Help wanted: support and grow businesses
YYC Matters: Tools needed for economic recovery
With the election fully in swing, Calgarians are asking candidates important questions. Chief among them are questions about Calgary’s economy.
Calgarians need support and want to know what the next provincial government’s plans will be to stimulate the economy in Alberta’s largest – and Canada’s third-largest – city. This week YYC Matters spotlights The City of Calgary’s ask to help support and grow Calgary businesses.
The City needs medium-term support to assist in job creation, and medium-to-long term investment support to diversify the economy and lessen the effects of future boom and bust cycles. More specifically, The City is looking for provincial government support for:
- Investment in critical infrastructure to create good paying construction and middle-income jobs.
- Tax incentives to boost growth industries, such as the film and television industry, that will help Calgary diversify its economy.
- One-time funding to match what the City has contributed to help offset the massive redistribution of property tax as a result of the decreased value of downtown office space.
- Matching The City of Calgary’s investment in the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund with $100 million to help Calgary-based businesses grow and to attract business to Calgary (particularly downtown Calgary) from all over the world.
Calgary’s recovery remains weak. After having the lowest unemployment rate of any major city in Canada for many years, Calgary is now the highest at 7.4 per cent, higher than both Canada’s and Alberta’s averages.
The downtown office vacancy rate remains stubbornly high, at above 25 per cent. There is more vacant office space in downtown Calgary than there is office space in downtown Winnipeg.
Not only is this leading to significant trouble for retail and complementary businesses, it is making it harder for The City to deliver on the services Calgarians need. The City cannot run a deficit budget by law and must rely on the municipal taxes it collects annually to operate and provide services. This year alone, more than half of non-residential property owners will experience increases greater than 10 per cent over last year because of the decreased value of downtown office space.
Immediate one-time funding from the provincial government to offset these increases would certainly help small businesses.
Closing Calgary’s infrastructure gap, would get Calgary back on track. With a 10-year infrastructure gap which is about $5.7 billion, new provincial investments in infrastructure will not just add construction jobs, but can help our economy recover and keep communities safe, resilient and vibrant.
Targeted film and television tax incentives world bring a significant boost to an industry that is performing far below its capacity; it’s an industry that supports 60,000 middle-class jobs in British Columbia and that is growing massively as more content is being made.
As Calgarians know, this city has a lot to offer. If provincial and federal Trade Commissioners could expand their focus to include Calgary, the city would sell itself internationally as a great place to live and do business. Calgary has one of the best educated workforces on earth and we boast a remarkable quality of life: named the best city in the Western Hemisphere by the Economist last summer (4th in the world). We have the ingredients to attract people and business.
Visit yycmatters.ca to learn more about how Calgary Matters in this provincial election.