Mayor Naheed Nenshi is defending the city's decision to ask Calgarians what to do with $52 million in education property tax revenue vacated by the province.
"When people use language like, ‘Oh, they’re stealing the money from you, they’re using it for their own purposes,’ let’s remember that regardless of what the option that’s chosen is, the money goes back to the people," he said.
The city asked Calgarians if they want the money used for debt reduction, transit projects, lowering the business tax, renewing infrastructure in older communities or lowering property taxes.
City council will decide in July what to do with the money.
He said Tuesday he has not made up his mind about what the city should do, but he is starting to develop something beyond the five options that were in the city's public consultation that wrapped up on Sunday.
"My suggestion will probably be look for something that hangs together coherently," said Nenshi. "I have an idea of one option that might mix a couple of different things but actually makes sense philosophically, but I will leave that for future attractions after I see some of the public consultation."
Provincial notions ridiculous, says Nenshi
But Nenshi said the provincial government's claim it lowered the education property tax to give Calgarians a break is absurd.
Premier Alison Redford said she would like to see some of her taxes back as a Calgarian, and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said publicly the move was council’s to make but the money was designed as a tax break for Calgarians.
Nenshi says the Redford government never tried to make political hay out of lowering education property taxes when it brought down its budget in March.
"If they had even realized that they'd left this money on the table in such an austere budget, do you really think that they wouldn't be shouting that from the rooftops?" said Nenshi.
"So to characterize this post-facto as, 'Oh, we gave Calgarians a tax break and the evil, evil city council is taking it away' is a bit ridiculous."