Calgary

'Book is not closed' on Calgary downtown revitalization, says Alberta's finance minister

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the province's work "is not done" when it comes to its commitment to the revitalization of the downtowns of Calgary and Edmonton.

$5M allocated in provincial budget for strategy to bring new life to city's core

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews spoke during a lunch hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Monday and touched on downtown revitalization in the city, among other issues. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the province's work "is not done" when it comes to its commitment to the revitalization of the downtowns of Calgary and Edmonton.

"Ultimately, the solution for Calgary's downtown, for Edmonton's downtown, is investment attraction and economic growth," Toews said during a lunch hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Monday. 

"To do that, we need to continue to position this province for disproportionate investment attraction and growth. And we're doing that, and this budget does that, and we're starting to see the benefits of that."

As part of last week's provincial budget, the province allocated $5 million toward the city's downtown revitalization strategy.

That drew criticism from both Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, says the Alberta government should look at implementing property tax relief or a penny sales tax to revitalize Calgary and Edmonton's downtowns. (University of Calgary)

Both indicated they had hoped the provincial government would provide more than that figure, especially given the city's $250-million investment into revitalization.

"The problem is we really need funding to accelerate the process," Yedlin said. "We don't have the luxury of time, and $5 million is not going to do what we need it to do for downtown Calgary."

Toews said the province planned to work collaboratively with Calgary and Edmonton on revitalization, adding that the province's core responsibility is to attract investments and economic growth.

"We know there's work ongoing. We will be a willing partner, and a co-operative partner, finding solutions for downtown," he said.

In a statement, NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips called the minister's speech "shameful."

"Despite these challenges facing Calgary's economy, the UCP has failed to present a plan for jobs or economic diversification. We need to do much more to support the people of Calgary, grow the economy and create jobs," Phillips said.

Last week, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi similarly lamented the $5 million allocated toward downtown revitalization in that city, calling the funding "completely unacceptable."

Around one-third of the downtown office space in Calgary has emptied out since 2014.

With files from Karina Zapata

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now