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Mayor Gondek chalks up downtown Calgary funding gap to a ‘miscommunication’

Mayor Gondek said the province underwent a significant change as they were setting their priorities for a provincial budget submission.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said a lack of downtown Calgary cash in the budget is likely just a miscommunication.

On Monday, Premier Danielle Smith said that she’d like to see a defined proposal, and a list of Calgary priorities before making contributions to the downtown revitalization.

There was no funding allocation in Budget 2023 specifically for Calgary’s downtown revitalization. In 2022, the province provided $5 million.

Premier Smith, however, said Monday that public safety was a priority for both Calgary and Edmonton downtown areas. The province has made significant investments in public safety and mental health and addiction programming over the past few months.

“If we don’t have safe streets… all the money in the world is not going to be able to attract more people to come into our cores,” the premier said.

In question period during Tuesday’s public hearing meeting of Calgary city council, Mayor Gondek addressed a query from Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong.

Mayor Gondek reiterated that a letter was developed in the Intergovernmental Affairs meeting, revised and sent to the province last November. She also said they kept the province informed of potential city budget amendments during the deliberations so interested MLAs could keep tabs on the debate, so they understood the city’s priorities.

“Once budget deliberations were over, we once again did the courtesy of sending messages saying these are the areas where there will be implications to your government, these are the tasks that go along with the formal letter that was sent,” the mayor told councillors on Tuesday.

Meetings with ministries, Premier’s office

The mayor said in that time there’s been a meeting between city councillors and the Calgary caucus of MLAs, and individual councillors meeting with MLAs.

Still, the mayor was empathetic that they were a government that had just experienced a major overhaul.  There was a new leader and new positions for cabinet ministers.

“All of us know how incredibly busy and overwhelming it is in those early few months,” Mayor Gondek said.

“So, I would say that this is probably just a little bit of miscommunication.”

The mayor said the original document that they sent back in November was resent to the province. She said that document highlights the priorities that they have.

During a lunch media availability, the mayor said governments need to work together and she would continue pressing the issue with the province.

“For me to pick fights or try to bring someone down, does not serve Calgarians at a time when we desperately need investment in our downtown,” she said.

Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong, whose ward boundary covers the downtown area, said it’s an ongoing dialogue. He participated in a town hall meeting last week where questions on the downtown were raised.

When asked if he was optimistic the province would pull through with funding, Wong wasn’t certain.

“I can’t be optimistic because I don’t know what’s in the minds of the provincial government,” Coun. Wong said.

“What I will say is definitely we are hopeful that there’s a recognition now, there’s a number of things that we need to do to revitalize the downtown core, including conversions, but also activating our streets in a way that’s clean and safe. And also providing the amenities so that people will recognize that downtown is a must-visit destination.”