Posted on Apr 26, 2021
TIME FOR UCP TO STEP UP AND INVEST IN CALGARY FOLLOWING APPROVAL OF DOWNTOWN PLAN
CALGARY – Alberta’s NDP are calling on the UCP government to provide support for Calgary’s downtown following the passage of the City of Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan.
On Monday, city council approved a $200-million investment to go towards conversion and retrofits to vacant offices — some for housing and some to attract new business ventures — as well as other initiatives to attract people to the downtown core.
The plan was passed by council on Monday by a vote of 12-1, with councillor Farkas being the lone vote against. The city will now be requesting funding from the provincial government, although that amount has not been determined yet.
“Even before the pandemic, we saw the loss of 50,000 jobs as investment fell, our economy stalled, and office vacancies rose. Sadly, the pandemic has only made a bad situation worse,” said NDP Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci.
“If this trend continues, Calgary’s downtown could suffer devastating and long-lasting negative impacts that will hinder economic and job growth for years to come. We can’t afford to delay. Calgary needs certainty and a real partnership that can leverage private investment for the downtown.”
Despite promises from Premier Jason Kenney to fill the office towers in the last election, office vacancies are now approaching 30 per cent - fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Private sector investment has significantly dropped in the province since 2019 with Scott Hutcheson, the executive chair and co-founder of Aspen Properties, describing Calgary as “a no-fly zone for institutional capital,” during Monday’s presentation of the downtown plan.
Provincial government funding has also dropped in Calgary as the UCP have made several cuts to the city. Recently, the UCP introduced Bill 56, the Local Measures Statutes Amendment Act, which is currently before the Alberta Legislature. If passed, the bill would remove the legislative requirement for Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding and Calgary would see a $159-million cut over the next two years.
This comes after the UCP cut funding for the pivotal Green Line, which would connect the downtown core with the rest of the city by $480 million, stalling the entire project and the 20,000 jobs it creates.
Despite the problems facing Calgary’s downtown, Finance Minister Travis Toews said there will be no help from the province for the downtown following his speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in February,
During Monday’s debate on the city’s downtown plan, Trent Edwards, chief operating officer for Brookfield Property Development and Calgary Economic Development board member, said that he doesn't have the confidence that the province is interested in moving forward on supporting the downtown plan in a timely manner, pointing to delays on the Green Line as an example.
“This is a government that talks a lot about creating jobs and growing Calgary’s economy but they have done nothing but make cuts and chase away jobs,” said Ceci. “Now that the city has moved forward with this plan, it’s time for the province to step up so that we can attract investment, create jobs, and restore the downtown as the economic engine of the city.”
Ceci has already begun consultations on a new plan for downtown Calgary through the NDP’s Alberta’s Future initiative.
He invited all Calgarians to head to www.AlbertasFuture.ca and register for a consultation on the downtown plan that is scheduled for May 6.