Calgary City Council Debates 2023-2026 Budget Cycle

Briefing Note: Calgary City Council Debates 2023-2026 Budget Cycle

This week, Calgary City Council is debating the 2023-2026 Budget Cycle. The City’s proposed total annual operating budget will reach $4.9 billion by 2026 and invest a total of $10.2 billion in capital infrastructure that starts or continues in this cycle.

The following is a summary of the potential impact on Calgary’s local construction industry.

Key anticipated operating investments:

  • $19 million (ongoing) and $159 million (one-time) to preserve heritage assets, provide user- and business-friendly planning policies and deliver programs to revitalize downtown.
  • $3.8 million (ongoing) and $44 million (one-time) to set the foundation for work required to achieve 2050 climate targets.

Key anticipated capital investments:

  • $153 million in affordable housing to keep families and individuals housed, fostering safe, accessible and inclusive housing.
  • $170 million for downtown and main streets, improving the public realm, attracting investment and improving quality of life.
  • $42 million in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating climate risks, and preparing for the low-carbon energy transition.
  • Continued progress on city-defining infrastructure investments including the Green Line, the BMO Centre expansion and the Arts Commons transformation. We also continue to work towards an Event Centre and Field House

A full summary of key infrastructure spending is available here.

Analysis: Why is this important for the construction industry?

  • This year’s budget offers an important roadmap for the investment into Calgary’s infrastructure. We are encouraged to see the further commitment to designing, building and optimizing Calgary’s municipal infrastructure to create inclusive, accessible and resilient communities.
  • As City builders, we appreciate the commitment to new parks and open spaces for recreation, and of course, new infrastructure like bridges, interchanges, and Main Streets to deliver on the mantra of “live, work and play”.
  • These investments are vital because they underscore the importance of building a city that will continue to see growth and changes in the foreseeable future. Moreover, infrastructure spending by the City of Calgary is important because it offers jobs and certainty to our industry.

Further Considerations for City Hall:

  • The City of Calgary continues to grow at a heightened rate and will continue to do so while Canadians and newcomers are priced out of places like Vancouver and Toronto. New investments and policies must be put in place that both encourage and manage this growth. We as an industry, are willing and able to respond how best we can to help with this growth.
  • This growth, however, is further exasperated by the immigration policies of the Federal Government. We can expect 1.5 million new Canadians to join us in the next three years – or a conservative estimate of upwards of 50,000-55,000 net new immigrants to Calgary alone. This number does not reflect inter or interprovincial growth – so we can expect the number to be higher.
  • Underpinning all of this growth is the vacancies in the construction industry. 83,000 Calgarians were employed in the industry in August of 2022 – comparatively, there are 81,000 construction vacancies across Canada. A Calgary size hole in the overall construction job market exists – and everyone across the country is scrambling to fill that hole.
  • Simply put, we need construction workers in Calgary, now. We acknowledge that immigration and skills accreditation is normally in the wheelhouses of the Province of Alberta and the Government of Canada. We hope that this Council continues to support civic partners and organizations like Calgary Economic Development that have the mandate to attract and retain workers in Calgary.
  • As an industry association, we are here to help as much as we can and to work hand in hand with the City of Calgary.

Calgary’s Climate Strategy Plan, and Impacts on the Construction Industry

Following the City Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency late in 2021, City Administration has been tasked with creating a new climate strategy. The implementation plan of the strategy is a component of the budget cycle. You can find the full plan here.

Our position remains that the conversation must shift towards building our city’s sustainability – together, with the input of our local construction industry. These conversations have begun, and input on the feasibility of the City’s goals and milestones has been provided by the Association.

  • In particular, we were encouraged that facilitating and establishing a zero-based emissions exchange is a priority in the climate strategy. We have said time and time again that the development of a ZEBx-type model, as seen in Vancouver, is paramount to the success of any climate strategy – because it allows you to try out what retrofits work and don’t work in Calgary.
  • We are further encouraged of course to see the development of programs like the Sustainable Infrastructure Capital Program, Sustainable Building Policy, and the Net Zero Priority Stream of development approvals process.
Article by Lena Hogarth
November 23, 2022

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