Calgary 2022: 7 storylines to keep on your radar

Artist's conceptual image of the newly-added 9 Avenue N Green Line LRT station. CITY OF CALGARY

The year 2021 was a year to behold.

Elections, planning intrigue, the arena, climate change and political scandal marked the past 365 days.  We mustn’t forget COVID-19.

What does 2022 hold for Calgary?

Here are seven things, in random order, that Calgarians should have on their radar for the upcoming year.

Covid-19

We’ll start off with the easy one.

With thousands of new cases being reported at the end of December, it just makes sense to say Covid-19 and the Omicron variant will be with us for at least the first part of 2022.

The number of cases reported Dec. 28 was 2,775 on 9,398 tests. That represents a 30 per cent positive rate.

Check out the full Alberta Covid-19 year-in-review here.

Calgary’s Event Centre project

In mid-December, just a few weeks after securing the development permit and a few weeks prior to a tentative ground-breaking, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation walked away from a $650 million Event Centre deal with the City of Calgary.

We wouldn’t bet the farm on a ground-breaking in 2022. Maybe not even 2023. Until uncertainty around Covid-19 subsides, the economy picks up, inflation stabilizes, and supply chains are more predictable, the sides might agree the project doesn’t make sense.

Still, it doesn’t meant there won’t be a lot of talk about a new deal, or what it might take to get the sides on the same page.

Budget 2023 – 2026

The City’s next four-year budget cycle will be built in 2022. Given some of the signals sent in the final adjustment of the One Calgary 2019-2022 budget in November, Calgarians should expect continued increase in spending in climate, the downtown revitalization and social programs.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek was somewhat elusive when asked if Calgarians can expect property tax increases in the next budget.

“I think that (budget adjustment) debate was very indicative of the values that members of council have and share with each other,” she said.

When asked specifically about expense and tax increases in the next budget, the mayor said that they want to accomplish a more certain and predictable funding model for cities. She said the current property tax model is a “pretty blunt instrument.”

Westbrook / Heritage Communities LAP

Among readers, the debate over the Guide for Local Area planning and the North Hill Local Area Plans came in as the top local news story.

Calgarians in several communities will once again be engaged in how their respective areas grow and develop. The Westbrook and Heritage Communities Local Area Plans are expected to come to public hearing and ultimately council in the latter half of 2022.

The city has charted lessons along the way, and it will be interesting to see how those lessons have been incorporated into these new plans.  One gauge will be how the public feels it’s been included in the redevelopment plans for their respective communities.

Green Line

A perennial candidate for upcoming-year-storyline, 2022 should be a watershed year for Calgary’s $5.5 billion transit project.

The Beltline and Downtown utility relocation is underway, prepping the area for the underground portion of the line.  Major track and station construction should begin on the project in the spring of 2022.

Calgary city council unity

Thus far, the newly minted Calgary city council has functioned well together. In the final meetings of 2021, however, sides emerged.  Vote division already became somewhat predictable and there were exchanges in council chambers that foreshadow what may lie ahead.

The mayor said in our year-end interview that she’s happy with the current makeup of council and the team that’s in place.

“They’re an incredibly collaborative group. Now, that doesn’t mean they always agree,” she said.

“But they’re collaborative, and they wish to work together to achieve common good.”

Brighter outlook

We’ll finish off on an optimistic note. The year 2022 may start with uncertainty, but there should be a clearer, brighter outlook in the second half of the year.  

Calgarians will have to manage through this fifth wave of the pandemic, the mental health and wellness bow wave afterward, the unease around inflation and the economy and lingering political division, but we’d like to think things will take a turn for the better.

Economic growth, stability and predictability should begin to take root in 2022 and launch Calgary into 2023.

Honourable mention…

The other item to brace for is the laying of groundwork for a spring 2023 Alberta election.

Part of that is the leadership test for Premier Jason Kenney in the first part of 2022.  The rhetoric will ramp up, the seeds of division and misinformation will be sown, and political theatre will be a big ticket.

Perhaps it should be a (dis) honourable mention…

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