Calgary’s provincial budget priorities weren’t really met, councillors heard at a committee meeting Wednesday.
At the Intergovernmental Affairs committee administration presented a report showing few of the city’s priority areas got attention in the 2022 Alberta budget.
On a green, yellow, red (negative) scale in their presentation, 24 priority areas were laid out and 14 had a negative rating. Another nine had yellow (neutral). One, the Springbank Offstream Reservoir, had a green.
The city did see some investments, however. Capital contributions to infrastructure projects were made in this year’s provincial budget. Affordable housing saw a modest boost, admin said, with an additional $14 million over three years.
Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean said city council should look at the positives in the budget. He cited no tax increases, money for mental health, a budget surplus and that the finance minister isn’t closing the door on more money for Calgary’s downtown revitalization.
“I think picking fights sometimes – whether we like it or not, the province is our boss I guess as far as municipalities go, and picking fights maybe isn’t the best way to get more or getting what we want,” he said.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek raised the point of lack of matching funds in areas like the federal rapid housing initiative and recent transit funding shortfalls.
“Again, we are unable to cover not only our farebox shortfalls, but we are dealing with some pretty serious situations, and we are increasing the number of resources that we are sending out to look after people on transit, whether they’re in positions of vulnerability or whether they’re riders that are feeling unsafe,” she said.
Who’s the Boss?
In the hold-me-closer-Tony-Danza moment of Wednesday’s IGA meeting, councillors debated if the province was the boss.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra started off by asking admin if the province was the City’s boss. Chair Peter Demong interjected and said he didn’t think they’d get an answer. So, Carra directed the question to Demong, who is the city’s rep on with Alberta Municipalities.
“No, in no way it’s the case. From my point of view, my bosses are the constituents of Calgary who have voted for me and pay my salary through their property taxes. Having said that, there is a parent-child relationship between province and municipalities,” Demong said.
“I would not say there are bosses, but they do have a great deal of control of what we do and how we do it.”
Carra agreed with the parent-child comparison.
“I find it remarkable that the parent is not the income winner in this relationship,” Carra said.
“It’s largely the childhood bringing home the bacon, and yet we turn to our parents for, I guess, an allowance from all the money we’re making for them.
Coun. Jasmine Mian suggested the city put together a deeper dive into the impacts of the compounded provincial budgets over time. She’d like to know which city departments are affected.
Later, Coun. Demong got in one more boss quip.
“Just as a follow-up and conclusion: So, if the province is our boss, does that mean Mr. Trudeau would be Mr. Kenney’s boss? Just food for thought,” he said.