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Back  |  December 22, 2017  | 

​​We need a public high school. Sounds like an obvious statement. What is encouraging is that we have agreement between Calgary Board of Education trustees, the Northern Hills Community Association (through its advocacy efforts), our MLA and me that we must work together to make this happen. We’re all approaching it from different angles – capital, prioritization processes, operating funds, land use. Ultimately, we need to ensure that our kids are staying in their own community to attend school. Length of commute and leaving the house too early in the morning both have a negative impact on our kids’ ability to learn. We need to stop isolating the physical school site as an issue that is separate from our kids’ wellbeing: they are tied together.​


Back  |  December 22, 2017  | 

​​Unless our provincial and federal partners indicate agreement to share the cost of a BidCo, there is no means for Calgary to move further in the process on its own. Attending the games in PyeongChang is a condition of the bid process, but Calgary cannot proceed to this point unless our partners are in. There is a clear opportunity for Council to “take an off ramp” (stop the process) if we do not have partners. There is more information on the City's potential bid exploration here.​

Categories: Community; Community Building; Cost of growth; Development and Projects

Back  |  March 09, 2018  | 


As a city councillor, the wellbeing of Calgarians is a priority for me. When I hear about a resident who is actively doing her part to care for herself and her family in the face of an illness, it’s devastating to learn that our municipal policies are interfering with her path to wellness. Although the intentions of our Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw are positive, the unintended consequences in one particular case deserve special attention. Let me explain briefly.

One of my fellow residents in Ward 3 has three hens as emotional support animals to help her deal with issues of depression and anxiety that had previously left her shattered. This woman has boldly come forward to tell her story as it became apparent that a municipal bylaw may force her to part with these hens. Ms. Pike has been open and transparent about her emotional support hens, actively seeking information from all sources about how she can keep them at her home without disrupting the lives of her neighbours. Unfortunately, a neighbour complained to the City of Calgary and bylaw officers had to be deployed to Ms. Pike’s home. Because she is technically in violation of the municipal bylaw dealing with livestock, we now have a situation where she risks losing her emotional support animals.

Two things are important in this narrative. First, had the neighbour taken the time to speak with Ms. Pike directly and questioned her about the hens, it’s my feeling that s/he would not have filed a complaint. Understanding the context of these animals is critical in this situation. However, we have become a society that is more comfortable calling 311 than knocking on a neighbour’s door to have a conversation. I’m comforted to see that her community has rallied to support Ms. Pike now that she has made her story public, and I hope that this will draw much-needed attention to becoming more community-minded and being a compassionate neighbour.

Second, I am proud to work for an organization that sees the human side of situations. Since this issue came to my attention a couple of weeks ago, the Ward 3 team has been working with Ms. Pike and City Administration to see what can be done. Because we recognize the significance of these animals and this form of treatment on Ms. Pike’s wellbeing, it is our perspective that the provincial government is the key to a reasonable solution. Alberta Health Services and the medical profession recognize that this form of therapy allows Ms. Pike to address her illness in a productive manner; she has documents of support from her doctor and health officials. Therefore, the province needs to provide the City of Calgary with a mechanism that allows our bylaws to accommodate her hens.

Next steps for me will include further conversations with my colleagues, and bringing a Notice of Motion forward in the new year that enables Administration to recommend the best course of action in dealing with situations where non-traditional animals can be treated as pets rather than livestock. We are seeing more diversity in the ways we deal with illness, as well as what we consider to be a pet. Our bylaws need to keep up with the pace of change, with support and guidance from our provincial counterparts who have jurisdiction over healthcare matters. The focus here should be the wellbeing of people like Ms. Pike, and building flexibility into policies that are silent on contemporary urban issues like this one.​​


Back  |  December 22, 2017  | 


Building Safer Communities Block Watch​ is an incredible group of volunteers who have revived the concept of neighbour-based community safety. So much so, they have been asked to assist other communities in established and new areas of the city (as well as outlying areas) to do the same. You need to check out this group and see how you can be involved to promote more neighbourly interaction and organic safety practices in our community.​


Back  |  November 29, 2017  | 



Councillor Gondek spoke up in budget deliberations to request that service reductions to transit service be reconsidered. Ward 3 will be hit with extra wait times on several routes, and for those residents working night shifts or multiple jobs, the added stress is not needed. The increased wait times would also have an impact on students who may need late busses to get to university.

In tandem with support for additional funds to support the Calgary Police Service, Council needs to be aware of cutting prevention programs for at-risk populations, like youth and seniors. Desperation from economic downturns can lead to many issues that are best addressed early.

Olympic Bid

The rationale for Councillor Gondek’s continued support for exploring the Olympic bid last week was based on work already being done from previous Council direction. The City has already spent $3.5m on bid exploration. The additional $1.5m that was approved with that project is being used to gain commitment from the Federal and Provincial governments on their share for the bid book. The added $1m approved is for starting up a BidCo if the other funding is confirmed. If Council does not receive confirmation from other orders of government, Councillor Gondek will advocate ending the pursuit. If there is a commitment, Calgary has already put in our share of the BidCo funds through the leg work that has been done.


Representatives of the Northern Hills Community Association did some great work with the developer who is putting up a building in the vacant space between Superstore and Urban Barn. This land has always been planned for development, but the issue was elimination of the pathway from Coventry into the informal "high street" that runs from that spot down to Northpointe Centre (theatre, Boston Pizza, etc). The community will be getting a paved, lit and landscaped pathway from the alley access in Coventry, down towards the south side of that mall.

Secondary Suites

Councillor Gondek is working with members of Council to de-politicize the secondary suite process. Citizens don't need a Council that can be swayed by voter sentiment or emotional presentations to be making decisions on a land use item. Approvals should rest with Administration, based on clear guidelines and regulations. Council has so much more work to do and must stop wasting time on secondary suites.​

Categories: Accountability; Budget; Community; Development and Projects; Transit

Back  |  December 22, 2017  | 


There has been some misinformation circulating over what has happened in the Midfield Park situation. View Midfield Park history and current state.​ The City is holding Calgary Housing Company homes for any remaining residents who need them, and there is an extension of the services required to help assist the very few remaining residents with their transition to a new home.

In the three years since formally learning that the community would be closed on September 30, 2017, almost all residents used the transition assistance provided (both monetary and advisory). Even those who chose to take legal action against the City have been treated with compassion and are able to stay in their present homes until February 2018. City Administration has initiated many steps to provide Midfield residents with thoughtful transition options, and they are also reflecting on how things could have been managed differently. Frankly, Council could have provided different direction years ago.

Opportunities to change some decisions of the past lie outside the discretion of this Council at this time. More importantly, key points from a failed motion to Council have already been enacted (making the motion redundant and therefore not supported).​


Back  |  December 13, 2017  | 


New East-West Bus Route

First, we had an announcement from Calgary Transit this morning that a long-awaited east-west connection has been implemented for our northern communities. Last month, we directed Calgary Transit to look for efficiencies when we restored their proposed budget cuts. In plain language, we asked them to take a good look at which routes are underutilized and where service is lacking. Based on this direction, they were able to examine Routes 430 and 100 to come up with a new plan.

Starting December 25, 2017, Route 100 will now extend from North Pointe to McKnight-Westwinds Station. Travel times are estimated at about 37 minutes eastbound from North Pointe and 42 minutes westbound from McKnight-Westwinds (including a brief layover at the airport, requiring no transfers or bus changes). This route is also sensitive to the start and finish times of employee shifts at the airport. For more information, visit:

Secondary Suites Reform

Next, we passed a Notice of Motion for secondary suite reform today. Administration has been directed to bring back a revised land use bylaw that makes secondary suites discretionary in all single detached residential areas, as well as establish a registry for suites and reinstate the application fee. The end result will be a process that is based on adherence to regulations and guidelines, to be reviewed by City Administration. This means the end of public hearings with emotional pleas from those in favour of or those in opposition to secondary suite applications. Allowing people to adapt their homes for changing family needs, and providing safe options for reasonably priced housing, are two positive outcomes from this decision.

Joint Use Agreement

In addition to this great news, I continue to work with City Administration to see how the Joint Use Agreement (JUA) can be leveraged to allow complementary uses on sites that are presently designated for single uses only. Plain language – how do we use existing school sites to create mixed purpose areas that could potentially accommodate a public high school with appropriate neighbouring services like seniors’ activities, before/after school care, or something similar. It’s not the typical way to build a school, and it may be a new way to ensure our overlooked communities are retrofitted to meet our needs. I’ll be engaging with the Northern Hills Community Association, Calgary Board of Education trustees and our MLA to see if we can make this happen.

Finally, our Ward 3 Office is also looking at some issues you have raised around land use applications in the community, traffic safety, airplane noise and community standards. We’ll provide information as it becomes available to us.  ​

Categories: Community; Committees and Motions; Councillor; Council initiatives; Secondary Suites; Transit

Back  |  December 22, 2017  | 

​​Council approved an additional $90 million towards economic development and diversification efforts through Calgary Economic Development (CED), adding to $10 million committed earlier this year. This fund will give CED the ability to determine whether infrastructure improvements or similar investments/initiatives can aid our city in attracting and retaining new businesses in the wake of the oil and gas downturn. This funding is to be dispersed with oversight from a steering committee, and is not generated through increased taxes. The funds are being tapped from a Business License fund that is reliant on fees from the land development industry, as well as savings projected from previously established budgets. Without a targeted approach to changing our city from its historic reliance on oil and gas, we face an uncertain economic future. Vacancies in the downtown and resulting devaluation of many core tax revenue-generating properties has eroded the City of Calgary’s tax base.​

Categories: Budget; Economics; Council initiatives

Back  |  December 01, 2017  | 


With budget deliberations completed here is an overview of the decisions and how they affect Calgarians.

The news has reported that there is a property tax increase of 3.8% for 2018. This addresses the fact that Council provided a one-time rebate to taxes for 2017 that was not rebated again this year, as well as the planned increase for 2018 (both of which are lower than originally planned in 2014 when the 4-year budget was created). These two increases amount to 2.9%. Another 0.9% comes from an increase to the police budget, restoration of funding for transit service and restoration of funding for civic partners. Council further allocated one-time amounts of $3 million for preventative services for at-risk populations, and $4 million for low income transit passes, through reserve funds.

A word about the reserve fund, called the Fiscal Stability Reserve (FSR). This fund is supported in large part through the budgeted money that is NOT spent by Administration in a given year. So, because expenditure was less than anticipated year over year, the variance can be applied to important services as needed. Council felt low income transit passes and preventative services deserved this funding.

$45 million in reserve funding was also dedicated to offset increases to non-residential property taxes, which will hit building owners and tenants in places like Ward 3 particularly hard as outlying areas try to cover the severely reduced tax revenue formerly generated by downtown properties.

Council was also able to commit $23.7 million from the 2017 tax room to financing costs for the Green Line, meaning that this important transit project will move forward and Councillor Gondek can continue to advocate for a northbound stage 2. There is also a capital commitment of $1.7 billion to ensure the City carries forward with planned infrastructure improvements that will drive economic growth and quality of life.

For those who are wondering if administrative cuts were made, there were detailed proposals put forward from every department. In the end, Council chose a scenario that sees the elimination of about 155 positions, as well as program/service cuts that maximize efficiencies without sacrificing level of service to Calgarians. This is on top of the millions of dollars that have been saved in the past few years by non-union employees having wages frozen, including the senior leadership team. You're also probably aware that Council took wage cuts this year.

You may have also read that some members of Council were seeking deeper cuts, which some folks deem to be fiscally responsible. The fact is that a proposal to cut $5 million randomly throughout the organization was put forward AFTER Council went through a careful process of reviewing all departments and determining where Calgarians could not be exposed to service cuts. This proposal would have jeopardized service delivery on items Council had just approved, like transit and police service. It simply did not make sense.

It’s never easy or popular to deliver the message that taxes have gone up (roughly $6 a month for the average homeowner). But this was the appropriate decision to maintain service levels while acknowledging that the City is in tough economic times. Also, not raising taxes in small increments over time has led to the current state. When the City bragged about having the lowest property tax rate in Canada (and are still on the very low end), a situation was created where our city had to play catch up all at once.

As the City prepares for the next 4-year budget for 2019-2022, it will be the work of this Council and Administration to figure out a better way of generating revenue for service delivery that is less reliant on a lopsided, assessment-based tax system.

Councillor Gondek is committed to serving the needs of Ward 3 residents and bringing investment back to the communities while respecting the financial strain we are all under in our households.  ​

Categories: Budget; City Finances; Community; Cost of growth; Councillor

Back  |  December 30, 2018  | 

I hope you were all able to have a bit of down time in the past few days and enjoy Christmas with friends and family. With the new year fast upon us, I want to say thank you for your feedback, engagement and support throughout 2018. For the most part, people have been quite respectful with each other when it comes to expressing opinions about the many opportunities and challenges we face as a city. That’s important – moving forward for our collective success will depend upon our ability to practice civility during debates that move us closer to a diversified economy and return to stability for all Calgarians.

In the past year, we’ve seen some wins for Ward 3 with $22.5 million in funding for the expansion of Vivo, funding for the completion of important interchanges along Stoney Trail, funding for a right turn out of Hidden Valley on to Shaganappi, improvements to the pedestrian crossings at schools in our communities, and attention to other needs that have been overlooked in previous years.

There have been times when the City of Calgary didn’t get things right the first time, and your calls/messages to 311 allowed us to have a look and remedy the situation. Utilizing the 311 system, then follow up with my office in the event of delay, is the best way to have our community needs addressed.

As a city, we have committed funding for better snow clearing that prioritizes pedestrians as well as vehicles. We have also been able to put people back to work in professions and trades related to real estate and city-building, a combined industry sector that comprises 20% of our GDP. With the recent provincial announcement of an extension to the community revitalization levy (CRL) for the Rivers District, we have further opportunity to create an entertainment and cultural district by Stampede Park.

Given the global trend towards large gatherings of pop culture enthusiasts (think ComiCon or Fortnite World Cup), this type of district in Calgary stands to attract more visitors and jobs to Calgary, and also creates the types of properties that generate commercial tax revenue for the City. Further, it fills in the missing link between Stampede Park and East Village that can activate our music city vision and connect to the theater district. This is critical for us to attract and retain the next generations of people who will call Calgary home.

As a City Council, we also joined fellow Calgarians to send a clear message to the rest of Canada that our oil and gas sector is a critical part of Canada’s economic engine. The misinformation about energy production standards and practices in our own country has led to the present situation where many people outside Alberta simply do not understand the value of what we do. While it is not the direct responsibility of this Council to advocate for the energy sector, we are doing to because it has a direct impact on the lives of our residents. We will continue to seek out all opportunities where we can demonstrate the value of socially responsible production to our municipal counterparts in the rest of the nation.

We’re faced with another serious situation, one of imbalance in property tax ratios between non-residential and residential properties. By the end of Q1 2019, Council will need to determine whether a shift in the ratio will put us on track for better balance into the future, ending the artificial reliance we have historically had on the downtown core providing the lion’s share of our property tax revenue.

The notion of increasing residential property taxes incrementally to accomplish a long overdue shift is not popular, and it’s been back-burnered for too long because it doesn’t translate into votes. That’s the raw truth. The timing is also awful for asking Calgarians to accept an increase in property taxes/rents when so many are facing unemployment or working multiple jobs. However, if we don’t address the fact that business owners who employ Calgarians are closing their doors because of inequity in the property tax system, we will perpetuate the problem.

You can see that Council will have difficult decisions to make into 2019 and I trust that you’ll take the time to understand the core issues instead of relying on sensationalized headlines or social media posts. That includes looking past my own posts to see what information is presented through the City of Calgary website and by experts in the areas we are addressing. Inform yourselves well and try to catch the videos of Council meetings or debates that will further illuminate why we make the decisions we do.

2019 holds a great deal of promise for Calgary, along with some challenges. Together, we can keep moving forward toward a future that is both business-friendly and compassionate toward those in need. We can do this by understanding various perspectives and listening to each other. Thank you again for your engagement and all the best for the new year, from my family to yours.


Back  |  February 01, 2019  | 

While it may be true that good governance isn’t a headline-grabbing issue, it is the backbone to running a successful and efficient city. When I ran for public office, one of my goals was to find ways for Council to work better together in a more constructive manner. In the past year, I have talked to my colleagues on Council and in Administration about ways to practice continuous improvement in good governance.  At the January 14th Council meeting, I brought forward a notice of motion entitled, “Achieving Good Governance through Optimizing Committee Mandates”. This motion was a request to shift how Council currently manages important projects and negotiations by evolving our existing Standing Specialized Committee of Priorities and Finance into an executive committee of Council.

Municipal government is different than the federal and provincial governments in that it doesn’t have a partisan system with a cabinet or executive committee.  Without this, big projects and negotiations with other orders of government that would benefit from leadership by councillors are often disproportionately assigned to the Mayor and his staff.  With an executive committee, we can leverage individual council members’ experience, expertise and perspective to better represent the interest of citizens when tackling these large projects.

Citizens have asked for more efficient government practices and I believe that utilizing the skills of different councillors can improve the collaboration between the various Council committees and Administration. This also increases efficiency, transparency and accountability.  An executive committee model allows for these things to happen and I am grateful to my Council colleagues for their unanimous support of the motion. I look forward to Administration’s recommendations on implementing this new approach, and the opportunity it will provide for us to tackle the important issues facing Calgarians today and into the future.


Back  |  March 06, 2019  | 

For the past four years, Calgary has been in an economic slump that is unprecedented in many ways, yet familiar in so many others. Once again, we are hearing that relying on oil and gas too heavily as a sector is the reason we are in this predicament. The familiar calls for diversification of the economy are louder this time, and I would venture to say that we’re taking it more seriously now because there is no traditional rebound in sight. We will get through this as a city, but not in the traditional “wait and see” manner to which we became accustomed.

As a result, it is imperative that Calgary do everything it can to encourage economic growth and re-instill investor confidence. We must do this to act in the interest of Calgarians who need jobs and run small businesses. We must do this to get our investment partners back to the table, ready to enter joint ventures for important city-building projects. Frankly, we must encourage economic growth because people cannot afford to be out of work or on the verge of closing their business doors to seek greener pastures outside of Calgary.

What role does Calgary City Council have to play in this? To start, we need to ensure we are balancing our assistance to homeowners with businesses in this precarious point in history. Historically, there has been a difference between the rate of property tax that is paid by residential property owners and non-residential property owners. Over time, the ratio between the two has risen to 4.47:1, our current state. That means that for a property assessed at the exact same dollar value, a business is paying 4.47 times more in property tax. This has led to a lopsided system that is now collapsing on itself, where businesses can no longer afford the property tax increases they face year over year.

To address this issue, Council has created a Phased Tax Program (PTP) for the business community, a fund that can be accessed by application if a business owner feels they have been unduly overtaxed. This is a cumbersome process that has not been successful in the few years we have tried it. That’s why I am proposing something different.

The painful truth is that Council has not implemented appropriate, minor and incremental tax increases to residential properties over time, to keep the ratio of non-residential to residential competitive with other cities. When other places are sitting at 3:1, Calgary is not attracting its share of business. To right this wrong, we have to shift the burden to residential properties. Yes, I said that. We need to increase residential property tax rates to keep ourselves competitive.

At the same time, we need to provide relief to homeowners for this hit that is attempting to correct years of neglect. Instead of a fund or rebate program for businesses, we need to designate those funds to provision of a rebate to all residential property owners. Further, we need to provide such a rebate for a period of five years so we can simultaneously seek cost savings in the City’s budget, beyond the $500 million that has been saved in the last budget cycle.

In summary, it’s a two-fold approach I am proposing: 1) rebate homeowners for a portion of the increase they will see on their property tax bills for five years as we try to correct the imbalanced ratio of non-residential to residential property tax, and 2) set a clear target for budget savings and efficiencies within that five year period to keep cost of services (property taxes) as low as possible.

One last thought, the path to creating a more equitable model of taxation between business and residents will not be easy or smooth because we are questioning years of embedded assumptions. We are attempting to balance keeping Calgarians employed and in business with the reality of economic hardships families are facing. I feel that creating the balance into the future is critical, but it is too late to do this effectively in a slow and incremental manner. That’s why we need to fix the formula while offering a buffer to Calgarians in the form of a rebate for a fixed period of time.


Image Credit: Kelly Hofer

Categories: City Finances

Back  |  March 19, 2019  | 

This week at Council, we will be working towards property tax reform that allows us to keep our economy moving forward, ensuring that Calgarians have jobs and businesses can keep their doors open. We’re trying to ensure that your local dentist, pet shop, dollar store, coffee shop, liquor store, hairdresser, chiropractor, veterinarian, pizza shop and so many others can stay in your communities. Right now, that’s a challenge within our economic situation and property tax structure.
When we talk about a property tax shift, there is a desire by some to polarize the debate to talk about impact on businesses versus impact on residents. This is simplistic. The fact is: people can only live in a city that allows them to earn a living and have services in their communities. This is also why a group of my colleagues on Council and I have developed a plan that proposes property tax reform to: 1) keep Calgarians employed, and 2) allow them to keep a roof over their heads.
Over the past week, I have taken publicly available property tax assessment information and created a scenario that incorporates the ideas of a number of fellow councillors with my own. We are proposing a new way of looking at calculating and distributing property tax responsibility. The attached document walks the reader through the logic involved in crafting this proposal for change, and includes an example of how we can redistribute responsibility for property taxes. Please keep in mind that this an example only – there is a disclaimer that outlines this is a conceptual proposal.
There are both big picture strategies and finer details included. Here are the main points:
·         This plan creates a balanced proportion (50/50) of residential and non-residential properties paying for the City’s operating budget.
·         Instead of the one-time solutions that have acted as a temporary measure to address an increasing number of businesses closing their doors in our city and laying off employees, this plan offers a permanent change that offers economic stability to Calgarians AND eases the burden on homeowners through a 4-year rebate strategy.
·         Based on what Council approved in November’s budget, this plan is not proposing any property tax increases to the average homeowner for 2019 or 2020.
·         Based on the same November budget, this plan proposes that we identify budget savings and/or other options which could offset the increases for 2021 and 2022.
·         This plan will allow Council to set future budgets with an understanding of the assessment-based data over the previous budget period. In short, future budgets will be set by understanding how much Calgarians can bear in property taxes, and requesting that Administration draft a budget within that amount.
·         Certainty and predictability in property tax calculations and amounts can be achieved by shifting to this plan.
To accomplish this shift that will mean jobs for Calgarians and economic stability, there will be an impact to homeowners. There will be an increase in residential property taxes over time, which will be paid in full by homeowners after the 4-year rebate period. The difference between what was approved in November’s budget and this example is an increase of about $100 annually by 2022. However, we will take the next few years to find savings in this budget and future budgets to reduce impacts to all residents and businesses.
To close, this plan allows us to keep businesses open and tackle persistent unemployment. As a group of councilors representing different wards and the interests of Calgarians overall, we still have details to resolve within this proposal and amongst ourselves. At the same time, we feel this is the most equitable way to keep people in their jobs and their homes.
City of Calgary Tax Reform Proposal: Details for the Proportional Shift Strategy

Categories: Accountability; Budget; City Finances; Cost of growth; Council initiatives; Councillor; Economics

Back  |  May 07, 2019  | 

Residents of Ward 3 will notice some minor reductions in frequency of the #123-Sage Hill / North Pointe Route and the #124 Evanston Route. The purpose of these adjustments is to make deliberate revisions to services levels based on ridership demand and route productivity. Calgary Transit will closely monitor these route changes and will evaluate further adjustments based on demand and feedback. For more information visit

Categories: Budget; Community; Transit; City Finances

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.​