The City of Calgary is moving quickly to mitigate the economic downturn with a number of endeavours, both short and long-term. Accelerating the pace of large construction projects can be an effective way to stimulate a struggling economy and increase employment. The City has identified a list of pre-approved projects that will create jobs and leave a lasting public benefit. The projects are divided into three buckets: new infrastructure, lifecycle maintenance and enhancement, and affordable housing.
Flood mitigation measures to protect river communities and the City Centre are at the top of the priority list. Some capital projects, like enhancing community and recreation centres, can start right away, while others, like the Green Line LRT, will break ground only once community consultation is completed and funding is secured. The City will work with its community partners to construct new affordable housing units or purchase existing housing stock.
While large-scale, transformational projects have their place, incremental micro-improvements are increasingly seen as a way to phase into large investments. I have long been a promoter of low-cost, high-reward projects to create opportunity and vibrancy, test new ideas, and solve urban problems. Quick projects such as pop-up parks, patios, and restaurants take little investment but add instant vitality. Pilots like cycle tracks or lane reversals help us test new concepts before making substantial political and financial commitments. Rules can be a barrier and sometimes the rule-makers just need to know when to get out of the way.
While temporary projects can spark creative solutions, we must take a long-term approach with investments that are meant to last. Over the years I have seen both booms and busts used as excuses for shoddy design and workmanship. When the economy is booming we are in a rush to build, and success is measured by the speed of the planning process. During a downturn, we are afraid to be too demanding, for fear that that the opportunity will vanish. Calgary deserves better.
In addition to the capital construction program, City Council is working with Calgary Economic Development on economic resiliency. Several projects have already been funded:
• Marketing campaign to promote tourism
• Buy-local campaign to promote local business
• Real estate and economic diversification plan to attract head-offices and repurpose empty office space
• Grant program to cover development permit fees for new and refurbished affordable housing
The City of Calgary is doing its part to strengthen our economy. During hard times, we must manage carefully, but think ambitiously, and combine caution with optimistic long-term planning for the recovery.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.