My thoughts on Alberta Budget 2017

Minister of Finance, Joe Ceci, tabled Alberta’s 2017 Budget Thursday, March 16th.  I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the items of the Budget and Ministerial Business Plans that are of particular interest to me; as a professional in community development, a Calgarian, a resident of Ward 11 and as a candidate for City Council.

 1. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People was a strong and common theme across Ministries.  I strive to  increase my own cultural competency related to urban First Nation, Metis and Inuit Peoples and their experiences as residents of Calgary. And surrounding nations.  If elected, I will work tirelessly to promote the adoption of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action and to build relationships of trust and consultation with Treaty 7 nations, particularly the Tsuu T’ina nation, band and council.  In my community development work, I have had the privilege to sit alongside members of the Indigenous community to address and better understand issues related to intergenerational trauma and poverty

2. The newly established Ministry of Children’s Services will invest over $320M across Alberta in Child Care, but I think Calgary can do far more than we currently do to support an enhanced system of Early Learning and Child Care.  A municipal strategy that improves the accessibility, affordability and quality of child care could save thousands of dollars for Calgary families each year, increase women’s participation in the labour force and improve outcomes for kids.  Cities and towns across Ontario have been doing this for years, Vancouver does it, and Edmonton is in the process of planning how it too can enhance the local system of Early Learning and Child Care.

3. In Economic Trade and Development, we see the Community and Regional Economic Support Program, to increase local sustainable economic development initiatives.  There is significant opportunity for Community Economic Development to make a difference at the local level, building on local assets, expertise and community need.  CED and social enterprise, local investing and co-operatives will not diversify the economy to such a degree that it reduces our reliance on oil and gas, but they can be powerful tools for fostering entrepreneurship, social innovation and community resilience.

4. I was happy to see a clear statement of support for an urgent response to reduce the harms associated with opioid misuse.  Calgary has a crisis on our hands, and we cannot afford to do nothing in the face of such suffering.

These are all positive strategies that invite Calgary City Council to engage with our provincial counterparts in collaboration and partnership.  However, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more information regarding the following issues that I would like to give my attention to if I were elected Councillor

1. Family and Community Support Services (“FCSS”) - the 80/20 provincial/municipal partnership between the province and municipality to fund preventive social services.  FCSS funding remains unchanged this year at $101 million

2. Affordable Housing - I look forward to the release of the Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy and the opportunity to implement it in such a way that those who struggle with chronic or occasional homelessness may be provided with sustainable and appropriate housing.  It’s release is scheduled for Spring 2017

3. City Charters - Happy to see that the modernized MGA is continuing to move forward with a tentative completion date of fall 2017.  However, there were several risks identified to the implementation of the City Charters with Calgary and Edmonton.  I would like to see these risks mitigated or addressed in an expedient way so the work of the City Charters may continue in a transparent and efficient manner

4. Calgary Ring Road - Key Strategy 2.3 of the Ministry of Transportation is “Continue construction of the Calgary Ring Road”.  Thank goodness.  Construction zones, traffic changes and disturbances as a result of the project will be affecting residents for Ward 11 for years to come.  I'd like to see the work progress efficiently with as little impact to constituents as possible.