What's in the Alberta budget for Calgary: Mayor sees positives and negatives
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city didn't get everything it asked for from the province in its budget, but she did highlight what she called some instances of "great news" on Tuesday.
"This is a budget that indicates some pretty clear signals about projects that they believe in. And it is an indication of where they would like to partner with us," Gondek said during a media availability.
Gondek highlighted increased funding for the Film and Television Tax Credit. The budget allocates $100 million over three years for the credit.
"What that translates to is that film and television is doing well in our province. The value of productions has gone up. So the credit is going to be expending more dollars. So that's great news," Gondek said.
However, Gondek said, she was frustrated to not have seen more matching funding allocated toward the city's downtown revitalization strategy.
"We have a very clear downtown revitalization strategy that is endorsed not only by the city and council but by the private sector. So I really expected that the province would have stepped up to match some of that funding because we do need it," she said.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said the Alberta Treasury Board weighed requests for funding based on a "comprehensive rating process."
Election followers largely regard Calgary as the battleground where the next provincial election will be decided.
"When ministries bring requests, whether it's operating requests or capital requests to Treasury Board, [we] take a look at where's the greatest need and where's the greatest return on investment," Toews said during a media availability. "What are the biggest priorities for Albertans, regardless of geography?"
When asked by a reporter whether she viewed the government's strategy as being one that would "buy votes" in the city, Gondek was unconvinced.
"I'll tell you what, if I was trying to win votes, I'd be pumping a whole lot of money into the place I was trying to win votes from. This is not that," she said.
"This is a budget that indicates some pretty clear signals about projects that they believe in. And it is an indication of where they would like to partner with us. So I don't know that this is a budget that is seeking out voting opportunities."
Airport transit plan
Many of the initiatives outlined in the budget were already known. But the budget did contain some surprises for Calgary, such as $5 million in new grant funding earmarked for Calgary to complete engineering work to connect transit with the Calgary International Airport.
The provincial government says once a Blue Line study is complete, it's anticipating further funding would come from the city and federal government.
Plans for a train line to the airport have remained at the margins of deliberations by city officials for years, but were recently highlighted by Premier Danielle Smith in a letter sent to Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.
In recent months, most conversation has centred on the Green Line project. Construction on the Green Line is slated to begin sometime in 2024, and the total price tag has been pegged at $5.5 billion. The budget allocates a total of $541 million over three years for Calgary LRT projects.
Another $51 million over three years will be spent to replace the interchange at the Queen Elizabeth II Highway and Highway 566 at Balzac, Alta.
Some budget items were already known before Tuesday. The provincial government hosted several press events highlighting targeted investments in Calgary over the past week.
One such example was a capital grant announced Monday to the Telus Spark Science Centre, with $9.5 million over three years allocated. That grant will target renovations of three exhibit halls, among other initiatives.
Another already-announced initiative involved $9.6 million for post-secondary institutions in Alberta, intended to accelerate innovation in health care. Twenty-seven applications were received and eight projects were funded — three from the University of Calgary.
After last year's budget release, Gondek said the budget failed to deliver on affordable housing, transit and jobs, though she added she was pleased in other areas, such as investments in new facilities at the city's post-secondary institutions.
Such areas have remained a focus of the city, and were among the asks from municipal officials in advance of this year's budget.
Some of the other budget initiatives outlined in Calgary include:
$429 million over three years for upgrades to Deerfoot Trail.
$282 million over three years for the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir Project.
$134 million over three years to complete the Calgary Ring Road.
$59 million over three years for the revitalization of Glenbow Museum.
$48.6 million over three years for the University of Calgary's veterinary medicine expansion.
$2.6 million to the redevelopment of the Canadian Wilds exhibit at the Calgary Zoo.