Loading articles...

Mayor butts heads with Chamber on responsibility over property taxes

Last Updated Nov 13, 2019 at 1:53 pm MDT

FILE PHOTO: Calgary Chamber in downtown Calgary. (PHOTO: Sandra Prusina, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Who is ultimately responsible over the rising property taxes affecting some Calgarians and businesses?

That issue was among the discussion at the Chamber of Commerce event on Wednesday, where Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke to the business community.

“Ultimately, the long-term answer is tax reform. That’s going to take a lot of courage from politicians at every level,” Nenshi said. “A structural solution means the province has got to change legislation.”

Nenshi has made this assertion several times in the past months, as talk of tax shifts has dominated at Calgary city hall.

Just the day before, city administration presented a report on the effects of tax increases and the impact of a zero per cent increase, if the councillors choose that.

While homeowners would be paying over $5 per month more if the city sticks with the planned 3.02 per cent increase, if it drops to either 1.5 per cent or zero, there would be more service cuts.

Most importantly, a zero per cent increase means the city could not fund the Calgary Police Service to balance out cuts from the provincial government.

“Council has to decide which poison they want,” Nenshi added to reporters after his appearance.

But the Chamber is not so sure that the solution lies in legislative changes up in Edmonton.

“No, this is definitely a city issue,” said Chamber President Sandip Lalli.

During a Q&A session after Nenshi’s speech, Lalli and the Mayor butted heads on the topic as they have different ideas on how to exactly solve the issue and prevent both homeowners and businesses from paying more.

RELATED: City council talks taxes and budget for 2020

“We as a business community don’t want to hear province, federal. We want to know we have a plausible solution for the city, how do we get it across the line,” said Lalli.

“Look, it’s every politician’s favourite game to blame the other orders of government,” Nenshi chimed in. “But in this particular case, we operate under a system imposed upon us by the province.”

As Nenshi also pointed out the day before following a special council meeting, no matter which decision is made, Calgary will still have the lowest residential property tax rates and among the lowest business tax rates.

Plus, the results of the 2019 Citizen Satisfaction Survey indicated that people are more focused on services like roads, transit and police.

“But the property tax is up 14 points from spring to now,” said Lalli.

“But I will tell you that, when people were asked what are the major issues that are facing you and what do you care about for the city, taxes was mentioned by eight per cent of people. Roads was mentioned by, you know, 82 per cent of people.”

Nenshi noted that this is a frustrating situation, but that the city is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“I hate playing ping pong on this,” the Mayor said.

But no matter what, one point they do agree on is this has to be settled on the week of Nov. 25 when the final budget discussions get underway.

“Because otherwise, we will continue to patch this, it’ll be magnifying the problem,” said Lalli. “I don’t feel comfortable. I feel the same way I felt prior to the conversation.”