It checks a lot of boxes but the Calgary Chamber of Commerce would like it to check a few more.
City administration previewed its four-year budget for 2023 to 2026 last week with a focus on maintaining affordability while investing in the city’s future. While city spending is set to increase over the next four years, officials vow to keep those increases below inflation.
The city also proposed $4.4 billion in capital projects.
A step in the right direction
Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Deborah Yedlin says the organization believes the city’s proposed budget is on the right track, hitting several key areas including downtown safety and investment in the transit system.
“With a focus on safety, vibrancy, and continuing to reimagine Calgary’s downtown, we are encouraged by the progress the city has made to date,” Yedlin says.
“We’re happy with the transparency, we’re happy with the commitment to investing in safety, the investment in transit, and focusing on the vibrancy of the city.”
Attracting, retaining, and developing talent
Yedlin is also particularly supportive of the city’s goal to create a marketing strategy to attract investment and talent to Calgary, which will help support businesses in addressing the labour shortage and help hardest-hit sectors such as tourism.
“We’re starting to see a diversified economy, which means that it is not as vulnerable to any sort of economic shock. The more we have different industries growing sustainably here, it’s better for Calgary longer term,” she says, adding a greater diversity of sectors means more stability.
“It also makes it an interesting city that attracts different kinds of people from all over the world. It also means it adds to the texture of the city in terms of who’s working here.”
But there’s still room for improvement
While the chamber believes the budget is a step in the right direction, it also believes it could be even better.
“To ensure we reach our potential as a city, it’s critical to approach initiatives through a lens of economic growth and productivity to ensure industry sectors, businesses and employees are able to weather the inevitable headwinds of economic uncertainty,” Yedlin adds.
Chamber officials want the city to further focus on investment in support for businesses looking to attract, retain, and develop talent, reduce employment barriers, and simplify processes, making it easier to do business.
And about those property taxes
The chamber also wants to see steps toward alleviating the cost burden faced by businesses that are paying a large part of property taxes.
“The property tax issue doesn’t go away, and that means also working with the government to understand that there should be other ways for the city to raise money so that it’s not all on the property tax structure,” Yedlin says, adding they want to see more sustainability going forward.
“Especially in an inflationary environment where businesses are feeling the pressure at every turn, whether it’s rent increases, energy costs, supply chain, labour costs, all those things are contributing to higher cost structure.”
Calgarians can share their feedback on the proposed budget as phase two of the budget plan runs until Sept. 30.
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