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​​The following column appeared in the Calgary Sun on January 6, 2016.



Many of us are happy to see the back of 2015, and there’s a lot of concern about 2016 and what the future holds. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I know that we as a community are about a lot more than the price of a commodity. More important, I know we continue to look after one another and to build a strong, resilient community.

Despite the economic uncertainty, there’s great potential in Calgary. Last year, we were once again ranked as one of the top five most liveable cities in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit. People continue to want to move here-drawn by our vision of being a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life.

We continue to have the second-largest numbers of head offices in Canada. We continue to diversify: when I graduated from the University of Calgary over 20 years ago, oil and gas accounted for 50 per cent of our economy. Now, even after hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in our energy sector, it accounts for just 30 per cent of the economy.

Services, retail, tourism, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and the creative industries are all other sources of strength for us. In fact, Calgary actually created more jobs than we lost from November 2014 to November 2015, with all of the growth in the service sector, and our average wages were up very slightly. However, our unemployment rate, for so long among the lowest in Canada, is now just above the national average, as people continue to move here for opportunity.

But we all know somebody who has lost their job, and the pain that many of our neighbours are feeling is very real. Times are tough, and many families are hurting.

It’s always important that your city government is there for you, but it’s particularly important at this time. That’s why I was so pleased that Council agreed with my proposal to create an economic resiliency fund. We have frozen transit and recreation fees so citizens can continue to get around, stay active, and have fun. We are looking after non-profit organizations facing tough times so they can keep people employed and continue to provide essential services. We are redoubling our efforts on housing so those in need can have a decent place to live. We are working to help small businesses get through the downturn.

And we continue to invest in the right things, with the right money, in the right places. As one of the largest employers in the region, and as the provider of services that we need every minute of every day, your city government is committed to doing the right thing.

For 2016, I’ve asked my nearly 20,000 colleagues to recommit ourselves to a number of New Year’s Resolutions:

  • We will make continue to make decisions that are thoughtful, considered, public and deliberate. We will engage the community as we make tough decisions and we will maintain your trust.
  • We will make choices that invest in Calgary, improve the quality of life, and create jobs as we diversify the economy and keep people employed.
  • We will build things we need at a time when people are unemployed and construction costs are low. We will invest $2.5 billion this year in capital like roads, bridges, transit, water services, flood mitigation, fire halls, parks and recreation facilities. And, should the provincial and federal governments want us to build more, we will be ready.
  • We will continue asking ourselves, every day, "how is what I am doing right now making it better for people to live and do business here?"

We continue to provide great services for amongst the lowest property taxes of any big city in Canada. In the latest Citizen Satisfaction Survey, 80 per cent of Calgarians expressed satisfaction with city services (up from 68 per cent in 2009). But we will continue to do better. Every day.

From my family to yours: all the best for 2016! ​

Categories: Columns; Economic development; Better economy

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