Down Town & City Taxes
What is happening?
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 approximately $150 million a year. The total in building value loss to date of downtown properties is around 18 billion dollars, there is 12 million square feet of office space sitting empty. A loss in value is a loss in tax revenue.
Rather than reducing services to accommodate this large financial loss, the council, directed by the present leadership, agreed to continue to run our city without any drastic changes to its spending. This council took a major gamble believing that the “Boom Times” would return. (Unfortunately, as we know, they have not and then COVID hit). 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.
This present council’s approach to bring large business back to our city is to dedicate 200 million dollars of your future tax expenditure to the downtown beltline area. A counselor and mayoral candidate made an awesome video presentation that mentioned HOPE and VIBRANT STRATEGIES and that we as a city need to REIMAGINE our downtown office space. This council uses all the buzzwords and then states “We Can and We Will” whatever that is supposed to mean? I’m a realist and dedicating 200 million of your future taxes on buzzwords and hope is a huge gamble and unacceptable in my opinion.
The city sponsors a non-profit called The Calgary Economic Development which is managed by an independent Board of Directors. The corporation is heavily funded by the City of Calgary, community partners, other orders of government and the private sector through the Team Calgary program. Serving on the board is the city manager and a serving councillor who is also a Mayoral Candidate. This organisation works to bring new businesses from all over the world to our city.
If our city invests just one dollar of your money into anything, I would be looking to be getting an ROI of $4 further down the line. The Calgary Economic Development president reached out to all Mayoral candidates last month and invited them to a forum. I responded with only two questions for their president which were as follows:
1. Last year the city council increased the revenue of your organisation by 70%. This means your budget was just over 10 million dollars during the COVID pandemic, this increase was advocated by one of your Directors who is on city council. Can you give me a detailed account of your successes during the 2020’s financial year and what the 10 million dollars was spent on?
2. Should you continue to receive funding and support from the city of Calgary, how much are you expecting to be given in the 2021 budget?
The questions were sent in August and to date there has been zero response.
Also this council’s plan for downtown currently is to redevelop a number of office buildings that are owned by business conglomerates and make them into condominiums all while offering the developers tens of millions of your dollars just to take on the contracts prior to development starting? This money has to come from somewhere i.e. increased property taxes in the future. The 3 councilors running as mayoral candidates voted in favor of all these actions. I am not privileged to any information currently about these projects, if you elect me as your Mayor I will have access to all the information.
This council should have fully supported our small business sector by throwing them a realistic life line due to the past years COVID closures. In many cases businesses have had to close their doors. We know our economy will take some time to recover and it is vital that the council support our business sector in order for it to regain momentum again. Solid decisive leadership at city council is needed to implement business tax reductions.
Due to conditions today as a city we cannot run with a ‘business as usual’ attitude. I do not intend to speculate or promote a false sense of optimism like other Mayoral candidates. I will always tell people how it is and I will not sugar-coat situations as informing the public with the facts is one of my priorities. I am not a supporter of paying developers incentive bonuses of millions of your dollars to reduce downtown office space because once it has been re-developed we will never get it back.
I would much prefer to see this council lower corporate taxes and give Calgary’s economic development a huge bargaining chip when approaching large corporations to entice them to our city. At the moment we as a city have a lifestyle to offer, in big business it’s the money that talks.
What should be happening?
How are we going to make that happen?
To support small businesses, I will advise the new council to reduce their taxes by 10% immediately for a two year period before implementing further increases. We as a city need to get our economy up and running again and get more people into work, this is one of my priorities.
In order to bring large business to our city, we need to develop an attractive business model. Calgary Economic Development will then have the tools to approach large companies which could bring 1000s of jobs to our city.
Offering companies both a lifestyle and competitive low corporate taxes with an emphasis that Calgary will take care of them should they relocate to our City? Calgary Economic Development has to research competitive corporation tax levels in other cities throughout the world and submit their recommendations to the new council for corporation tax reductions.so that our city has something great to offer companies throughout the world. We need to keep our office space.
With tax reductions you would expect there to be service cuts, I will be advising the council to have the city administration really tighten its belt over the next 2 to 3 years regarding planning major development of buildings and infrastructure projects in our city. Developments need to be prioritized and presented to the council accordingly.
My primary focus over the next 4 years is supporting your councillors to focus on helping their communities and the people of our city.
During this year’s 2021 budget administration will make their recommendations and it will be up to the new council and you’re elected Mayor to decide which services to prioritize for funding.