Calgary Business Property Tax
What is happening?
The City of Calgary had the highest increase in commercial tax rates for the fourth year in a row, jumping 13.36% in 2019 and representing a 55% increase over the last four years. November 2019 showed one of the highest tax hikes in all of Canada.
When the recession began to take hold of the city, the oil companies started to abandon the downtown core; leaving a multitude of vacant office buildings empty. City council faced a huge deficit in tax revenue of around $150 million a year. Rather than reducing services to accommodate this large expenditure loss, the council—directed by the present leadership agreed to continue to run our city without any drastic changes to its spending. Council took a gamble believing that the Boom Times would return. (Unfortunately, as we know, they have not). To keep services and legacy projects on track, they decided to shift the responsibility of paying the $150 million onto the shoulders of both residential and non-residential taxpayers. I was actually present in council the week this budget was being debated and implemented, and I had the opportunity to listen to many business owners giving their public submissions to oppose this.
In order to bring large business back to our city, we need to develop an attractive business model. Large organizations will bring thousands of jobs to our city, and for those businesses we need to establish a framework that encourages them to relocate and open their modality of operations with ease and with minimum disruption to their business and staff.
Our council should be working with the administration and the owners of downtown office complexes to develop a promotional package that is beneficial to customers, landlords, and the city.
Council should also be advising city administration to assess each public service in the city that is currently operating to its fullest potential. This could be accomplished in a six-month review of their budgets and would only take Calgary two weeks to compile and deliver their statements to the council by May of this year.
During a time of recession such as we experience now, local governance needs to approach the possibility of either initiating tax relief, tax freeze, or reducing services and taxes. Considering conditions today we, as a city, cannot run with ‘business as usual.’ I do not intend to speculate or promote a false concept of optimism, I will always tell you as it is and I will never sugar-coat any situation, and informing the public with the facts is one of my priorities.
What should be happening?
How are we going to make that happen?
In a world changed because of the COVID restrictions, companies had employees leave their workspace to work from home, and now their work environment is not adequate to accommodate the implemented provincial emergency restriction on personal spacing. Companies now need to think outside of the box in order to recall their workforce back into the office.
It will be my intention to encourage the council to work in partnership with the building owners having vacant office inventory to develop a ‘Redeployment Occupation Package’. This is a package that would encourage companies to relocate back into the downtown at an affordable tenancy rate for the landlords, and at an acceptable reduced tax rate agreed upon by the council. Where companies had only one floor of an office block for their employees for example, they now could afford more space, possibly two floors, to accommodate the adequate spacing for employees. Rental contracts would need to be developed for at least a three-year fixed rate. This offer needs to be both financially acceptable and affordable for any company relocating or returning. This concept of being able to offer companies from anywhere in the world—a two-for-one contract at fixed specific tenancy and tax rates—would be an effective bargaining tool when enticing companies back to Calgary.
Developing this package will potentially fill our vacant office space in the city’s downtown core. I fully understand it would not generate $150 million a year in tax revenue and won’t generate that cash flow during my 4-year term in public office should I be elected. My only motivation in developing this deal and redeployment package is for one reason and one reason only to successfully lift the ongoing ridiculously large tax burden this present council has placed on residential and non-residential taxpayers.
There is a new leadership style coming should I be elected. If councillors wish to become a part of it, then they will need to choose to either to change with the times and become critical thinker or fall by the wayside as a casualty of past leadership collaboration.