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Back  |  April 06, 2018  | 


Waste and Recycling Changes

I would like to take this time to discuss the factual background and future for Calgary regarding service fees and financial reporting. Before we address moving to actual service fee costing instead of the current subsidized service from the general tax pool, I need to discuss the upcoming Budget 2019-2022. 

Background - Budget 2019-2022

City budgets have mostly been by department, which does not reflect the actual cost of delivering specific services. This previous accounting structure and software did not support the ability to provide true cost of services. Being without structure and tools to determine actual costs is not in the best interests of Calgarians because if you cannot compare costs accurately, how then can you improve efficiency and maintain best value costing?

As the previous Vice Chair of Priorities and Finance for the past three years, I can speak of improved accounting practices and software that were undertaken over the past three years to prepare for the Budget 2019-2022. This upcoming budget will be a completely new structure of accounting. It will be a service-based budget, which means Calgarians will know the actual cost of services delivered by the City. This will give you the opportunity to better understand what exactly the City does and what services are delivered. Additionally, it gives citizens the opportunity to decide if they are getting value for that specific service.

Zero Base Reviews

In the past three years, The City has conducted Zero Base Reviews (ZBR) of various departments. A ZBR is a program that reviews through an independent consultant, all the best practices and efficiency of the department and makes recommendations to Council for consideration. I am pleased to say that this process has resulted in millions of dollars of permanent savings, which in turn reduces tax implications in the future.

Within the current budget process, there are many different “revenue” sources. I have always advocated that several of these revenue sources are actually hidden taxes and that we need to be more transparent to citizens, such as Enmax contributions, commodity fees, and gasoline. I’m a strong advocate for looking at opportunities to compare services with private industry and whether or not it makes sense to move forward with the best outcome for Calgarians. In fact, I have pushed for having one third of Calgary’s waste removal services to move to private industry to create a competitive environment and allow comparative costing and service. A report will be coming forward this year to address this proposal.

Political Spin and Sound Bites

In light of a recent opinion article about The City’s black cart fee, I would like to bring clarity into this matter. I find it unprofessional and opportunistic to say “administration hides information or chooses not to give it”. As councillors we have thousands of pages of preparatory documents to read.  Council has specifically given City Administration direction to limit the information, with the understanding that we would contact them for any details or ask at Committee. This is how most work gets done in committees and this is where councillors get into the weeds.  An effective councillor is involved in a Committee before, during and after they contribute towards exploring solutions for better levels of service and more cost efficiency.


The City’s conversion to a direct service fee for waste, recycle and compost bins reflects the actual cost to deliver those services. Currently, the costs are being subsidized through a general tax pool, which is a hidden cost. The City wants to make the fees fair and clear. The City is changing how residents are paying for their waste and recycling services. Currently, for single family households, black cart program are paid through property tax. Thirty percent of green cart program are paid by property tax and the remaining 70% is paid through waste and recycling fees. The blue cart program are paid through waste and recycling fees. For multifamily condo households, black bins are paid through property tax. For blue and green services, residents pay a fee to a private sector server. The City believes the current method residents use to pay for waste and recycling is confusing. The City would like to make the payment process easier to understand for all households. They propose that all the waste and recycling fees for the black, blue and green cart programs be paid through your utility bill.

Do overall taxes go up?  The answer is no. Overall, the same money in is the same money that goes out. It’s interesting that when other levels of government do something with taxes, the same councillors say “It’s all the same tax-payers”. However, in this case, somehow money in and money out is not the same tax-payers? 

Moving Forward

Councillors should be working on solutions to maximize the value for the services delivered. The municipal election was decided months ago. Now is the time to get into the weeds and deliver. I believe the golden rule in business is - “Praise in Public, Criticize in Private”. I have been able to implement positive changes for business and Calgarians by working in the background with Administration and other councillors. Isn’t this where should our energy should be spent?

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Categories: Councillor

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.​