Mayor Naheed Nenshi and five aldermen debated options for using $52 million in tax revenue today in a reality TV-inspired showdown at the Devonian Gardens in downtown Calgary.
- Scroll down for a play-by-play of the event
The event was meant to get Calgarians thinking about the big decision council has to make in July about the money, which came available after the city absorbed the unused portion of the provincial education property tax.
"I think this is the direction we need to go in for government," said Troy Millington, who was a spectator at the event. "We need to talk more, we need to have respectful commentary from different perspectives and we need people to be able to look in, understand and see how that decision making is happening."
Each alderman presented his or her idea for the tax money, and then debated the merits as a crowd looked on.
Options on the table include lowering taxes for homeowners in 2014, reducing non-residential property taxes, paying for transit projects, paying down debt or improving infrastructure in older neighbourhoods.
No clear winner
Calgary businessman and philanthropist Brett Wilson, formerly from CBC Television’s Dragons’ Den, was enlisted as a "provocateur" to guide them through the pitching process.
Wilson took critical swings at all five options as a way of getting more information out to the several hundred people who watched the lunch hour event.
While there was no way of telling which option people liked best, Wilson says the power of the event will lie in what happens next.
"The real prize comes in taking this material, running it back out through social media and then letting the communities take a look at this conversation that was just held," he said.
"So it really is, it's the tip of iceberg in terms of community engagement and I thought it was pretty cool as an opportunity."
Public feedback sought
May 29: Stephen Avenue from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. MT
May 31: Northland Village Mall Centre Court from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. MT
June 1: Chinook Centre Court from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. MT
June 1: South Centre from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT
June 2: Sunridge Mall Centre Court from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. MT
The event is part of a two-week public consultation on the major spending decision.
The city also launched the website calgary.ca/52million to outline each of the five ideas and garner feedback. There will also be "engagement opportunities" until June 2.
Nenshi said the point was to have a little fun, which he thinks is a good idea given the political scandals happening in Ottawa and Toronto lately.
"You know, sometimes we are so deathly serious about things and what we really have to do is show people that all five of these options are good options," he said.
City officials say the event cost a couple of thousand dollars to stage.