Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi characterized the federal budget Monday as having great initiatives but missed opportunities for Calgary.
The federal government on Monday tabled its first budget in two years. Some of the big-ticket items were $30 billion over five years for childcare funding and $17.6 billion for green investments. It also included plans for a nationally mandated $15/hour minimum wage.
Mayor Nenshi said the childcare investment will help put money back into the hands of young Calgary families. The budget itself didn’t help with any city specific problems though.
“You’ve heard me say before that the post pandemic recovery is going to be spotty and uneven across the country,” the mayor said.
“In some places we anticipate that there will be enormous pent up market demand and the economy will move very quickly. But, in other places, like Calgary, where the fundamentals were not as strong, we’re concerned that the post pandemic recovery will be a bit slower.”
Mayor Nenshi was hoping to see a little more “asymmetric investment,” ie: focusing investment where it’s most needed.
“We didn’t really see a lot of that in this budget documents. The word Calgary only appeared three times,” he said.
Further, Mayor Nenshi acknowledged that there was no additional operational cash to help cities. Particularly those who relied on the earlier federal cash to balance their operating budgets.
Some bright lights
The mayor said they’d need to dive further into the 739-page document to see where other government spending programs would help the city.
He said Calgary’s downtown has been hit much harder than others across Canada. He said it was good to see a “reprofiling” of an already-announced $300 million fund to help the retrofit of office buildings into affordable housing.
The Canada Community Revitalization Fund will also help provide community infrastructure funding.
He said the $2.5 billion increase in affordable housing wasn’t as much as expected, but showed a big commitment. The green infrastructure funding would likely have benefits in Calgary, along with the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
To take advantage of the green infrastructure funding, the province will have to work with the feds “and not just sort of run away from anything that says green.”
“I’ve said before and I’ll say again that there’s no reason Calgary should not be a world centre for clean and green energy,” he said.
Mayor Nenshi also said it was good to see that previous doubling of gas tax funding (now the Canada Community Building Fund). That means roughly $77 million in one-time cash. The permanent transit fund was also confirmed, the mayor said.
“Which means the Green Line will be able to keep building once we finish phase one,” he said.
The mayor did say some specific asks – support for the downtown strategy and specific affordable housing projects – weren’t included in the budget.