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 ca