Bell: Kenney, Calgary's empty offices and city hall chaos
It does not feel like April Fool’s Day though there are fools. But they’re not funny or entertaining or clever. More like pathetic.
The empty offices of Calgary’s downtown are very real, on this day and every day, though there is plenty of flim-flam to go around.
Premier Notley is in the city again. The premier says she knows this is a difficult time for Calgarians. People are worried about their jobs, the value of their house, the education of their kids.
Notley says Calgary is one of the most diverse and dynamic places on Earth.
Notley says she has worked hard for Calgary. She loves Calgary, don’t you know. She definitely loves our votes and needs them desperately.
United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney wants to cut corporate taxes in each of the next four years, giving Canada the lowest business taxes in Canada and lower than in many U.S. states.
He says the downtown offices in Calgary won’t fill themselves. He says Trudeau and Notley have spooked investors.
Notley, for her part, says the tax cut is “an historic giveaway.”
Kenney insists the tax cut opens doors. It’s the carrot to get dollars back here. He points to the flight of money and jobs stateside.
The man who wants to be premier says the tax cut helps him talk up the advantage of investing in Alberta when he buttonholes business types in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, New York and Houston.
“We need to get back in that game. That’s what the job creation tax cut is about,” says Kenney, adding the red tape of regulation also needs cutting in an Alberta that’s the most over-regulated economy in the country.
“These two measures alone, I think, will create billions of dollars of new investment and start to fill up those office towers all over again.”
Kenney also asks Calgary city council to think about the fact “more and more taxes is a recipe for fewer and fewer jobs.”
If the United Conservatives are elected on April 16, they will create a yearly financial report card on local governments, including Calgary city hall.
It’ll point out things like spending, debt and the property tax burden.
On Monday, the city council clown show was set to decide on who gets taxed what since the office towers downtown aren’t kicking out as much cash as the good old days, with many of their offices now sporting vacancy signs.
Again, it is a clown show with no amusement.
Watch the circus dragging on hour after hour after hour and it’s clear some councillors don’t know what they’re doing. They’re not prepared. They’re not organized.
They throw out ideas without having all the information. They cook up brainwaves on the fly and then stagger through, trying to explain what they mean.
Some have called it sausage making but that’s an insult to the fine sausage makers of this city.
City council often goes around in circles, one baby step away from chaos.
The city hall higher-ups are the highest paid babysitters in Calgary and those they’re looking after are not among the best behaved.
As the gabfest stumbles to the finish line, we realize when it comes to city taxes they’ll be going over much of the same ground next week. Same time, same awful channel.
Sean Chu is one councillor who talks up Kenney on the council floor and says he is sure investment will come back to the city.
Chu mentions the story from last week, when Toronto city councillor and NDP loyalist Mike Layton wanted that city’s council to look at suing oil companies for climate change costs. Kenney got fired up and contacted the Toronto mayor and councillors.
Layton’s idea is going nowhere.
Chu says the city of Calgary could maybe invite Layton here.
”Not next week,” says Chu.
”Maybe four weeks from now. I’m sure he’ll ride his bike from Toronto to Calgary without using any oil whatsoever.”
The Alberta election campaign continues, mostly dreary, mostly detached from the taxpayers paying the bill.
Do the political insiders give a damn about what’s happened in Calgary?
“I think there’s a lot of people living in a political bubble who don’t have a clue,” says Kenney.
“Something like 45,000 white-collar jobs have been vapourized in downtown Calgary. Anybody who says the election is about anything other than getting the economy back on track is out of touch with reality.”
Still, the geeks of the political world play in their own little treehouse, talking to themselves.