Speak up if you want a budget that inspires hope in Calgary

Reposted from the Calgary Herald.
The proposed 2023-2026 budget delays significant investments in Calgary in a modest attempt to maintain the status quo. These delays present an enormous missed opportunity over the next four years — one that will be felt by many Calgarians almost immediately.

The gratification that comes from a modest budget does not last long. The city services we rely on have been doing more with less for years. The budget that is in front of us now will see the services you need, when you need them most, become less accessible. 

Without exaggerating, the tough decisions and investments we make in the city’s four-year budget will shape our communities and determine the character and quality of daily life for generations to come.

The challenges we face are daunting: Calgarians have voiced their concerns about the cost of living, rent, mortgages and the lack of affordable housing. Many share a desire to make transit safer and more affordable. Parents across this city continually demand we make the streets safer for children to walk to school, and frankly, the rest of us demand that too.

Calgarians want more choice in how we move throughout the city, from biking and wheeling to walking and driving — we need to do better at making a variety of modes a real choice for people.

Local businesses need to see support from council through these tough times. We are finally starting to see our local economy bounce back from the last few years, and we need to ensure this recovery is sustainable and that it leads to lasting prosperity.

Above all else, we need to ensure that those in our community who need our support the most, receive it when they need it, with the dignity we all deserve.

Past councils have made promises of a socially, environmentally and economically resilient city. However, resilience comes from the choices we make in times of hardship — it is very clear we are in those times right now. We can either break that promise again by deferring important investments into the future or we can make the tough decision to invest in ourselves now and realize the vision for Calgary you deserve.

During the last four-year budget, the city shaved $177 million from its operating costs. We cut right to the bone. However, we learned quickly that we cannot cut our way to prosperity.

The current proposed budget will have the average Calgary home, worth around $550,000, see approximately $9.70 added to their monthly property tax bill. That $9.70 per month covers the cost of inflation and maintains existing service levels.

Isn’t our vision for Calgary worth more than $9.70 per month? I’d like to believe it is.

Consider what is or is not included in the proposed budget: the cost of transit is going up, making it less accessible and a less attractive alternative to driving. The proposed budget will not complete the upgrades needed to increase safety on the routes Calgary kids take to school and it will not reduce our time in traffic or our reliance on cars.

What could high-quality transit do for our youth, our front-line service workers, our hotel industry, our downtown revitalization and our action on climate? Imagine how much safer our city could be if we made a better effort to fund our social services and support our most vulnerable, rather than criminalize them.

When it’s time for my colleagues and I to vote on this four-year budget, it should be for a budget that inspires in us hope and optimism for our future. It should be a budget that tells the world: Calgary has the courage and conviction to invest in itself. This budget should be an opportunity to demonstrate that Calgarians know what they are worth, and to demand the services that match.

Calgarians have always called for a better city from us. Next week, I know what type of budget I will be calling for. And now, it’s time we band together and make it possible.

Because Calgary, we can do better than this.

Public participation in council’s budget public hearing is encouraged. On Nov. 22, speak to council to share your thoughts on what you’d like to accomplish in the budget process. Send in your written comments or register to speak using this form: Calgary.ca/PublicSubmissions. Language translation services are available.

Find information about the proposed budget at Calgary.ca/Budget.

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