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Calgary councillors, Mayor Nenshi acknowledge the economic challenges, which the NDP seem to be ignoring
Friday, 29 January 2016 - 10:15am
Coun. Evan Woolley’s notice of motion at Monday’s council meeting drew council into an important discussion on the significant economic challenges thrust upon Calgarians in the last eight months.
Woolley proposed council approve a $60-million rebate for small businesses in Calgary; $30 million in 2016 and an additional $30 million in 2017.
The rebate would be paid for with funds in the city’s $300-million Fiscal Stability Reserve, which is a contingency fund for unexpected events.
When council discussed Woolley’s proposal, they immediately zeroed in on the specifics.
For example, they wanted to know how Woolley came to the $30-million figure?
How would the city be able to measure the impact of the tax relief and why not extend the tax cut to all households in Calgary who are feeling the pinch?
During the discussion, Coun. Druh Farrell suggested cutting unnecessary regulations that are currently getting in the way of business.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded that the city is always looking for efficiencies and ways to lessen the tax burden for Calgarians.
We encourage council to follow through on those suggestions — especially in tumultuous times like now.
Back in December, Mayor Nenshi successfully argued for the creation of an “Economic Resiliency Fund”, which will allocate $30 million to freeze increases in Calgary transit fares, city recreation fees, and other initiatives.
A broad-based tax reduction for all Calgarians would have been better policy, but at least the mayor was trying to address the situation.
At Monday’s debate, amid the inquiries regarding the specifics of Woolley’s motion, Coun. Ward Sutherland raised a question that bears repeating.
Sutherland asked if it’s the city’s responsibility to compensate its citizens for the tax increases imposed by the provincial government?
The significant drop in the price of crude and depreciation of the Canadian dollar are beyond the provincial government’s control, but the Notley government has taken a bad situation and made it worse.
We expect our government to be mindful of broader economic circumstances when setting policy but the NDP are unabashedly pursuing a purely ideological agenda.
Policies such as the Notley government’s personal and corporate income tax increases, the province’s new carbon tax policy, the potential to institute a $15 provincial minimum wage and the compensation payouts for prematurely phasing out coal power plants will all have a negative impact on Alberta’s economy and investor confidence.
This begs the question — is it fair for city hall to have to make up for costly and ideologically driven policy blunders at other levels of government?
One can disagree with the mechanics of Coun. Woolley’s motion, but let’s at least applaud the fact this councillor is at least acknowledging the weight of the economic challenges facing Calgarians; something the provincial government seems to be ignoring.
We want our political leaders at all levels to exude positivity.
Premier Notley’s hopefulness towards the brevity of the downturn rings hollow in the face of the collective policies that impact the financial wellbeing of individual Canadians.
Whether or not Coun. Woolley’s notice of motion for business tax relief is the right device to lessen the impact of the current downturn — at least some municipal politicians have the courage to discuss just how tough conditions are becoming for Calgarians.
- John Whittaker is a policy analyst with the Manning Centre