Calgary

Naheed Nenshi says Calgary infrastructure financing should be explored

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the downturn in the economy might be an opportunity for Calgary to catch up on its infrastructure needs — even if it means taking on more debt.
Mayor Nenshi today criticized the Tories for calling an early election, saying he has heard from many Calgarians who "are not happy," about going to the polls. (CBC)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the downturn in the economy might be an opportunity for Calgary to catch up on its infrastructure needs — even if it means taking on more debt.

"We have quite a long construction schedule, taking us beyond 2020," he said. 

"If the price of construction falls really significantly over the course of this year, can we borrow against our future cash flows that are already in place and accelerate that construction and get the stuff built while it's cheaper? I don't know the answer to that question but I think that it is a question well worth bringing up."

Nenshi points out that seven bus rapid transit ways across Calgary expected to cost roughly $1 billion could get going sooner. The idea is that the city would borrow that money at low interest rates.

The city is getting close to its self-imposed debt servicing limit. The city's total debt will go above $4 billion this year, but that figure is expected to start dropping after next year.

"The debt servicing limit is something that, you know, is probably up for negotiation and discussion with the province," said Nenshi.

"At this point because such a large portion of our debt servicing limit is very short-term debt, so if we had to go above it briefly in order to take advantage of these costs it might be something the province would be well worth looking at."

But any decision to take on more debt would have to be approved by city council.

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