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Back  |  June 08, 2019  | 

 

 

​Many people have been asking what my take is on the current motions to deal with the business tax situation. It’s a complex issue but I wanted to explain why I have some challenges with what’s currently before Council.

As I suggested last week this is primarily a distribution problem. Many businesses have received very large tax cuts but many other small businesses have received tax bills that have gone up over 30% this year. This is unacceptable and we must do something.

Every single member of council is working to fix the situation we’re facing. Where we disagree is in the details of exactly how to address it. I wish there was a simple solution but this is exceptionally complex. Those disagreements have landed us in this position and it’s one I don’t feel good about.

My job as Mayor is to look out for all Calgarians, which has been the philosophy I’ve used in approaching this issue from the beginning when I first pushed for business tax relief three years ago. I strongly believe we cannot fix this problem with any one method – we have to find a balanced approach that takes into account businesses, homeowners, and everyday Calgarians who need and value the services public servants provide.

Last Friday, I thought we were in a good place, with 14 members of council having agreed to actions which would have given most small businesses a large break and kept their tax bill essentially the same as last year. We were also committing ourselves to future budget savings to keep that plan sustainable. I supported this plan because it provides immediate relief and it promises future relief, all while keeping citizens at the centre of any decision that we make.

The final wording of the new Notice of Motion is quite different, and I find the details challenging.

I believe that new plan goes too hard, too fast for marginal improvements. While it would help some small businesses more than the previous plan in the short term it could hurt other Calgarians, and may go on to create a larger structural problem next year when property taxes return to the status quo. The latest proposal asks for $60 million in cuts in just half a year in order to provide a 10% reduction to non-residential taxes. That’s like cutting $120 million from the whole year, and it only gives Administration one month to find these cuts. We’re agreeing to cuts before we even know what they are and I find that very troubling. There is no way this won’t mean cutting things that matter to Calgarians.

To be clear, cutting city spending can and should be part of the solution. We didn’t talk much about the $600 million in cuts the City made between 2015 and 2018 (and the many layoffs that resulted) because we made those changes carefully to create the least harm for Calgarians - so that citizens wouldn’t have a shock when they learned the services they count on were suddenly going to disappear. And no one should take joy in job cuts. But when we have time to plan, we can do things in a much more judicious way that doesn’t have a negative impact on the people that need services the most.

We’re really close to a really good solution. With minor changes to what’s being asked for, we could still provide a tax freeze while being thoughtful with what we have to cut.

This issue has been very political, but for me, this job has never really been about politics. It’s about people. It’s about finding the solution that helps the most number of people and hurts the least number of people. If it helps people, if it helps business, if it helps our City, that’s a solution I’m ready to sign on to. I’ve never cared whose idea it is, as long as it’s a good one.

I’m confident we’ll provide relief for businesses on Monday but I’ll continue to advocate that we do so in a way that takes into account all Calgarians and the long-term implications of our decisions.​​

 

Categories: Better economy; Budget

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