Coun. Keating on city council's need to spend in 2016

Councillor Shane Keating on how Calgary needs to spend next year, prioritizing social programs, and taking advantage of the downturn to invest in much needed infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure investment as job creation and growth plan

A Calgary city councillor says spending on infrastructure, programs and services is one way the city can help Calgarians mitigate the economic downturn. (@vhmillsy/Twitter)

Editor's Note: For Calgary at a Crossroads we invited Calgary councillors to write a New Year's message to their city. Here's one who took us up on the offer.

Calgarians are resilient. Calgarians also look out for each other. We proved that during the floods of 2013, and we are proving it again today.

In recent memory, oil has been very good to Calgary. The oil and gas industry has created a lot of jobs and prosperity in the city. When the industry does well, Calgary does well.

But what goes up, must unfortunately come down.  

Calgarians came together to support each other during massive flooding in June 2013. (Submitted by Monique Beaumont)

A hard year

A global collapse of oil prices has hit the industry very hard over the last year. Oil and gas companies have been laying off workers, and many Calgarians are finding themselves unemployed.  

With oil prices not cooperating, many Calgarians are finding that the struggle is very real.

So what role should the City of Calgary play in all of this? The city has a role to play in times of plenty and in times of pain. 

In times of plenty the city should work to stay out of the way of private enterprise.

In times of pain, the city should work hard to stimulate the economy and find ways to put its citizens back to work.  

The city has an obligation to ensure that some of our most vulnerable Calgarians are not forgotten. A struggling  economy does not mean that we can ignore important issues like homelessness and access to affordable housing.  

Now more than ever we need to look out for each other. 

If council chose to not fund public programs and services, we would be turning our backs on some of Calgary's most vulnerable people.

More families in Calgary may be turning to Calgary Transit as a more affordable transportation option. 

More low income Calgarians may need to make use of affordable housing. These folks need our help.

Not spending is not the solution.  

Need to spend 

Council needs to carefully evaluate spending to ensure Calgarians are getting the absolute best value for their tax dollars. If council chose not to fund important infrastructure projects, Calgarians would suffer.  

Don't believe me? Ask the folks in southeast Calgary that are spending hours every week stuck on Deerfoot Trail.

What council must do is carefully prioritize what Calgarians' tax dollar will be spent on. 

Which programs will provide the largest benefits to Calgarians? Which infrastructure projects will create the most jobs and best position Calgary for future growth? How do we best position Calgary for future growth and prosperity?

The current economic climate does offer some opportunities.  

Time to build

Interest rates are historically low. Construction costs are lower than average. Unemployment rates have risen in Calgary over the last number of months.  

The availability of construction labour is high; workers are looking for jobs. So what does this mean for Calgary? It means that now is the time to build.

Last week council made a very meaningful investment in Calgary's transportation future. Council voted to extend a commitment of $52 million annually over a period of 30 years to pay for the Green Line LRT.  

This is a project that could create as many as 23,000 construction jobs. This is a project that will dramatically improve Calgary's transportation network and make a drastic improvements in the lives of half a million Calgarians.  

An artist conception of one of the options Calgary city council is considering for the new Green Line LRT route. (City of Calgary)

Funding a project like the Green Line is the right decision at the right time for the City of Calgary. 

The Government of Alberta will still need to fund their contribution for the Green Line. I sincerely hope they have an appreciation for the urgency surrounding this project.  

With interest rates and construction costs low, we will save a considerable amount of taxpayer dollars. If we delay, we could be putting the taxpayer on the hook for a much higher price tag.  

I represent one of the fastest growing areas in all of Calgary. Despite the early impacts of this economic crisis, Ward 12 is still growing at a very dramatic rate.  

While development has continued and population has grown, the investment in infrastructure for Calgary's deep southeast has not always kept up.  

We need to create a Calgary that provides opportunity for citizens to live, work and play.  

We need to invest in making Calgary better.

CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads.


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