83% say Calgary's quality of life still good despite recession, city satisfaction survey finds

Roughly two years since Alberta started its slide into recession, eight in 10 Calgarians say they enjoy a good quality of life, according to the city’s 2016 Citizen Satisfaction Survey.

But 'tolerance for tax increases' is down, annual report finds

The 2016 Citizen Satisfaction Survey suggests eight in 10 Calgarians continue to say they enjoy a good quality of life, despite the economic downturn. (CBC)

Roughly two years since the bottom fell out of the oil market and Alberta started its slide into recession, eight in 10 Calgarians say they enjoy a good quality of life, according to the city's 2016 Citizen Satisfaction Survey.

While still a high score, that figure is down three percentage points from last year's survey. And 37 per cent of Calgarians who took this year's survey said their quality of life has worsened in the past three years.

"The last 12 months have proven to be difficult for our city, with the impacts of a slowed economy being felt more acutely than in 2015," says the survey's final report.

"Our research suggests that Calgarians are looking to government — federal, provincial, and municipal — for leadership and sound investment to strengthen and diversify our economy moving forward," it says.

"However, Calgarians are also looking to government to be more watchful and aware of how their tax dollars are being spent."

The survey found that 49 per cent of Calgarians support tax increases to maintain or expand services — a 10 percentage point drop from 59 per cent in 2015.

Another 46 per cent of respondents said they support cutting services to maintain or reduce taxes — a 10 percentage point increase from 36 per cent in 2015.

"The tolerance for tax increases is down markedly," the report says.

Satisfaction with the city's property tax assessments is also down 10 percentage points this year to 73 per cent.

However, 63 per cent of Calgarians still say they get good value for their tax dollars, the same as last year.

Respondents were also 25 per cent less likely this year to agree with the statement "Calgary is a great place to make a living" than they were in 2013.

That year, 90 per cent agreed with the statement. In 2015, the figure fell to 80 per cent, and this year it dropped to 65 per cent.

The survey consisted of telephone interviews conducted with a randomly selected sample of 2,500 Calgarians aged 18 years and older between Aug. 18 and Sept. 6.

Landline calls accounted for 70 per cent of the data, and 30 per cent of the samples came from cell phone calls. The average interview length was 31 minutes.

'Neighbours are hurting'

"The positive is that people still really value city services and still perceive really high value for money," Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the growing negative numbers in the survey are worth watching. (CBC)

"However, obviously as we look at this a lot of our neighbours are hurting in many ways, and so the biggest thing that I need to think about is … 'What can the city now do as a result?'"

Nenshi said there are a few things the city can be working on, such as building more infrastructure while costs are low and people are unemployed, and continuing to pitch Calgary as a great place to set up a business.

The mayor also said the city has to ensure it's operating as efficiently as possible, and next week council will debate making adjustments to the final two years of its current budget.

Confidence that "Calgary is on the right track to being a better city 10 years from now" has waned, the survey found.

In 2013, 41 per cent strongly agreed with the statement, while this year that rating dropped to 30 per cent.

The survey found that eight in 10 Calgarians continue to say they're satisfied with the overall level and quality of services and programs provided by the city.

Asked whether the city should invest more, less or hold steady in specific areas, the top choice for boosted funding was affordable housing for low-income families, at 65 per cent.

The city got high marks this year for its environmental record.

Ninety seven per cent said the overall state of the environment in the city is good, and 48 per cent said it's very good. That score is up seven percentage points from 2015, when it was 41 per cent.

(City of Calgary)
More than eight in 10 Calgarians rate their quality of life as seven or higher on a scale of one to 10. (City of Calgary)