Tough choices needed to save our great city

Tax changes re­quired, Ge­orge Brook­man says.

Calgary Herald - - OPINION - Ge­orge Brook­man is pres­i­dent of West Cana­dian Dig­i­tal Imag­ing, past pres­i­dent of the Cal­gary Stam­pede and a long­time phi­lan­thropist.

It is time for all Cal­gar­i­ans to re­al­ize that we are in a se­ri­ous eco­nomic cri­sis and that a few tweaks to the mu­nic­i­pal bud­get are not go­ing to get us out of this.

I have lived in Cal­gary my en­tire life, have sur­vived a few down­turns in­clud­ing the Na­tional En­ergy Pro­gram of 1982, but I am as wor­ried to­day as I have ever been about the next five to 10 years in our city’s his­tory.

We have en­joyed the low­est res­i­den­tial tax rates in the coun­try for many years, bol­stered and sub­si­dized by an in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful and af­flu­ent busi­ness com­mu­nity con­cen­trated in our down­town. To­day, we have mil­lions of square feet of empty of­fice space, which only serves to drive our re­tail spa­ces into va­cancy. Small busi­nesses are fail­ing as ris­ing taxes and a short­age of cus­tomers sim­ply does not al­low them to keep go­ing. Ma­jor build­ings are run­ning 50 per cent empty and Cal­gary has gone from be­ing the dar­ling of the com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try five years ago to an ab­so­lute pariah as we end this year.

It is time for ma­jor ac­tion on all fronts if we are go­ing to turn our great city around. It is also go­ing to take the en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port and the good­will of all cit­i­zens. It will not be easy.

First and fore­most, our civic lead­ers must dra­mat­i­cally cut ex­penses. I know that over $600 mil­lion in ex­pen­di­ture re­duc­tions have been put in place over the past three years, but to put it mildly, that is not enough. Tear­ing up roads, in­creas­ing ex­otic garbage pro­grams, four-car LRT trains with very few pas­sen­gers, in­cred­i­ble spend­ing on the planned Green Line — this all has to stop.

Yes, we will lose some ser­vices. Yes, we will not like some of the in­con­ve­niences. But as re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens, we are go­ing to have to grin and en­dure it. I hope this is a short-term is­sue but based on the poli­cies of both our pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, we may have to face all of this for some time.

Sec­ond and most painfully, there has to be

As re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens, we are go­ing to have to grin and en­dure it.

a sig­nif­i­cant shift of prop­erty taxes from the com­mer­cial sec­tor to the res­i­den­tial sec­tor. None of us wants to hear that, but the real­ity is that Cal­gar­i­ans have been liv­ing with a false sense of well-be­ing when it comes to prop­erty taxes for many years and that bloom is off the rose to­day.

Fi­nally, we must get more ac­tive. We must speak up and let our voices be heard. We must let our fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments know that we are not happy. The fis­cal poli­cies of all gov­ern­ments and the lack of ac­tion to solve the prob­lems of our en­ergy in­dus­try are lit­er­ally driv­ing our com­mu­nity into the poor house.

In­creased taxes for pet projects and ide­o­log­i­cal ini­tia­tives have to stop. Gov­ern­ments at all lev­els must cut the phi­los­o­phy and fo­cus on pro­vid­ing the ba­sic and im­por­tant ser­vices that all Cana­di­ans need, and not the grandiose schemes that none of us has asked for and cer­tainly do not need. I have ac­tu­ally heard ex­pen­di­ture num­bers on the Green Line, but I will not even re­peat them here be­cause I sim­ply can­not be­lieve that we are do­ing that in to­day’s cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

So, my fel­low cit­i­zens, get ready for re­duced costs and re­duced ser­vices in the com­ing years. Get ready for in­creased taxes in spite of drop­ping prop­erty val­ues and get ready to speak up and say to our elected lead­ers, “Fo­cus on what we need to do, not on what it would be nice to do.”

Cal­gar­i­ans can and will get through this cri­sis, but first we must rec­og­nize that it is a cri­sis and dream­ing about a golden fu­ture is of no use un­less we are all here to en­joy it.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.