The mayor says unless an exemption is made for cities, the provincial carbon tax is going to raise property taxes in Calgary by half a percent.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he understands the provincial government is in tough and had to make a lot of difficult choices, but the carbon tax impact on the city will be $2.7-million next year, rising to $6.5-million.
And that doesn’t include the increase in the price of natural gas.
Nenshi says this is obviously going to be a problem and the Notley government has to find a way to rebate the money or exempt cities from the carbon tax especially since the city met Kyoto requirements years ago.
He also says it’s not as if the city can run fewer buses, police cars or fire trucks.
When it comes to MSI funding, he says the province has taken a page out of the playbooks of the last few PC governments in extending the time to make payments to cities.
Nenshi says the city spent it’s MSI money, mostly on the West LRT and any delays in payments means more interests expense for the city.
The mayor though is very pleased with the focus on affordable housing and that it will make a tremendous difference and the commitment to several large infrastructure projects such as Calgary’s proposed cancer centre.
As for other reaction to the budget, it was a mixed bag.
“We want to see some greater focus and emphasis on some expense control and greater efficiency on expenses,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Adam Legge told reporters at city hall on Thursday. “We also have to have a very significant conversation about what the revenue model is for Alberta going forward, given that our resource revenue has declined and doesn’t look like it’s going to increase in the near-future.”
But the Chamber’s Justin Smith did see one bright spot, and that’s the decrease in the small business tax.
“I think they’re going to be happy with the programs we advocated for,” Smith told News Talk 770’s Danielle Smith at the legislature. “But I think there’s some question marks about a $10.4-billion deficit without a pathway to balance.”
AUPE President Guy Smith wouldn’t say if his membership would be okay with a salary and wage freeze, only to say we’ll cross that bridge when we get there with negotiations next year.
“Spending increases do not match population growth and inflation so that means extra stress on the front lines,” Smith told News Talk 770. “At least it’s not over-reacting to the financial challenges this government is facing and I think we would have seen that over-reaction from the other parties in the house.”
Paige McPherson with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation tells News Talk 770 it doesn’t make sense to ramp up spending when you can’t afford it.
“I think that it’s more unprecedented to be going into this kind of borrowing for operational spending, just to pay teachers and keep the lights on,” McPherson said. “And that is a much bigger concern because it is less-common.”