I told you Calgary wouldn’t get what it needs and deserves in this budget.
Funding for the Alberta Creative Hub? – can’t find it. If it’s in the budget, they’ve buried it deeply.
Funding for a new library at Mount Royal University? – MRU has long been promised $85.5 million from the province for the library and learning centre, but has been given only $30 million in the budget.
And revenue sharing with the city? – As Joan Rivers would say, “Oh, please!” That’s not even on the table, and the Municipal Sustainability Initiative? – cut again. More later, but for now, read on and find out what Calgary should have received, and why….
Forgive me, but since I’m no longer an elected provincial official, I am going to argue for the things that should be in today’s provincial budget for Calgary. Why? Several reasons…
- I live in Calgary.
- 1.2 million other Calgarians live here too.
- We collectively are the economic engine of the Alberta economy, providing many of the services, much of the expertise and a disproportionate amount of the tax base that powers the entire province. (We shovel 9 dollars into the Dome for every buck’s worth of service we get back from the province.)
- By population, if Calgary were its own province it would be bigger than Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Not that I’m recommending we seek provincial status, but perhaps the city is big enough to be treated as an equal order of government rather than some ketchup-loving hick town.
- Far from doing Alberta any harm, a strong, equal, and respected Calgary is good for all of Alberta – except maybe the PC cabinet and caucus and the stolid bureaucrats in Edmonton who toil daily in the service of maintaining their comfortable status quo.
Speaking of Edmonton – whose misfortune it is to be stuck with the provincial government in its midst, like so much bad cholesterol clogging its arteries – Edmonton has many of the same issues as Calgary, which is why both big cities are trying to negotiate a Big City Charter with a provincial government that has no apparent real interest in treating them as Big Cities.
However, I’ll let others speak for Edmonton. I’m going to focus three things Calgary needs and bloody deserves.
- Provincial funding for the Alberta Creative Hub. This will jump start the television, film, and digital industry – not just here in Calgary, where it’s proposed to be built, but in Edmonton too and across Alberta. We already have an industry of talented film and TV crews who can hold their own with the best that Vancouver, Toronto, or even LA has to offer. We already make world class episodic television and shoot (a few) big budget Hollywood productions here. The thing is, we would produce so much more if we actually had the facilities in which to make movies and TV shows. Redford and her minions are always yammering on about economic diversification. Hello….it’s here! It’s this! For $13.2 million dollars over three years – that’s four and a half million a year, less than the cost of 15 km of highway, less than one elementary school, much less than even a small hospital, so in other words, beer money to a government whose last budget topped $40 billion – you get exponential growth in a green, low-carbon-footprint industry that Alberta could showcase around the world and which, more importantly, could showcase Alberta to the world. You get something in the neighborhood of 5 to 6 thousand new jobs. You get a $5 return on investment for every dollar invested in the screen industries. You get spinoff benefits in the tourism sector. You get an incubator of training and mentorship. You get spinoff benefits that nurture an entire creative sector. And you get an industry that cleans up after itself. For $13.2 million over three years. The city, and the industry, has been waiting for over five years now for the government to write that comparatively small cheque. Why?
- A new library for Mount Royal University. The first ask for provincial funding for that was made five years ago. MRU is s-t-i-l-l w-a-i-t-i-n-g…. Mount Royal is, in all other respects, an excellent university focused on teaching moreso than research and focusing on turning out excellently educated undergraduates. But it is hobbled with a glorified high school library from its community college days. Calgary – and Alberta, and Canada for that matter – need MRU to be everything it can be. What we don’t need is for the Redford Government to keep holding it back.
- A sustainable, steady, predictable source of revenue – and I don’t mean the Municipal Sustainability Initiative. Those are just grants – an allowance, which puts Alberta in the role of parent or master and Calgary in the role of child or slave. The MSI program has already been pushed out beyond its promised ten-year run, so that the province can shrink the amount it doles out on an annual basis, and the PCs do this to the city all the time. Over the years, the PCs have downloaded so many responsibilities, programs and services onto Calgary that it’s time for them to pony up and vacate a percentage of their provincial income tax take to the city.
I know…some of you more Wildrose-inclined readers are shaking your heads and thinking, “Good God, Redford-the-closet-Liberal’s drunken-sailor spending spree has already put the province’s finances into the rhubarb and this Commie Taylor wants to spend even more???!!!???”
Well, no, not exactly. The Premier says – well, she says a lot of things she later apparently forgets that she’s said, but in the case of the budget, she says her government is going to deliver a responsible budget that will profoundly change the course Alberta is on and help overcome our reliance on volatile commodities. So I’m showing her three ways to do that. Modestly fund the Alberta Creative Hub in pursuit of real, achievable economic diversification. Find the money for a new library for Mount Royal University because Alberta’s future depends on an excellently educated population that can get us beyond oil. Give up some of the income tax revenue you collect now so that Calgary – and Edmonton – can adequately fund the programs and services they must provide not only to their own people but to all Albertans.
Oh, and one more thing. Get rid of Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths. He’s arrogant and demonstrates no apparent interest in understanding city issues. (I don’t think he’s biased, though. The country people I know don’t think much of the job he’s doing on the rural stuff, either.)