’ll never get this right.
We don’t need to look too far for successful examples. Consider how East Village rose up out of the ground. That redevelopment project came with the standard attention to finances and planning principles. Yet it had a special focus that continues to capture our hearts: East Village is all about placemaking. It’s about creating spaces and places for people to gather, outside and inside. It’s about an unexpected mix of amenities that put a smile on your face. It’s everything that great city-building is about.
Sitting on the rooftop patio of the Simmons Building. Watching an impromptu game of pick up at Bounce. Sipping a coffee on the Riverwalk. All of these experiences make you feel like you’re part of something. We can reimagine and redevelop our downtown in the same way, if we focus on placemaking. When you prioritize the idea of cities as the intersection of people and places, you do great things.
The tools we need exist, and our task will be to assemble an approach that draws from our existing strengths. We must look to CMLC’s expertise in placemaking at the same time we look to the Calgary Downtown Association’s experience with the needs of their ratepayers. We must engage with the talented minds at Arts Commons, the Glenbow, Calgary Central Library and National Music Centre to ensure our new downtown radiates creativity. Leverage the engagement-based results that will deliver the Future of Stephen Avenue report, and implement recommendations of newly drafted Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan, a document led by passionate planners and developed in concert with private sector experts in city-building.
Equally important, we need to get out of our own way as regulators. We should be encouraging pilot projects to see how they will work, rather than denying innovation because it doesn’t fit policy. Remove the fun-sucker conditions that permeate our dated policy documents and let people enjoy the spaces we’re creating. Practice calculated risk mitigation rather than defaulting to risk elimination when considering new ideas.
Let’s make sure we prioritize the need for people who understand how to program and activate spaces at the same time we seek out those who can generate the investor interest we’ll need. Embrace the non-traditional approach of engaging influencers to help shape the types of businesses and experiences that are popping in other places. If we build our approach in a way that allows for fun-makers to help shape the downtown experience, we’ll remain focused on the desired outcome.
So let’s take more chances. Put a rooftop patio on an office building. Encourage live music in atriums. Embrace the placement of an interactive art installation on a train platform. Let’s try the things that we denied ourselves, all in the name of overregulation. Let’s be bold and build our downtown to capture hearts and minds.
Delivering a Futureproof Downtown
Calgary’s downtown will require a combination of measures to evolve into a thriving space for those who wish to live, work and play in our core. We will need some strategic investment, meaningful incentives, strong industry partnerships and effective municipal leadership to get this important revitalization project completed.
What is the vacancy crisis?
The vacancy crisis in Calgary is the worst of any downtown core in North America. Currently, Calgary’s downtown office buildings are collectively valued at $9.4 billion, down from $24.6 billion dollars in 2014 prior to the oil price crash. During this time, Calgary’s downtown office vacancy rate has increased from 9.1% to 32.3%, resulting in 14 million square feet of empty commercial real estate.
This drastic decrease in downtown property values resulted in Calgary’s ongoing ‘tax shift’, where owners of commercial properties outside downtown have seen large increases in their property tax bills year-over-year as the municipality increasingly shifted the burden for the operating budget.
How complex is the issue?
Much of Calgary’s downtown was built in the 1970s and 1980s, when city planning was still operating on dated post-war ideals to separate work from home. As a result, Calgary developed an office-dominated downtown core with limited residential and other uses. This built form worked well for many years, when our downtown simply needed to provide office space for the energy sector. However, this currently challenges our efforts to attract new industries.
Companies in many sectors – like technology and the creative industries - prefer locating in mixed-use neighbourhoods that offer their people a variety of amenities in close proximity to work. As a result, some have suggested that we convert the downtown vacancies to residential units, but it’s not that simple. Not only is the conversion prospect impossible with aged building design in many cases, it is also costly. From a design perspective, the large floor plates that served corporate workforces in the second half of the twentieth century are not easily turned into residential units. Plumbing, elevator shafts and other structural issues prevent many vacant office spaces from serving as residential spaces.
The City of Calgary must also work to further reduce red tape and approval timelines for downtown developments that encourage non-office uses by building on the success of the Centre City Enterprise Area. Incentives and bylaw changes in support of building retrofits and a mix of amenities must be identified and implemented.
There is also the issue of investor confidence, which means that the money needed for conversions is not free-flowing. In an environment where Eastern lenders are still worried about Calgary’s future, it is increasingly difficult to make the case for conversion projects that have tight margins. This is farther compounded by issues like GST calculation, which results in GST being calculated on final projected building value rather than the dollar value of conversion-related projects. The cost of conversions creates roadblocks on the path to change.
Finally, Calgary’s downtown has also historically lacked the residential population base needed to support many neighbourhood amenities. These include grocery stores, schools and recreation facilities. The complex and interdependent relationship between amenity provision and residential population calls for a holistic and tailored approach, similar to the one taken in Calgary’s East Village redevelopment.
What do we know?
We must accept that rebuilding a downtown that is truly a place to live, work and visit will be a multi-year process. There is no quick fix. Rebuilding our downtown also requires significant investment. There must be dedicated municipal funding that will attract matching investment from the private sector and other orders of government, allowing Calgary to earn a return on our initial investment through meaningful transformation.
Our vision of “work” must also change in two fundamental ways:
1. the types of businesses we wish to attract should embrace a progressive economy that prioritizes environmental, economic and social benefit as a collective goal, and
2. people in the contemporary workforce must have options to balance competing interests in order to maximize productivity.
Our reimagined downtown must be a diverse place that welcomes people from all backgrounds, ages and abilities, who have multiple interests in the opportunities that are available. Right now, Calgary’s downtown is home to a central business district as well as cherished amenities and civic institutions, such as Arts Commons, Glenbow Museum, river pathways and some of the best-rated restaurants in Canada. We must build on this and redevelop downtown into a true mixed-use neighbourhood in service of our city’s fiscal, social and environmental goals.
We also need to understand the significance of the Green Line on downtown Calgary’s future. This project involves a significant infrastructure investment from all three orders of government in an effort to stimulate the economy through job creation. Most importantly, however, the Green Line ensures we have reliable transit service for people in all parts of the city wishing to engage with our downtown.
It is also important to recognize that there are about 8,500 Calgarians who already call the downtown core their home, yet they have no active community association. The City of Calgary must support the creation of a resident-led community association for the downtown core to ensure those Calgarians who live downtown are not overlooked in the revitalization process.
What can we do?
To get us started down the path of a contemporary downtown that is adaptable for the future, there are 5 bold steps that must be taken quickly:
1. Explore the bundling of City-owned assets into a portfolio to allow for third party management that draws value from those assets. Monetizing the City’s holdings would allow for a revenue stream that could be used for downtown redevelopment and ongoing maintenance.
2. To better leverage assets located in the downtown, responsibility for municipal land and buildings must be consolidated within the City of Calgary’s Real Estate & Development Services business unit. This would enable collaboration with the commercial real estate sector to identify City-owned assets attractive to potential businesses.
3. Leverage the experience and knowledge of commercial real estate and finance experts, including groups like Calgary Economic Development’s Real Estate Sector Advisory Committee and the City of Calgary’s Real Estate Working Group. These professionals can assist in uncovering opportunities for conversion of office space to retail, education or residential uses, as well as identification of sites where existing buildings are in disrepair and better used for new construction.
4. Building on the commitment made by major global corporations in transitioning toward a more efficient and environmentally-friendly energy future, bolster Calgary Economic Development’s existing vision: “As the epicentre of all things energy, Calgary is a leader in the global energy transition.” Seek out local business leaders who are actively contributing to this transition and invite them to act as business-to-business ambassadors on economic development missions that position Calgary as a centre of excellence for the future of energy.
5. Identify incentives or bylaw changes that would better facilitate retrofits to buildings. For example, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing solutions can enable building owners to access affordable financing for clean energy retrofits, resulting in any improvement costs being offset by lower utility costs over time. Also, identifying the way in which current GST practices provide a disincentive for conversions could create a more friendly environment for change.
Policy Release April 7, 2021
In order to advance housing affordability and approaches to address homelessness, we require strong municipal leadership that can develop innovative funding mechanisms and robust collaboration across sectors.
Cities around the world are struggling with housing affordability and homelessness. In Calgary,
these challenges have been magnified first by the decline of the traditional energy sector and
now the COVID-19 pandemic. Our current situation will see an increasing proportion of the
population in positions of precariousness related to employment, housing and social supports.
Even prior to the pandemic, we saw worrisome trends. In 2016, over 100,000 households in Calgary (22%), overspent on housing costs in relation to their income. We also saw income support programs consistently fail to cover the cost of housing and other basic needs for our most vulnerable. By 2019, an average of 350 Calgarians per month were admitted to a homeless shelter for the first time.
With rising unemployment further compounded by pandemic-related restrictions on businesses, many Calgarians who were just getting by are now finding themselves in situations they cannot escape through hard work alone. Losing a job can often lead to losing your home. For this reason, we must ensure that any ideas we have around housing are also rooted in access to employment, access to health or social supports, and access to mobility options like public transit.
Further, homelessness and housing affordability challenges do not impact all parts of our community equally. While Indigenous peoples make up less than 3% of Calgary’s population, they represented over 20% of people experiencing homeless in 2014. Tailored, collaborative, and culturally appropriate solutions are needed to serve these and other marginalized populations.
There has also been a historic and prevailing trend towards valuing homeownership over rental. The inception of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in 1945 fueled the post-war ideal of: 1) positioning homeownership as a marker of financial success, and 2) separating places of work from places to live. These two sentiments dominated the dialogue around housing for decades and we are only now slowly returning to city-building practices that mix housing types and amenities for more complete communities.
How complex is the issue?
Experts in homelessness, affordable housing, land development, construction and mortgage financing often frame the housing debate as one that is multifaceted. They ask tough questions that highlight the interconnectedness of housing solutions, like:
• How do you create resilience for people who are at different stages and places on the housing continuum?
• How do you create and fund portable support services that follow the individual who is deemed “hard to house” because a high level of support is required?
• What is the total operating cost of a unit of housing that meets minimum standard, so we can then determine how much income people need to have safe housing?
• Are we looking at supply, demand and price point of inventory as we are determining affordability?
These types of questions speak to the difference between affordable housing as a type of subsidized unit, and the idea of housing affordability as a way to offer access to housing. By shifting the approach from a narrow focus on non-profit affordable housing to a broader view of housing, the City of Calgary can better address underlying affordability problems across the spectrum.
This shift in approach also speaks to the dichotomy between the user and the housing provider. When it comes to the user, governments and housing agencies must understand the links between income, rent or mortgage payments, and wraparound supports required to maintain a roof over one’s head. For the housing provider, governments need to be aware of how regulatory decisions impact both the costs to build and the costs to operate housing.
The role of the municipality
The City of Calgary currently plays a dual role in promoting affordable housing: both as a subsidized housing provider (Calgary Housing Company) and as a service-based supporter of the city’s non-profit housing sector. To best serve Calgarians, there should be a concerted shift towards supporting affordability across the housing continuum, from non-market housing to market rental or homeownership. Added focus on research, capacity-building, incentives and support for innovative practices across the housing system beyond direct provision of affordable housing would ultimately serve more Calgarians.
To best support this idea, Calgary City Council should solidify housing as a priority by adding “Housing” as a standing item to the work of the Priorities and Finance Committee, thereby elevating housing from its present status as an intergovernmental policy issue to an actual priority within the City of Calgary.
This broadened focus would enable the City of Calgary to begin work on high-impact initiatives such as:
● Creating an interactive platform that measures the effectiveness of affordable housing incentives, and demonstrating how these incentives balance policy and profitability needs. This platform could build on the Housing Development Dashboard created by the Terner Centre for Housing at UC Berkeley.
● Assessing regulatory variables like approval times, density, parking, mixed uses and discretionary approvals to create mutually beneficial housing outcomes.
● Encouragement of mixed tenure housing opportunities, ranging from basic rental and ownership to housing cooperatives and perpetually affordable housing projects.
● Working with local financial institutions to develop a methodology around credit-worthiness for consumers that goes beyond the traditional beacon score assessment which does not serve newcomers or those without established credit. Similarly, propose new methods of risk assessment for affordable housing providers to deliver housing security along the continuum.
This new approach will create value for Calgarians by filling gaps in current practices, recognizing the variety of Calgarians’ housing needs, and focusing on how cost and red tape for new housing can be reduced. Through a holistic approach and improved coordination of existing resources, we can achieve better results for our citizens.
While “Housing First” has become a successful approach, it only works when wraparound services and supports are available to the people served. These services include but are not limited to counselling, healthcare, addictions treatment and employment training. A collaborative model of funding wraparound services is needed to ensure they can be provided sustainably. This also demonstrates the interconnectedness of public, private and finance sectors in delivering housing security.
The City of Calgary must also better support Indigenous-led efforts to address homelessness. Research suggests that approaches informed by Indigenous worldviews, including elder-led service delivery, are most effective at addressing homelessness within these communities.
Press Release March 30, 2021
Great cities have great transit. The Green line will revitalize Calgary’s economy and better serve citizens in communities that have been overlooked. Connecting our diverse business districts is good for business. The Green Line will connect 400,000 more Calgarians to the LRT network. And along the way, the Green line creates investment opportunities to complete communities, aid in housing affordability and drive redevelopment that can strengthen our tax base.
Public transit is an investment that a city makes for all of its citizens. Great cities have great public transit.
Historically, there has been negativity and opposition as Calgary created its light rail transit (LRT) network. Criticism of projects like the Green Line isn’t new.
When Ralph Klein opened Calgary’s first LRT line from Calgary’s downtown (our central business district) to Anderson Road, there was much criticism directed at the Mayor and Council. Nevertheless, Council persisted and built both the northwest and northeast Lines, today’s Red and Blue lines.
Years later, the same negativity and opposition faced a new Mayor and Council when the west LRT was proposed. In the end, the west leg of the LRT was constructed between 2007 and 2010, and now serves many Calgarians who rely on it for work, school and recreation.
While extensions to the existing lines and improvements in stations have occurred in the years since, construction of Calgary’s critical north-south raid transit spine, the Green Line, has been stalled due to alignment concerns and the significant cost involved.
And now that we have created a strong alignment and funding has been committed from all orders of government, the same historic criticisms keep creeping into the discourse and threaten to keep us from being a forward-thinking city.
Sometimes you just have to get started.
That’s why Jyoti Gondek has fought for the Green Line to be a progressive, multimodal project that evolves and bus rapid transit into LRT for dedicated transit riders in Calgary’s north central communities, all the way down to the deep Southeast in Seton.
Today’s plans are more important than any previous sections. Why? Because Calgary has more than one commercial core now and residential growth requires increased transit service.
Connecting Calgary’s Business Centres
When Mayor Klein drove that first LRT car from downtown Calgary to Anderson Road, Calgary was less than 600,000 people and our downtown core was the primary commercial centre in the city.
Since then, we became smarter about investing in public transit that serves our post-secondary corridors, as well as commercial sectors throughout the city. A great example is the northeast commercial core has been well served for over three decades.
Today, Calgary has additional commercial centres in Quarry Park and the south health campus, as well as an actively developing commercial district on Centre Street North. It will be important to ensure that be these connect to each other for success of business and ease of access for transit riders along this north-south spine.
By constructing the Green Line, Calgary will revitalize its economy and better serve transit riders in communities that have long been overlooked.
When Imperial Oil made the impactful decision to relocate their headquarters to Quarry Park, they signalled the reality that Calgary’s economic future would not be developed solely in a single downtown commercial core.
Connecting our diverse business districts throughout the city is simply good for business.
Connecting Calgary’s Residential Communities
North central Calgary has long been a leader in transit usage and is the corridor that delivers the greatest value on investment for Calgary Transit. In addition, the population growth in new north communities has also bolstered the business case for transit infrastructure development on the north central corridor as ridership numbers are consistently strong over time.
Similarly, population growth in southeast Calgary has been steady and residents are desperately seeking solid transit solutions. Connecting them with public transit just makes sense.
It was a massive victory in summer 2020 when Council included funding for a functional plan that brings convertible rapid transit solutions to north central Calgary communities. This interim solution improves transit options in the short term with more dedicated rapid bus service and lays the foundation for conversion to LRT in the longer term.
This public transit solution connects some 400,000 Calgarians to the existing LRT network and that reaches our commercial and educational corridors, as well as many arts, culture and recreation destinations.
Opening Up Transit Oriented Development
In addition to serving transit riders throughout the city, Calgary has been very successful at integrating transit oriented development into our existing public transit network. The Green Line represents a tremendous opportunity to create additional investment opportunities that can complete communities, aid in housing affordability and drive redevelopment opportunities that can strengthen our tax base.
Creating a mix of uses and higher density opportunities along the transit lines has been a very effective way to reduce the amount of traffic on major roadways, while creating significant economic activity and having a large impact on climate change. With more Calgarians able to access rapid transit to meet their commuting needs through well planned transit oriented communities, we can became a leader in the smart city movement that stands to attract and retain talented people who are proud to live and work in this city.
Shifting Transportation Attention from Deerfoot Trail to Public Transportation
Perhaps the greatest potential impact of the Green Line will be felt on Deerfoot Trail.
You may not be aware that Deerfoot Trail is a provincial highway, and as such the City of Calgary cannot independently implement or plan changes for this roadway to make it more efficient.
Even with this limitation, the best way the City Council can reduce traffic and make Deerfoot Trail more efficient is through the development of the Green Line. With hundreds of thousands of Calgarians having access to a strong rapid transit option, there is little doubt that demand for Deerfoot Trail will diminish.
This is a significant shift that the Government of Alberta should welcome as it impacts a significant part of their transportation network. You have to ask yourself, why would the provincial government remain an obstacle to creating this important part of Calgary’s public transportation network when it offers so much benefit for those who use personal vehicles as well as those who use transit.
17 Points of Fiscal Responsibility
The Provincial government has been committed to the Green Line and then not committed. And then committed. And then not.
Bottom line: they are currently standing in the path of this project that is critical for future-proofing our city.
Calgary City Council has been listening to the concerns of the Premier and his Ministers responsible for city-building. In response to their concerns, Calgary City Council adopted 17 integrated risk management recommendations to address key areas of concern from the Provincial Government. With the due diligence and risk mitigation measures outlined in the recommendations below, it begs the questions: what more does the provincial government need to see?
The Green Line Committee recommends that Council:
1. Reconsider its decision of 2017 June 26 as it relates to approving the alignment and station locations of Stage 1 (16 Avenue N (Crescent Heights) to 126 Avenue S (Shepard)) and approve the updated Stage 1 alignment and station locations outlined in the revised Attachment 3. (For clarity, this is a reconsideration only of the alignment and station locations in Stage 1);
2. Direct Administration to implement a stage-gate process for delivery of Green Line Stage 1 Program (“Stage 1”) in accordance with the following Segments as outlined in the revised Attachment 3:
a. Segment 1: 126 Avenue S.E. (Shepard) to East of the Elbow River (Inglewood/Ramsay);
b. Segment 2A: East of the Elbow River (Inglewood/Ramsay) to 2 Avenue S.W. Station (Eau Claire); and
c. Segment 2B: North of 2 Avenue S.W. Station (Eau Claire) to 16 Avenue N;
3. Reconsider its decision of 2019 July 29 by approving the substitution of the word ‘Segment’ for the word ‘Contract’ and the substitution of the words ‘East of the Elbow River (Inglewood/Ramsay)’ for the words ‘4th Street SE’ wherever they appear in the decision;
4. Direct Administration to undertake the Segment 2A Functional LRT Plan and report back to the Green Line Committee with the results of the Segment 2A Functional LRT Plan no later than the end of Q4 2020;
5. Direct Administration to undertake the Segment 2B Functional LRT Plan and to continue stakeholder engagement and communications in Segment 2B as required while completing the following plans:
• Mobility Studies Plan;
• Access Management Plan;
• Streetscape Plan; and
• Bow River Bridge Plan.
6. Direct Administration to report back to the Green Line Committee with the results of the above plans no later than the end of Q2 2021;
7. Direct Administration to release the RFP for Segment 1 no later than 2020 July 24, execute required contracts and proceed with Segment 1 provided the Segment 1 cost estimate, including contingency, is estimated at no less than P80 and is within the Council approved Green Line Program budget;
8. Direct Administration to develop a contracting strategy for Segments 2A and 2B;
9. Direct Administration to prepare and release the procurement for Segment 2A provided the Segment 2A cost estimate, including contingency, is estimated at no less than P80 and is within the Council approved Green Line Program budget, and execute required contracts for Segment 2A and proceed with construction of Segment 2A;
10. Direct Administration to prepare and release the procurement for Segment 2B but not enter into a commitment to construct Segment 2B until Administration has determined that the construction of Segment 2A has sufficiently advanced to materially demonstrate that the Stage 1 cost estimate, including contingency, is estimated at no less than P80 and is within the Council approved Green Line Program budget. Once Administration has determined this and reported to Council, execute required contracts for Segment 2B and proceed with the construction of Segment 2B;
11. Direct Administration to advance enabling works construction in Segment 2A and 2B that materially reduces Segment 2A and 2B risk or advances their critical path schedule. Enabling works include but are not limited to utility relocations, demolition of existing buildings, environmental remediation and construction preparation activities;
12. In accordance with Council’s direction on 2019 July 29 direct Administration to continue working with our funding partners to obtain agreement that any capital cost savings from the Green Line Stage 1 Program be applied to extension(s) south to McKenzie Towne or north to 40 Avenue N, the extension(s) to be determined utilizing the RouteAhead Project Prioritization Framework, and options to negotiate such extension(s) to be included in the contracts;
13. Direct that the primary focus of the Green Line Committee shift to planning for Stage 2 of the Green Line (the balance of 160 Avenue N to Seton) with an emphasis on North Central Calgary and the creation of a flexible and convertible mobility corridor in preparation for LRT that accommodates BRT and transit-on-demand as interim options until full funding for LRT can be secured, as well as the process of LRT and Transit- Oriented Development planning, with the goal of improving transit in North Central Calgary in the short and long term. Any updates to the Terms of Reference for the Green Line Committee as a result of this new focus shall be presented to the Committee no later than end of Q3 2020;
14. Direct Administration to develop a Functional Plan for a flexible and convertible mobility corridor in North Central Calgary from 160 Avenue to Downtown (including but not limited to improvements identified in Attachments 7a and 7b) and return with recommendations for which improvements can be accommodated within the Council approved Green Line Program budget. This Functional Plan shall:
a. Take into consideration the mode progression from express buses to a convertible BRT/LRT mobility corridor from 160 Avenue N to Downtown, including but not limited to the improvements identified in Attachment 7b from 160 Avenue N to 96 Avenue N; and
b. Identify potential funding sources and strategies required to construct improvements beyond the funding that is part of the Council approved Green Line Program budget. Administration to report back to the Green Line Committee no later than the end of Q2 2021 with the functional plan and the delivery plan for the funded improvements;
15. Direct Administration to proceed with the real property transactions based on the updated Stage 1 alignment as outlined in the revised Attachment 3, including the North Central BRT Improvements, in accordance with the procedures as outlined in the previously approved Proposed Delegated Authority, Stage 1 Green Line Project [C2018- 0333];
16. Direct Administration to:
a. Advise the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta of Council’s approval of the recommendations in this report;
b. Secure any required amendments to the funding agreement, such amendments to include but not be limited to the Government of Canada agreeing to expedite the release of its funding contributions to help mitigate debt financing costs; and
c. Secure written assurances from the Government of Alberta resolving the issues related to the 90-day termination provision contained in the Public Transit and Green Infrastructure Project Act (Alberta).
All amendments and written assurances are to be in content satisfactory to the City Manager and the Chief Financial Officer and in form satisfactory to the City Solicitor and General Counsel. Should all amendments and written assurances not be secured by the end of Q4 2020 direct Administration to report back to the Priorities and Finance Committee;
17. Notwithstanding the approvals above, and provided that the total Green Line Program Stage 1 cost does not exceed the Council approved Green Line Program budget, should significant additional funding for public transit become available, direct Administration to return to the Priorities and Finance Committee with recommendations for investments outlined in the Route Ahead prioritization strategy (including north and south extensions of the Green Line). Further, if adjustments to the Green Line Program are required to attract additional funding, direct Administration to make recommendations to Council regarding those adjustments and funding opportunities.
Press Release February 24, 2021
The UCP Government, like every provincial government that preceded it, collects more taxes from Calgarians than it returns in the form of grants or returned investment. On average, almost $800 million is collected by the City every year and then sent to the Province, with the hope some of it will be returned in grants. In 2019, Calgary only received about $650 million back from the Province.
The City of Calgary collects property taxes on behalf of the City and the Province of Alberta. The amounts of money remitted to the Province are not inconsequential. Almost $800 million is collected by the City every year and then sent to the Province, with the hope some of it will be returned in grants by a benevolent provincial partner. In 2019, Calgary only received about $650 million back from the Province. However, this $650 million doesn’t account for time and effort spent in applying for grants and preparing related reports for the Government of Alberta.
This is the exact same problem the Province of Alberta faces with its relationship with the Government of Canada. Alberta pays more than it gets in return from Canada, just as Calgary pays more than it gets in return from Alberta.
|$797 million||$792 million||$790 million||$791 million||$719 million|
The Infrastructure Dilemma
This amount is particularly challenging when considering the infrastructure in the City of Calgary serves not only Calgarians, but the entire region that surrounds the city. Neighbouring municipalities that attract logistics and industrial businesses by undercutting property tax rates benefit from Calgary providing transportation routes, airport infrastructure, housing and recreation facilities that are solely funded by Calgarians but enjoyed by the region.
The dilemma of who is paying their fair share becomes more acute as important public-serving, economic stimulus projects like the Green Line are contemplated. It is also important as we consider the closure of public amenities that are no longer viable for the government or the private sector to operate. Dedicated provincial funding streams for much-needed infrastructure must replace the red tape of unpredictable and sometimes unavailable grant programs. Quality of life for Calgarians depends on it.
The Fair Deal Panel – Equalization & the Referendum Question
In May of 2020, the Government of Alberta received a report from the Fair Deal Panel, a panel of Albertans tasked with looking at issues that have emerged between the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta.
The Fair Deal for Alberta’s first two recommendations are:
• RECOMMENDATION | Press strenuously for the removal of current constraints on the Fiscal Stabilization Program that prevent Albertans from receiving a $2.4 billion equalization rebate.
• RECOMMENDATION | Proceed with the proposed referendum on equalization, asking a clear question along the lines of: Do you support the removal of Section 36—the principle of equalization—from The Constitution Act, 1982?
Clearly, this equalization question is almost exactly the same as the issue of property taxes collected by the City of Calgary and remitted to the Province of Alberta.
The UCP Government, like every provincial government that preceded it, collects more taxes from Calgarians than it returns in the form of grants or returned investment.
The Solution: A Fair Deal for Calgary
Given that the Government of Alberta is planning to follow the recommendations listed above and will have a referendum on the value of equalization in the nation of Canada, a parallel question should be adopted to discuss the equalization and distribution of revenues by the Province of Alberta.
Why does a Fair Deal Matter?
If Calgary is to stabilize its economy and return to a place where all residents have access to the services they need, there will need to be straightforward and predictable solutions offered by the provincial government. After massive cuts to previously established and promised infrastructure funding, and elimination of critical social support services for Calgarians in positions of vulnerability, the provincial government has placed the city in an impossible situation.
Calgary has been left to fend for its residents with a dated and inefficient taxation model that relies on property taxes. Because property taxes go up and down based on assessed value of buildings, and downtown buildings have depreciated dramatically with the collapse of the traditional energy sector, Calgary’s only predictable revenue stream has steadily decreased.
The fact that assessment-based property tax is the only reliable revenue tool the provincial government has granted to the city, it stands to reason that it is also the only reliable way to ensure a fair deal can be struck quickly and efficiently. By allowing Calgary to keep a larger percentage of the property taxes that are collected, the provincial government would enable the city to address important infrastructure and operating funding shortfalls.
When you consider that 1% of taxes retained equal $8 million of reinvestment into the city, imagine the improved quality of life for Calgarians by retaining a greater proportional share of the taxes they pay. That translates to better public transit, the ability to keep recreation facilities open, more accessible communities and programming to lift up those in need. All Calgarians deserve the fairness that comes from keeping their hard-earned tax dollars in their city.
Press Release February 22, 2021