Calgary has decided to extend business license fee relief for two years, in a suite of options aimed at aiding the COVID-19 economic recovery.
Couns. Jeff Davison and Ward Sutherland initially put forward a notice of motion to extend the relief through 2022. After further feedback from city businesses, they wanted to add another year. Sutherland brought forward the amendment in Monday’s combined meeting of council for it to extend to two years, effective March 17, 2021.
“It’s just one more step and one more thing we are doing as a council that no one else is,” said Coun. Sutherland.
Coun. Davison said they’ve been talking to businesses for the past couple of weeks. Now, instead of a $9 million plan to cover licenses for an additional year, it will be roughly $17.6 million for two years. The remaining $12.4 million in the $30 million relief package will be put into another relief program, potentially involving grants.
“The one thing we’ve heard loud and clear is that this has got to be a bit more of a longer term solution,” he said.
“We have a follow-on plan to potentially look at a grant program so that we address businesses that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Jeff Davison, Ward 6 councillor.
Opposition to the extension
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he didn’t like the amendment to extend the license relief for two years.
“It’s not the hill to die on for me, but it’s a matter of fact, it is really spreading the peanut butter thin,” he said.
“One of the reasons that we didn’t go with the original recommendation that came to council on this was because we felt that it was approaching people who had a really good year and giving them some money. Well, this does this for everybody.”
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra also voted against the motion.
“Ward 9 is a hotbed of the emerging economy, and I thought the entire point of this whole program was to find the people who are in pain. That’s not what this is about, so let’s give the administration some time to think about this,” said Carra.
Sutherland said this program is not perfect, but it does make a difference, and it sends a very strong message to the business community.
City administration will come back in May with further details on a plan for the remaining cash for Calgary businesses.