Calgary mayor says Alberta budget fails to deliver on affordable housing, transit and jobs
Jyoti Gondek praises some key investments — but says it's what's missing that hurts
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says she is pleased with certain details in Thursday's provincial budget, such as investments in new facilities at three major post-secondary institutions. But she's less enthused about other aspects, such as cuts to affordable housing.
Finance Minister Travis Toews introduced the 2022-23 budget in the legislature on Thursday with a commitment to balance the budget for the next three years.
Gondek said she is pleased the province is investing in new facilities and renovations at SAIT, the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.
But she said the province isn't putting up any money to help cover the shortfall in the transit budget caused by the pandemic.
"What we are left with now is a situation where I will need to go to the federal government and basically beg to access the funds that we are not able to leverage right now, because our provincial partner has not put any money on the table," Gondek said.
This year's budget funds a number of specific initiatives and organizations in Calgary, including:
- $59 million for the expansion of the University of Calgary School of Veterinary Medicine.
- $41 million for SAIT's John Ware Building redevelopment project.
- $38 million to replace the existing office of the chief medical examiner in Calgary.
- $97 million for new facilities across Alberta, including the Repsol Sports Centre, the Calgary Stampede Foundation SAM Centre and the Canmore Nordic Centre.
- $744 million in total and $474 million over the next three year for the Springbank off-stream reservoir flood mitigation project.
Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said she's disappointed the province has only $5 million for the city's downtown revitalization strategy — something the city has invested $250 million in.
But she said the prospect of a balanced budget is good news.
"The fact that it's a balanced budget is something nobody would have expected. From a fiscal standpoint, this is very important," she said. "We have something to build on."
1/3 After investing $250 mill into downtown & economic recovery, Calgary awaited a meaningful matching investment from the province. We received $5 mill in the budget. That’s a 2% “match”. At the same time, they will take $778 mill as their share of your property taxes.—@JyotiGondek
Gondek said given the city's support of downtown revitalization, the provincial numbers are disappointing.
"I always hesitate to call something an insult, because a little bit of money is better than none. But this is absolutely not what a partner should be providing," she said.
"I've had better conversations than this with the federal government. They have probably invested more in housing conversions and energy transition centres than this provincial government has."
Alberta will invest $63.5 million to create 11 new operating rooms and 17 additional recovery beds at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
The new operating rooms will provide up to 7,000 more surgeries each year.
Funds for interchange
The budget also included word that the provincial government would contribute $6 million toward completing the interchange at Stoney Trail and Airport Trail.
That development is expected to clear the way for a major new development just outside the city's boundaries.
Genesis Land Development is planning the major project just east of Stoney Trail called Omni. It will include commercial, retail, office and residential developments.
Arnie Stefaniuk, a vice-president with Genesis, said Omni will create 3,300 jobs at full buildout, so getting the interchange built is an important part of the project proceeding.
"It provides the key transportation access into the site and also into the region around the site. So this is a very major piece of infrastructure for the region as a whole," Stefaniuk said.
Stefaniuk said Genesis is still seeking all of the necessary approvals for Omni and would like to start construction next year.
With files from Scott Dippel