Calgary

Calgary pulling together list of projects for life after pandemic

Calgary's mayor says it's no secret the city's economy will need a boost when the COVID-19 pandemic passes — and he wants city hall to be ready to roll.

Nenshi says governments are interested in creating jobs, getting economy moving when crisis is done

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city is pulling specific projects from its unfunded infrastructure list so it has a list of items ready to go when the COVID-19 pandemic passes. (Adriean Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Calgary's mayor says it's no secret the city's economy will need a boost when the COVID-19 pandemic passes — and he wants city hall to be ready to roll.

Naheed Nenshi told city council's intergovernmental affairs committee on Thursday that the city is pulling specific projects from its unfunded infrastructure list so it has a list of items that are ready to go.

He said other orders of government are looking for post-pandemic ways to immediately create jobs and get the economy moving again.

The need is particularly acute in Calgary, which Nenshi said has been ravaged by the pandemic, by the recent oil price crash on global markets and the fact the city has yet to fully recover from the 2015 recession.

While he wouldn't get too specific about what's on the list or how much it might be worth, Nenshi said the city should talk about how much cash the federal and provincial governments might be willing to offer.

"It's a question of how much money the other orders of government want to spend. Interest rates are at historic lows," Nenshi said.

"This is a great opportunity to really do a lot of this work but you know, I'll give you one example. One project alone, the Green Line, that's 20,000 jobs."

City has candidate projects

The $4.9-billion LRT project is at the megaproject end of the spectrum. But Nenshi said not all local infrastructure projects need to be blockbusters.

He pointed to unfunded maintenance work that is needed to help keep hundreds of the city's affordable housing units available for people who need them.

"It's indoor work, so it can happen through the year and you know, it keeps people like painters and floor people and framers in work and a lot of those people are very worried about their economic future," Nenshi said.

"Those are the sorts of things that we're really pushing forward to the other orders of government."

City can't boost spending

The city has no room to move beyond its budgeted capital program.

The mayor said the pandemic has resulted in a drop in revenues and it's spending more on unbudgeted items.

Unlike the federal and provincial governments, the city cannot run a deficit.

He estimates the pandemic is costing the city up to $15 million a week. 

Nenshi is holding out hope that the province will allow the city to run a one-time deficit or that there will be some kind of bailout package put together for Alberta's municipalities.

He said there is no capacity to raise taxes during this economic crisis to help balance the books.

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