Schweitzer: We plan to help lead the revitalization of Calgary’s suffering downtown

Via Calgary Herald by Doug Schweitzer

The University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy recently published a research study that said that Calgary’s downtown was experiencing a “vacancy crisis.” For those of us who call Calgary our home, this does not come as a surprise.Our once-booming downtown core had already been emptying for years before the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people being mandated to work from home, many of the towers in Calgary’s downtown have essentially been shuttered. And to put it more concretely, Calgary’s downtown office vacancy rate was 6.1 per cent in 2014. Fast-forward to the end of 2020 and it has grown to almost 30 per cent.

Rightly or wrongly, a thriving downtown core sends a signal to Calgarians, our industry and outside investors that Alberta is where you want to do business.

Alberta’s government understands that. We have been listening to Calgarians and working with industry to ensure Alberta remains one of the best places in the world to invest and innovate. That is why we have tirelessly advocated for investment and implemented pro-business policies to create an environment that will help industry succeed.

We accelerated the Job Creation Tax Cut to provide Albertans with the lowest corporate taxes in Canada — one of the lowest-tax jurisdictions in North America. We went from the worst record in Canada on burdensome red tape for businesses to one of the top grades in less than two years. Our Innovation Employment Grant is the most competitive incentive for technology investment in the country. We also recapitalized the Alberta Enterprise Corporation with a $175-million boost to facilitate venture capital investment. These are measures taken by Alberta’s government to attract job-creating investment.

We have expedited work to provide our downtown with critical protection from future floods. The Springbank Offspring Reservoir project, of which public hearings are scheduled to begin this month, is one example of work being done to protect our downtown core. This includes Alberta’s commitment to provide $196.3 million to construct this project.

We are seeing signs of growth and diversification in our economy. Last month, Vancouver-based mCloud Technologies announced it would be moving its headquarters to Calgary, with plans to double its Alberta workforce. Last year was also a record year for venture capital in Calgary with numerous companies like Helcim, Symend, Attabotics and Neo Financial hiring hundreds of Calgarians in our emerging tech space.

I’ve been fortunate as minister to have worked with so many in the Calgary community, private industry and the Premier’s Office over the last several months on how we can address the challenges facing downtown. But while there is reason for hope, there is a lot more work to be done. That is why Alberta’s government is launching a working group to engage community leaders, industry, municipal officials and everyone else who calls this city home about the future of downtown Calgary.

Calgary is not the first major city to be faced with rebuilding its downtown. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, Austin — these cities have all successfully built their downtown cores back to become bustling economic drivers. We witnessed this in Vancouver in the 1980s and closer to home, we’ve seen it with Calgary’s East Village.

The challenge facing Calgary’s downtown is not a simple one, but it is one we will face together. It will take the co-operation and ideas of our entire community to find the necessary solutions. Over the spring and summer, look for townhalls and other opportunities to engage on how we can ensure we have a vibrant and thriving downtown. We all want to see Calgary succeed, so let’s help it succeed together.

If you have an idea or opinion on how to revitalize Calgary’s downtown core, we want to hear from you. Please email

Doug Schweitzer is Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation.

Article by Lena Hogarth
March 4, 2021

Why join the CCA?

See all the benefits

Ready to join the CCA?

Join now