Don’t let Council stop our City from growing
July 26, 2019
The Calgary Chamber has long encouraged City Council to be bold and think big with respect to investments in our arts, entertainment and sporting infrastructure. A real opportunity is now on the table to create a dynamic and significant space within our city that will bring numerous social and economic benefits to all Calgarians.
There’s no doubt it’s been a rough few years for Calgary’s business community.
Not only has the economy continued to suffer from 2015’s recession, businesses have struggled as layered costs from all levels of government increased. While some of these costs are currently being reviewed at the provincial level, and the Chamber will be advocating for action from the federal level during the fall election, one big cost continues to cause harm at the municipal level; property taxes.
The Chamber has long been an advocate for a structural review of the current property tax system, an advocate for restricted spending increases, and an advocate for all levels of government to always look for opportunities to find budget savings and operational efficiencies.
Which is why it may be surprising for some to learn that the Chamber is also a strong supporter of the proposed agreement to build a new Event Centre, to the value $275 million in public capital investment.
The timing isn’t ideal but there is never a perfect time to move ahead.
However, for Calgary to grow, we need to start investing in our future. And the proposed Event Centre is a project that will not only create jobs and bring revenue to the city, it will also bring numerous socio-economic benefits to Calgarians.
Under the seven project principles, the Calgary Chamber is supporting the proposed new Event Centre. These principles include that public funds must be used for public benefit, that the Event Centre must be viable and sustainable as its own entity, and that public engagement will happen whenever possible.
If the project was being funded through an increase in property taxes, then we would be having a different conversation. However, the City sets aside funds for capital projects like this one, and the public has been assured that there will be no specific increase to property taxes to build this Event Centre if it is approved.
As some of the projects opposers have rightly said, there is nothing technically stopping the City from reassigning these capital funds to become operational savings. And while this option might bring some relief, it would yet again be another band aid solution to a problem that cannot be staunched by only looking at the short-term.
To move forward we must invest in our future. Focusing solely on last minute cutting and trimming, while essential, is not going to create the catalyst Calgary needs to become a truly global city. We need to take a holistic view of the future of our city. We need to invest in projects that bring socio-economic and economic benefits at the same time.
No one ever said it would be easy, but it is essential, and we voted in our elected members to make these tough decisions on our behalf. To assist them in their role we all have a civic duty that extends long past election day.
We need to ensure we are informed citizens and share our opinions with those in public office. I implore you to take the time to read the plans and the proposals and then contact your elected member to share your thoughts.
Our City Councillors need to find a collective vision, make bold decisions and invest in Calgary’s future. Both capital projects and operational spending need to be carefully considered and decided upon with conviction and clarity, because vibrant communities and vibrant business go hand in hand.
Calgary Chamber President and CEO