Calgary mayor accuses province of 'foot dragging' on new projects

Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier is accusing the provincial government of "political foot dragging" on projects like new schools, roads and LRT lines.

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier is accusing the provincial government of "political foot dragging" on projects suchasnew schools, roads and a new light rail transitline.

Bronconnier has been calling on the the province togive the city theeducation portion of the property tax –worth $500 million a year.

On Tuesday,Bronconnier saidhis plan has Ralph Klein's blessing, but progress has been stalled by the leadership race to replace the retiring premier.

"Doesn't it really make sense to have Calgarians leave their property tax dollars right here at the local level so you can have dedicated school capital funding to fix schools?" Bronconnier asked.

'No new taxes'

If Bronconnier gets his way, Calgary will see a lot more new schools built in the next decade — 33 new schools in the suburbs, 10 in the inner city, along with 10 major renovation projects.

The city would build and maintain all the public and separate schools in Calgary, then develop vacant or surplus school sites to raise money for other projects, including a new LRT line, roads,and fire and ambulance stations.

Bronconnier calls it practical politics.

"There would be no new taxes for the taxpayer. It would just mean the taxes you are paying would stay here in Calgary to fund your school capital that would be dedicated, and to fund that municipal infrastructure that is required."

Stephen Chapman, who plans to run for council in the next election, calls the mayor's plan disingenuous.

"If Bronconnier wants more money, then all he has to do is raise the taxes,"said Chapman,president of a group called the Progressive Group for Independent Business. "But he's trying to get the money from a back end source [because] he doesn't want to be the bad guy and raise taxes."

Board wants direct taxing power

Gordon Dirks, head of Calgary's public school board, welcomes any discussion that would see needed schools built.Dirks hasn't seen details of the mayor's plan, but said he would rather see the boards get back the direct taxing powers they once had.

"That's been our historic position," he said.

Municipal Affairs Minister Rob Renner was unavailable to respond to Bronconnier's criticisms.

Previously, Renner has said the government was thinking about letting cities dip into the education levies, but the province needed assurances it was more than just a cash grab by municipalities.