Since Calgary’s economic downturn was triggered in mid-2014 by the tumbling price of crude oil we have seen major impacts on Calgary’s businesses. In Downtown alone, there have been estimates of thousands of job losses, while overall Calgary's unemployment hovers at 8.5%. Office vacancy is approaching 30% with nearly 10 million square feet of prime office space now sitting empty.
But the economic impacts are not just felt in the Oil and Gas sector or downtown. We’ve seen small businesses across Calgary, including right here in Ward 4, impacted by the blow to our city’s economy.
We don’t know when the Oil and Gas sector will fully recover to the same levels we saw back in 2014, so it’s in these times especially that we need to support existing businesses while encouraging new growth to help diversify our economy.
Calgary’s economic success is vital to making sure our city remains one of the best places to live. While the incumbent councillor may not have been strong on this file, here’s my plan get our local economy back on track.
Make Calgary a top pick for new businesses by investing in transportation options and housing choice
Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle.
Calgary has been ranked as one of the top-five most livable cities in the world by The Economist. This is an important recognition of the vibrant city we have built and the importance of striving for a high quality of life in order to attract and retain more businesses.
But we have to be adaptive. What businesses are looking for today is not necessarily the same as 10 or 20 years ago. Last month, Amazon released their Request for Proposal (RFP) for a second headquarters. In it they spelled out a city with transportation options like strong public transit, walkable streets, bike lanes and even “other creative options.”
The competition for this economic windfall will be fierce but it underscores the importance for Calgary to continue to build more transportation options like our Bus Rapid Transit, a Green Line north of 16 Avenue, and safer streets for walking and cycling.
It’s also important that we build better housing options in our communities. Seniors should be able to age in our communities. Young adults and families should have affordable options too. Improving options for housing in our communities and how we get around will contribute greatly improving quality of life and ultimately to attracting new businesses to set up shop in Calgary.
Ease the tax burden on small and medium businesses as Calgary’s economy recovers.
During these challenging economic times we need to ensure we look after our small and medium businesses. With the collapse of tax revenue from downtown oil and gas businesses the burden has been spread across now fewer businesses that are struggling as well.
That’s why it’s important we support businesses with tax relief - as a shock absorber - while our economy is still recovering. I support extending an initiative council put forward earlier this year to provide tax relief and a cap on the municipal portion of the non-residential property tax for small businesses. I would like to see this extended for another two years. We have money set aside in the city’s Fiscal Sustainability Reserve to make this happen.
Attract the local businesses and services our Ward 4 communities need to thrive
Ward 4 has seen a rise in the number of businesses closing in recent years. This hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t seen growth in our population, nor investment in many of our communities. I will work to make sure that Ward 4 communities remain an attractive place to open a local business by supporting local main street improvements, and good redevelopments to provide better locations for local shops.
Curb increases to the City’s operating budget by better managing the City’s growth
For many years, our city has seem determined to grow from Airdrie to Okotoks. As a result of this, we are now paying for costly infrastructure like an extremely long Green Line, roads, interchanges, utilities, and stretched city services to make up for poor planning decisions. That’s why we must manage the city’s growth more thoughtfully and focus more of our growth on our existing communities.
Of course we’ll continue to build new communities, but even those must be planned as fiscally sustainable “complete communities” with transportation choice, housing choice and employment areas. By doing this we’ll bend the city’s operating cost curve.
Respect taxpayers by engaging meaningfully in the City’s budgeting process
Every four years, City Council prepares a budget that sets the foundation for the services we receive and investments we make in our City. It’s an important time where City Council makes a lot of major decisions that impact our daily lives. We need a Councillor at the table for Ward 4 that will engage meaningfully in the process to look for rational trade offs and make balanced decisions keeping in mind the impact these will have on our day to day lives.