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Office of the Mayor

Ten Years Together - Transforming Government

A Story of Transforming Government

I’ve got nearly 15,000 colleagues at the City of Calgary. They drive buses and clean the streets. They’re the first on the scene in an emergency and on the other side of the most difficult phone call you’ll ever make.  They look after our green spaces and teach our kids to swim. They take care of our waste and recycling, and give us a gift that a billion people in the world don’t have: the gift of clean water every minute of the day. And they do it for amongst the lowest taxes in the country.

Every one of my colleagues by the same simple mantra: Making Life Better Every Day. Over the last ten years, we’ve been transforming government by putting you, the citizen, at the centre of everything we do. It’s about finding new ways of delivering services, about embracing risk thoughtfully, and about adopting technology to be better.

But it’s not just about keeping taxes low; it’s about helping businesses in Calgary succeed and helping citizens live great lives here.. 

Let’s hear from some Calgarians on how we are making life better every day.

Government isn’t always known as being very fast.  As the economy shifts, both in Calgary and globally, the need for the public sector to work quickly is becoming more needed than ever before. Annie McInnis of the Kensington Business Improvement Area (BIA) spoke about The City’s response to help local businesses among the chaos of larger economic forces. 

“The last five years have been the most challenging of the 17 I’ve been working in Kensington,” she says. 

“But I can point to two actions on the part of The City that really benefitted the BIAs and our members. 

“The first was the Shop Local campaign. That was city-wide. It educated people about the importance of shopping locally and the value of supporting these character, outdoor shopping districts.”

She also points out that The City isn’t afraid to look at the structural issues that are challenging businesses, with the tax shift creating problems that are larger than any quick fixes can handle. She says that Calgary is a clear leader in this model of thinking.

“The second action is the Financial Task Force,” she adds. “I’m not sure how many Calgarians are aware of this work, but it investigated what other sources of revenue might be available, aside from property taxes, permits, or fees. We’re seeing the evolution of economies to a more gig economy, to more part-time, and to more home-based working rather than in offices. Companies realize they don’t need every sitting in an office.

“To be thinking about these issues ahead of time, it puts us ahead of the curve compared to other Canadian cities,” she concludes.

University of Calgary researcher and local Cronk enthusiast,  Dr. Paul Fairie agrees with that sentiment. 

“The concentration of high-value buildings in one sector is a problem that Calgary has. One of the great things that Calgary has recognized is that part of the problem is this combination of the energy sector and the downtown properties with the realities of the property tax system,” he says. 

“Talking about it openly is a really big step forward. Part of the problems we’ll have to face going forward is that some of the power to fix this sits in the Province’s hands,” he says, hopeful of the changing narrative. 

“Calgary is a city that is really well positioned to rebuild itself in new and interesting ways. We have that dynamic and young population with really high skill. If we can harness a lot of the talents of the people who live here, we can ride along less with those up and down swings.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Calgary in March 2020, a lot of local businesses were forced to close or alter their business. One business, Annex Ale Project, decided that rather than try to wait out the virus, instead, they’d try to be part of the fight against it. 

“We got this idea pretty early on that we could start filling this gap in the hand sanitizer industry,” notes Andrew Bullied, co-founder of the business. 

“And we could make a contribution to the efforts to slow the rate of the pandemic,” adds Erica O’Gorman, the other co-founder. 

But while hand sanitizer and beer are both alcohol-based, their processes require different equipment, different safety measures, and fall under different regulations. 

“We didn’t have the proper infrastructure in place to handle such high alcohol, and we were getting hundreds of calls and emails a day,” adds Erica. “Within 12 hours, we had a whole City team show up at the brewery.” 

“By announcing early that this was happening, the fire department showed up and did a little bit of a risk assessment that you could very easily blow yourselves up here,” laughs Andrew.

“Having the city’s support has definitely helped our business grow,” Erica notes. “To exist at this point in time, I think we all know we need to work with one another on many different levels.”

I’m a technocrat (or “nerd” if you prefer). Much of my time as Mayor has been focused on things that don’t always make the news; things that help build a smarter City Hall. Hearing first-hand from those that have felt that change lets me know that what we’re doing is working. We’ll keep making life better every day.

Categories: Transforming Government

This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Mayor 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.