In keeping with our recent (and rather dry) newsletter theme on growth and taxes, I wanted to share one solution under consideration: The Civic Charter.
A bit of history: The City of Calgary’s current legal arrangement with the Province of Alberta stems back to the days of Confederation when over 80 percent of Albertans lived on the family farm. Canadian cities were considered “creatures” of their province, with limited powers of self-determination. Now, over one hundred years later, with 83 percent of Albertans living in cities, little has changed in our regulatory relationship. The City of Calgary falls under the sames rules and has the same powers as the the Town of Rosebud. (Fun fact: Municipalities in Alberta are only required to do two things - hold elections and bury people.)
To raise revenue, Alberta cities are limited by the Province to property taxes (widely considered a regressive tax) and user fees. Faced with extreme growth bursts, Calgary is unable to charge for the full cost of new development. We are dependant on other orders of government for grants, while services long considered Federal or Provincial responsibility, like affordable housing or low-income subsidies, are being downloaded to the City.
Figure 1 illustrates the gap between revenues and expenditures with all orders of government and illustrates the challenges facing Calgary.
After decades of discussion, the Government of Alberta, the City of Calgary, and the City of Edmonton signed an agreement in late 2014 to negotiate a Civic Charter. The key areas under discussion are Governance, Planning and Development, and Assessment and Taxation.
A Civic Charter could allow Calgary to look at different funding methods other than property taxes, including the ability to negotiate with developers for full-cost recovery rather than the current system of taxpayer-funded operating costs and debt-financed infrastructure costs. A charter could also help Calgary be more nimble and responsive to wild growth swings.
The concept of a charter goes far beyond financial independance. It could also allow us to make our own decisions on important issues like campaign finance reform, residential speed limits, building codes and safety standards, and quotas for affordable housing in new communities.
The issues around funding growth will continue to be part of our discussions at Council. I will share more about the Charter negotiations as they progress. Please visit druhfarrell.ca for more information regarding Ward 7 and other issues facing our city.
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.