I voted to deliver.
Every day, I hear from Calgarians about how they expect more from their city. This November, Council was tasked with adjusting the budget to turn these demands into action.
Calgarians have been calling for affordable housing, for better transit, for safer routes to school, for active transportation, for transit safety, and support for mental health and addictions. The City of Calgary’s 2023 Fall Survey of Calgarians ranks the top issues among Calgarians: homelessness, poverty and affordable housing (31%), infrastructure, traffic and roads (28%) and crime, safety and policing (27%).
This budget has taken some important steps to address these issues.
Council, working with City Administration, proposed budget adjustments investing in affordable housing, public transit, and community safety.
Here are some stories about these issues that have dominated the news cycle over the past year. This is not a comprehensive list.
- Western Canada: The growing impact of homelessness on emergency departments - The Globe and Mail
- ‘Frustrated’: Calgary community safety is discussed with Kensington BIA, residents | LiveWire Calgary
- Calgary Transit plans to hire 800 operators in 2023 in effort to ramp up frequency | Calgary Herald
- Frostbite diagnoses, amputations spiked in Calgary last year | Calgary Herald
- Calgarians call for better security approach on Calgary Transit, say safety is getting worse | CBC News
- Albertan sues government over opioid use restrictions | CTV News
- Emergency shelter shuttle service provides nearly 200 transports to emergency homeless shelters since last weekend (calgary.ca)
- Number of affordable housing units in Calgary plummets: study | CTV News
- Calgary warming centres see close to 10,000 visits since Dec. 1 - Calgary | Globalnews.ca
- Calgary single mom struggling to find rental | CityNews Calgary
- Is Calgary’s Public Transit System Keeping the City From Moving Forward? - Avenue Calgary
- Demong expresses frustration after double stabbing on Calgary Transit | LiveWire Calgary
- Calgary Transit ridership levels rising faster than expected | Calgary Herald
- Calgary veterans group provides support for 87-year-old homeless vet | Watch News Videos Online (globalnews.ca)
- Calgary police investigate shooting on downtown bus | CTV News
- Calgary police respond to 1,600 calls on transit | CityNews Calgary
- Calls renewed to address transit safety nationally, in Calgary | Watch News Videos Online (globalnews.ca)
- Homeless Calgarian struck in a hit and run and left for dead - Calgary | Globalnews.ca
- Concerns around homelessness rise as Calgary police discover weapons, stolen equipment at encampments | CBC News
- Weekly Calgary opioid EMS calls reach record levels in April | Calgary Herald
- Closed system not a fix for Calgary Transit's safety issues, says report | CBC News
- Affordable housing, safety, transit among key election issues: survey | Calgary Herald
- Rising costs leave many Calgary seniors facing housing crunch | Calgary Herald
- How to make Calgary's high schools more bike friendly? | Calgary Herald
- Alberta has 179 drug poisonings in April, experts worry for province's model | CityNews Calgary
- Alpha House offers advice on how to interact with people fighting homelessness | CBC News
- Expert weighs in on city's transit plan and its focus on frequency | Calgary Herald
- EMS calls hit record as Alberta studies 'tranq dope' but stays committed to recovery-oriented care | CBC News
- Didn't pay for the train? Calgary Transit ticketing fewer riders as it changes safety strategy | CBC News
- St. John Ambulance offering free response training amid worsening opioid death crisis | CBC News
- Northwest Calgary residents are miffed 5 Avenue repaving coming without cycle upgrades | LiveWire Calgary
- 76 Calgarians died of drug poisoning in April | CityNews Calgary
- Federal housing advocate visits Calgary to discuss homelessness among women, gender-diverse people | CBC News
- Students contemplate homelessness as fall semester begins | Calgary Herald
- Encampment in Forest Lawn sparks concern | CTV News
- Police dismantle large homeless encampment in southeast Calgary | Calgary Herald
- Alberta on track to break overdose death record | CityNews Calgary
- Family of Calgary man who was fatally stabbed at Marlborough Station holds vigil, calls for increased transit security | CTV News
- The housing crisis is leaving Ukrainian evacuees homeless in Calgary. Here's why | CBC News
- Advocates fear homelessness spike amid affordable housing crisis | Calgary Herald
- Affordability top of mind ahead of Calgary’s housing strategy debate - Calgary | Globalnews.ca
- St. Gemma School opens for high schools students facing poverty | Calgary Herald
- Transit union conference addresses urgent need for improved security in Calgary | Watch News Videos Online (globalnews.ca)
- Task force on safety in downtown Calgary promises quick action | Calgary Herald
- CTrain stabbing halts LRT inside downtown Calgary tunnel | CBC News
- Situation 'heartbreaking' as 168 more Albertans die of drug poisoning: physician | CBC News
- Calgary’s housing crisis: Those left behind share their stories - Calgary | Globalnews.ca
- City survey shows optimism declining, transit safety is a worry | Calgary Herald
- More than 115,000 Calgarians are at high risk of homelessness, study finds | CBC News
This year’s budget adjustments includes funding to implement the The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy and create more affordable housing. This strategy is nationally recognized, validated, and touted as being one of the most comprehensive municipal housing strategies. Just a few weeks ago, our Housing Strategy earned Calgary $228M in funding support from the Federal Housing Accelerator Fund.
Also funded is the Public Transit Safety Strategy, permanent funding to Calgary's Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, along with investments in 5A mobility and public transit. Click here for a detailed list.
Many of the issues The City is taking on are related to public health, housing, and mental health and addictions. When other orders of government fail to respond to crises, the downstream effects play out in our streets, and we are forced to respond as best as we are able.
While all orders of government have a role to play, Calgary has taken on an average of $311 million per year in increased costs or funding shortalls downloaded from higher orders of government.
- Municipal Fiscal Gap - The City of Calgary
- Calgary faces massive funding gaps as Alberta municipalities rally for provincial help - Calgary | Globalnews.ca
- Infrastructure Status Report (calgary.ca)
The result of the recently-approved budget investments will result in the average home priced at $610,000 seeing an increase of $16 per month.
For an average additional $16 per month, we can invest in ourselves while building the foundation for more affordable housing, frequent, safe, and reliable transit, doing our fair share to help our communities heal from the mental health crisis and opioid crisis.
For an additional $16 dollars per month, we’re taking steps to build the city Calgarians expect and deserve.
What's with the business tax shift?
Over the last decade, challenging economic conditions have transformed our city’s economic base. Large corporations that previously held major footprints in our downtown core’s commercial spaces have shifted their operations, and the work-from-home phenomenon has further accelerated this trend.
The transformation of our downtown and the shrinking profile of former corporate giants means the character of non-residential properties has undergone significant transformation. Local businesses make up 95 per cent of businesses in Calgary, and 67 per cent of employment. The vacancies left in our downtown are now increasingly being shouldered by small local shops and businesses.
Since 2014, the non-residential assessment base has shrunk by 11 per cent. Non-residential properties (15,000 businesses) represent 18 per cent of the assessment base of the city, but pay 48 per cent of the property taxes.
In this same 9-year period, the residential assessment base has increased by 57 per cent. The share of property taxes paid by residential properties has been diluted thanks to this growth: a growing number of residential properties (530,000) pay 52 per cent of the property taxes.
In Calgary, a typical business pays 4.25 times the taxes on the assessed value of their property to that of an equivalent residential property value. The legal maximum tax ratio is 5, as per Section 358.1 of the Municipal Government Act.
This has put Calgary in an increasingly uncompetitive position, risks having the Province step in as we approach the legal maximum, and threatens the economic recovery and employment growth we as a city depend on for our future prosperity.
Shifting the tax share by one per cent – meaning that residential properties take on 53 per cent and businesses 47 per cent — will result in a $4 a month increase for an average residential property valued at $610,000. This is already included in the $16/month increase discussed above. Doing so enables local businesses to re-invest in their operations and the jobs that employ us and our neighbours.
Are my taxes well spent?
The economic pressures faced by previous Councils has meant that Calgarians have experienced deferrals and delays in important investments, particularly compared to other major Canadian cities.
Calgary’s population growth and inflation exceeded The City’s operating expenditures. Every tax dollar Calgarians pay has been “spread out” over a growing pool of Calgarians to keep up with growth and inflation. As a result, from the City’s perspective, less was spent per Calgarian every year.
The reality is that our municipal government is very efficient in its delivery of services. Our taxes are competitive with other major cities, our municipality employs a comparatively low number of full-time-workers given our population, and we rank very highly in global measures of livability and efficient service delivery.
But we can’t simply rest on comparisons to other cities. Calgarians tell us every day that if we invest appropriately, we will increase the quality of life for our citizens. We need to do that now more than ever.
Municipalities have extremely limited ability to raise funds, limited to property taxes and user fees. The City is also prohibited by law from running budget deficits, unlike other orders of government. The province is the ultimate decision maker on how the City raises funds – and they’ve chosen property taxes.
Property taxes are an imprecise tool for raising revenues in that they do not consider the incomes of property owners. This is why in our budget there are so many measures targeted toward supporting low-income Calgarians, including an ask to build a new strategy that will allow for more Calgarians to become eligible for Fair Entry services and a $10 million affordability relief program.
If you would like to see municipalities funded through alternate revenue streams, I encourage you to make your suggestions known to The Honourable Ric McIver, Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs.