What Calgary wants from the federal budget

Money, money, money. Quickly. That's a simple summary of what Calgary is looking for in Tuesday's federal budget, but there's a little more nuance than that.

From sexy infrastructure like the Green Line to less red tape, there's a wishlist for Tuesday's announcement

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Calgary. The city is hoping for increased federal cash and less red tape in tomorrow's budget. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Money, money, money. Quickly. That's a simple summary of what Calgary is looking for in Tuesday's federal budget, but there's a little more nuance than that. 

And while the city government is eager for infrastructure funds that will help put citizens back to work, there are also indications that Employment Insurance rules will be tweaked in order to help Calgarians, and Albertans, find their footing. 

1. Sexy infrastructure

Sexy infrastructure, yes? (City of Calgary)

​It may not get the average Calgarian swooning, but politicians love to cut ribbons and make proclamations and stand in front of things like new LRT lines. Calgary politicians aren't immune and are getting excited about more federal cash for things like the Green Line, flood mitigation projects and maybe even some more cash for the still-incomplete ring road.

2. Not-so-sexy infrastructure

Potholes don't grab headlines often, but fixing them is important and it costs money. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Always the bridesmaids, things like potholes, leaking roofs and plugged drains are critically important to fix in order for a city to function properly. Also important to the city? Affordable housing. "The number one thing you can do to have economic growth is to have a productive workforce, and you cannot have [that] if people don't have a decent place to live," Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CBC's The House.

3. Social safety net

There have been long waits at Alberta Works offices, where people can get help when their EI benefits run out. (Colleen Underwoood/CBC)

There are many Calgarians affected by the crash in oil prices and it's likely the feds are going to tackle the issue on two fronts. It's anticipated Employment Insurance rules will be relaxed to make it easier for those hit by the oil slump to access benefits. That could include extending how long someone can receive EI. There could also be rule changes allowing people to work low-wage jobs while receiving a government cheque. On a related note, McDonald's is looking to add 1,900 Albertans to its ranks.

4. Less red tape

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is hoping Ottawa cuts red tape and speeds up cash transfers to the city. (Hobvias Sudoneighm)

Nenshi wants the money and he wants it quickly in order to get people working on shovel-ready infrastructure projects. He may get his wish. University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan, who also sat on Trudeau's economic advisory council, told the Canadian Press he wouldn't be surprised to see money transfers for infrastructure sped up for areas with weak economies, including Alberta. 

5. A bigger share

Ottawa currently contributes one-third of shared infrastructure costs, but that could change. (Shutterstock)

Right now the federal government contributes one third of spending on joint infrastructure projects, but that could change. Speaking to The House, Nenshi said the feds have to increase their share. "Not all of the provinces nor the cities can afford to cost-share so that we can get stuff in the ground this summer," he said. In one local example, Ottawa has pledged $1.53 billion for the Green Line of the LRT, one-third of the estimated cost. 

With files from The Canadian Press


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