Alberta Election: Mayor Nenshi critical of political party responses to city issues

Mayor says that the parties do not understand cities' needs

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, asked Alberta political party's for responses to the YYC Matters questions last year. AZIN GHAFFARI / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Alberta’s political parties don’t understand the priorities of the city – particularly in the all-important areas of job creation in Calgary – in week three of the provincial election.

Nenshi announced the provincial parties’ responses to YYC Matters, an initiative by the City of Calgary to get specific responses from each party on Calgary-specific issues.

He said that while he acknowledged the survey was complex and detailed, he wanted more specific policies on most issues.

Chief among these was job creation and solving the downtown office vacancy crisis in Calgary.

“I was really, really disappointed to see that none of the parties, none of them had a real plan for economic growth in Calgary,” said Nenshi.

He said that all of the parties’ plans for job creation were too long-term.

“Lowering the corporate tax rate doesn’t fill downtown office buildings. Figuring out better ways to invest the carbon tax, doesn’t fill those gaps,” Nenshi said.

“Not one of the parties committed to doing anything for those businesses outside of the downtown that have been badly hurt by the downtown assessment drop.”

Nenshi said the city needs provincial support that has an immediate impact.

“We have got to save businesses that are on the brink – today. Not when lower tax rates kick in, or when all these new economy workers show up in your café, three, five, 10 years from now; we got to help those small businesses today,” Nenshi said.

“The City of Calgary is doing it all by ourselves.”

Other issues touched on by YYC Matters and the mayor were the Green Line, Springbank dam, and redistributing revenues from cannabis from the province to the city.

Nenshi praised the parties’ commitments to completing the Green Line and Springbank dam, but noted they were election promises.

“In the [UCP]’s response on Springbank, they say. . .we’re going to move quickly, the NDP didn’t move fast enough, we will totally do Springbank as soon as we do A, B, C and D – so let’s talk about A, B, C, and D, shall we? Because that sounds an awful lot like what the NDP says about the Trans Mountain Pipeline.”

Although the mayor said the UCP platform was “good in many, many ways”, he criticized them for not understanding cities.

 “When your biggest promise to cities is you’re going to publish a report card on them, that shows a real lack of respect,” said Nenshi.

That “report card” would be the Alberta Municipalities Measurement Index, which the UCP promised to create in response to the City asking “will you begin the discussions needed on fundamental tax reform to address the inequities and unfairness of the current system?”

Other specific city priorities not addressed by the parties, according to Nenshi, include extended producer responsibility (EPR) for recycling and cannabis revenue redistribution.

“I was surprised none of the parties committed to [EPR], it’s very simple. It’s done in many other provinces already and will save Calgarians real money every single month.”

On cannabis revenue, Nenshi said the province was breaking an inter-government understanding from the start of legalization.

“The federal government gave the provincial government that money explicitly to pass on to municipalities.”

The city’s questions and the parties’ responses can be found at yycmatters.ca.

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