City of Calgary job postings for cycling, walking coordinators vanish after backlash

Two job postings that have caused on online uproar appear to have been taken down by the City of Calgary.

Some councillors criticized city for advertising jobs paying up to $135K per year as property taxes rise

Cyclists make their way down the 5th Street S.W. cycle track in Calgary. The city has removed job postings for walking and cycling coordinators after the job ads sparked a debate about spending. (CBC)

Two job postings that caused on online uproar appear to have been taken down by the City of Calgary.

Late last month, the city posted competitions for a Walking Coordinator and a Cycling Coordinator — both of which were positions that already existed and were budgeted for. 

The positions were aimed at planning for infrastructure and advocacy for alternative methods of transportation. The previous cycling coordinator, Thom Thivener, oversaw the creation of Calgary's downtown cycle tracks, among other duties. 

The salary for the posted positions ranged between about $88,000 per year to more than $135,000 per year, the standard pay range for an administrative lead with the city. 

Qualifications were listed as a degree in civil or transportation engineering plus six years of experience, or a degree in architecture or urban planning plus 10 years experience, or a master's degree with six years working in the field.

Sean Somers with the city's transportation department confirmed that the positions won't be filled for now, but he said it's still in the early days and the city hopes to "determine what the best approach is to deliver on the priority."

"The long and short of it is this is still very important work for us. We need to be an accessible city," he said.

"But in the context of our current economic reality, we're going to find different ways to get that work done, so essentially doing more with less."

He said the positions have existed for about a decade, but the department made the decision not to backfill them for now and to instead spread the work out among the current team. And that call wasn't a political one — it was made by the general manager of transportation, Somers said.

Implication that jobs were new

Coun. Sean Chu argued the positions were a waste of taxpayer dollars, and Coun. Joe Magliocca said in a post, "City Council needs to focus on needs, not wants."

Both councillors are open critics of the city's cycling strategy. 

Coun. Shane Keating pointed out in a blog post that the cycling position already existed and was left vacant by a former employee — Thivener — yet the online debate was giving readers the impression that a council committee had created the jobs.

"There were some claims made on social media by councillors Chu and Magliocca, interest groups and members of the public that councillors during the Transportation and Transit Committee voted to approve this position. That is a ridiculous claim and is fundamentally false," he wrote.

"I'm not entirely sure if they are intentionally getting this wrong, but we have an obligation to give Calgarians the facts."

Keating says if the city has since pulled the job postings to review the salary range, that's probably a wise move.

But he noted that people hired for such positions do need to be highly skilled.

"If you're hiring an engineer who specializes in whatever mode of transportation, they come, you know, with a set of expectations of what their education and what their time and what their position is worth," he said.

With files from Scott Dippel, Sarah Rieger


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