Coun. Ward Sutherland on diversifying Calgary's economy

City councillor Ward Sutherland on the city's spending plans, and what could be done to diversify Calgary's economy through the creation of an 'inland port.'

Turning our city into an economic 'inland port' is one way to get off the oil-and-gas dependency

Calgary Economic Development says even amid the current economic downturn, the city's competitiveness compares favourably with 10 peer cities around the world. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Editor's Note: For Calgary at a Crossroads we invited Calgary councillors to write a New Year's message to their city. Here's one who took us up on the offer.

This is a challenging time for The City.

Though some Calgarians are familiar with the boom and bust cycle of Alberta's oil-based economy, this downturn is different.

Has the Calgary economy reached the bottom?

Most experts predict Calgary will experience a slow and gradual return. I have asked many different leaders from various industries and the general consensus is late 2016 may be the bottom of the cycle.

However, this setback will not stop our economy, our city, or our lives.

The reality is we have a new environment and we will adapt accordingly. We will adjust to this change and continue to strive to make this city a great place to live.

Eight billion in spending

City council has already made a significant announcement to move $8 billion in capital on projects to stimulate the economy within our borders.

The City of Calgary is not borrowing this money or raising taxes, as the money to be used was saved from previous capital projects.

The city is playing catch-up on long-overdue infrastructure that could not have been done before the downturn.

This means the infrastructure is coming in at a lower cost, which will save taxpayers money.

The projects will also generate sales for local businesses and a host of jobs for Calgarians (construction, accounting, legal, etc.).

An inland port

The latest economic downturn is a reminder to all Calgarians that our economy cannot rely so heavily on oil and natural gas.

The City of Calgary is taking steps to diversify and branch into different industries.

The sun is setting on Calgary being so heavily reliant on the oil-and-gas industry, says Coun. Ward Sutherland. (Matthew Brown/Associated Press)

As a member of the Calgary Economic Development board, I can speak to the city emerging as a leader for "inland ports," otherwise known as distribution hubs for transportation. 

Calgary can be the centre for Western Canada for truck and train transportation.

The difficult times

For 50 years I have lived in Calgary. This is a unique and wonderful city to live in because of the people.

We respect diversity and embrace all cultures. We enable citizens to succeed and to achieve a high quality of life.

The recent flood is an excellent example of residents getting together to face diversity by giving their time to volunteer.

Calgarians pitched in to help each other out during the 2013 flood. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

In 2016, I know we can continue to support our neighbours through this downturn, because that is who we are.

We think of each other on a regular basis and work together to get through the difficult times.

In the New Year, please know that my colleagues and I are here to support Calgary and its residents, and to help assist in moving the economy forward into more stable times.

CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads.


Ward Sutherland

City Councillor

Ward Sutherland was elected to Calgary's city council in 2013. Previously he had spent 25 years in management at companies like Sony and Tim Hortons. He's worked on community issues such as traffic calming and wetlands preservation.


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