Home Regular Contributors Discouraging Times Call for Innovative Action

Discouraging Times Call for Innovative Action

Brad Field

Times in Calgary are tough. We feel it, we see it, we sense it in others. Not so long ago, Calgarians would have described times as challenging. Today, times are discouraging.

Challenging times called for innovative solutions. Discouraging times call for innovative action.

Calgarian business owners are forced to innovate daily. Sometimes as a means of differentiation, others to keep the lights on. That’s not a function of the current times; it’s a function of being in business in 2019. Today’s economic climate has elevated the need for innovation.

While elected officials at all levels look to Calgary businesses as the movers, the shakers, the solution creators and the economic pilots, our municipal leadership has displayed significant inability to make those same innovative choices. The default solutions of throw money at it, tax it or hold the line on it are far from ground-breaking. The lack of innovation has aided in businesses fleeing core and contributed to the $250M shortfall in their own projected tax revenues: short-sighted planning, long-term repercussions.

Businesses and residences aren’t mutually exclusive. Whether the increases hit our business bottom line or our family pocketbook, the taxpayers shoulder the burden.

Calgarians have asked city hall to take the innovative path to manage our dollars, only to learn the current council struggles to have sincere, tough discussions with the voting public around taxation and supply of services. It’s a one-way conversation, and Calgarians deserve the dialogue. It’s time city council implore some innovative solutions to build a fair, equitable and sustainable Calgary.

What do solutions look like?

Efficiencies aren’t always innovative, but there are innovative ways to look for them. From 2014 to 2018, Calgary has had a massive decline in development and building permits. Has the department staff declined? Redeploy resources, optimize current human resources, consult our people and find technological solutions that fit within the mandate Calgarians have given our city council.

The City of Calgary is sitting on underperforming assets. Maybe today isn’t the day to sell the farm, but city council needs to consider their place in the business of land development. The City of Calgary is the single-largest landholder in the city; why are we in the land business? Logically, we have to hold some land for specific future infrastructure projects, but we have held onto commercial or industrial property that has no bearing on said projects.

The City of Calgary collects zero tax revenue from their vacant properties. Notwithstanding 2019 property values, selling off these assets would not only give a much-needed cash infusion but in turn would generate tax revenue. As a bonus, the sale and subsequent development could create employment opportunities.

These may not be the silver bullets to restoring balance in our city coffers, but nor is continuing the same-old debate about whether business or families should carry the heavier load. We’re also looking down the barrel of limited or declining revenue. Businesses that overspend go bankrupt. Overstretched families (sadly) lose their homes. City hall needs to learn from local business operators and families and live within our means.