‘We’ve never had this level of responsiveness from the federal government,’ Mayor Jyoti Gondek said
Calgary is changing tactics for its annual submission ahead of the federal budget, with city officials saying they have an ear for direct advocacy in 2022.
The government of Canada is currently in the consultation period before the budget is prepared, and municipalities are among the many groups that offer feedback.
City of Calgary senior intergovernmental strategist Jeremy Clarke told council’s intergovernmental affairs committee Tuesday that the feds are showing a willingness to work directly with municipalities.
That gives the city an opportunity to deliver more specific requests ahead of the next budget, rather than a long list of new investments that would need to come from multiple different departments.
“I’m not sure that the provincial government is in a position these days, for a variety of reasons, to be a super meaningful partner with the city in some ways,” Clarke said, adding it makes sense to focus more advocacy at the federal level, especially while there’s still strong interest in more investment to generate economic recovery.
“That’s not just driven by reaction to the provincial relationship, but also by what we’re seeing with an increasingly engaged federal government with cities, municipalities and our partners.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that mayors of other large Canadian cities are hearing a much more receptive tone from the feds, but next steps need to be “intentional.”
“We’ve never had this level of responsiveness from the federal government,” she said. “They are finally starting to see the value of working with municipalities.”
Clarke said work like Calgary’s downtown office conversion program is ripe for generating more investment. It’s already off the ground and the city is putting their own money toward it — plus, it’s a potential opportunity to see how the system works and could be applied in other Canadian cities.
“Calgary is a bit of a canary in the coal mine for downtowns,” Clarke said. “We’re seeing other downtowns, in response to COVID, sort of starting to experience some of the same challenges.”
Coun. Peter Demong said the hope is to create more of a dialogue for investment in Calgary, especially when there are projects already underway.
“I would imagine that would make it so much easier for the federal government to turn around and say, ‘If the city is already doing that, why don’t we jump in?’ And maybe we can convince the province to do it at the same time.”