This month marks the end of 2020, a mythically bad year. Feeling reflective as we head into the holiday season, I have been looking back through the two years worth of monthly columns I have submitted to Business in Calgary and the thoughtful comments and insights I received from people in response. We have talked about important things through these columns. A clear theme has appeared – one that gives me hope for Calgary’s future. Read on and tell me if you agree. First, a summary of the topics that have sparked the most conversation.
I have written about the crippling spike in non-residential property taxes in Calgary and the related need for economic diversification. We need to take better advantage of our best natural resource. No, not the oil and gas reserves, but the majestic Rocky Mountains and the beauty of our city’s setting. Calgary is desperately in need of an integrated strategy to build the active, youthful city of the future: one that attracts creative and diverse talent from around the world to live, work, play, and compete. It is no secret that top talent is drawn to cities that offer not only economic opportunity, but exciting sport, recreation and cultural experiences as well.
We have also discussed innovation and the need to support entrepreneurs and small businesses more effectively in Calgary. Our business culture in this city should be the envy of the world. From the First Nations people who traded furs, through the ranchers and merchants who built the town (and launched the Calgary Stampede), to the explorers and financiers who built the oil and gas industry, and now to the leaders of today’s tech start-ups, Calgary has entrepreneurship and innovation deeply baked into its culture.
When discussing the municipal government, I have commented on the drop in public trust caused by a squabbling City Council, questionable spending decisions, one worrying case of blatant misappropriation of funds, and a tendency by our municipal leaders to think they can spend their way back to prosperity. We need strong leadership and true innovation to drive far better efficiency at City Hall. Otherwise the recent property tax hikes will look tame compared to those to come.
Finally, I have written about the social struggles in Calgary, including addictions, homelessness, and the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on mental health. Calgarians are altruistic. Research shows that young people in particular want to live in a society where those who flourish despite tough economic conditions do so by putting people first, starting with their employees. Successful businesses are the seeds of successful societies. Governments fertilize those seeds with public education, public health and supports for the disadvantaged and those who fall on tough times. Together, we reap bountiful harvests.
Can you guess the theme I see that ties two years of columns together? That theme is change. Peter Senge, renowned management guru said: “People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.” As we head toward 2021, it is time for change in Calgary. Fortunately, Calgarians themselves do not need to change. We already have all the resilience, determination, entrepreneurialism, creativity, and altruism needed to take Calgary in a new direction. We have done it before. We will do it again.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and joyful holiday season.