Since being elected in 2013, I have come to accept that being a fiscal hawk on Council can be a very lonely experience. It is only now, just months before an election that I find myself surrounded by newly minted fiscal conservatives, all of whom are clambering for your vote. I, along with many Calgarians, find myself wondering where all of them were over the last three years?! In fact, this past spring, while we discussed the strategy for a newly found budget surplus, I wished an election were held every year. That way, the residents of Calgary would get the kind of fiscally responsible city government they deserve.
I am proud to say that since my last election platform in 2013 I have stuck to my promise of defending taxpayers’ dollars, raising the hard questions to administration, and even raising the ire of some of my colleagues on Council. But this is a small price to pay, because I was elected by you, not my colleagues, and I will continue to do what I feel is right to better represent my Ward 4 residents.
My record stands for itself: I have continuously voted against raising your property taxes; I have said repeatedly that the City should lead by example, and that Council and administration should take a pay cut. I have voted in favour of freezing our wages. I have asked nonstop that any surplus that is found should go back to taxpayers (again it was only this year, in an election year, that my Motion to give back the money passed in Council); I have consistently asked administration to find savings, and efficiencies, in their budgets and cut costs through attrition.
When Council asked a volunteer committee to look at Council’s pay and benefits, the Chair was rudely attacked, and I was the only one who voted to end transition allowance for Councillors if they retire or are defeated. I even voted to reduce our salaries. The rest of Council voted against that motion and the advice from a 3rd party review committee. Elected officials sometimes feel they are entitled to such compensation, but I do not. There are many more examples of me being one of the few, and indeed often the only one who says what many of you are telling me at the door: that you can’t afford endless tax increases.
Calgary has found itself in another boom bust cycle. The dollar is weak, and the price of oil is low. I know what it takes to run a business. I had my own years ago, and it was long hours, and the hurdles Government puts you through – it felt sometimes like they wanted you to fail. This is not right.
Calgary has had over 11,000 businesses close their doors in 2016. This is 11,000 entrepreneurs with families that are hurting. This means even more employees are hurting, and this cascade of closing doors is hurting us all in some way. We all know of a local salon now closed, a pub that is gone, or a service company that is doing the best they can, but won’t make it much longer without some relief. We all know a company owner taking a pay cut to keep their staff, and employees who take cuts across the board so their fellow colleagues don’t get laid off. But with the City, the increase in property taxes this year, for many, was the final straw. This is not right.
For the last 4 years I have listened to residents tell me over and over the need to alleviate higher property taxes. The arguments against this are the same. The surplus, divided amongst property owners, is so small that “we should just keep it” – and when they ask for a tax increase, the dollar amount is so small that it won’t matter to the average Calgarian. It does matter. Every tax increase means that you have less money in your pocket – less for your bus pass, grocery bill, or a tank of gas. It all adds up. You and I only have one wallet to pay these increasing taxes and fees – and it’s time for the City’s hands to stop digging deeper and deeper.
This current City Council culture needs to change. The City needs to see business owners as something more than a tax cash cow, and taxpayers as more than an ATM machine. Change, however needs to start at and come from the top. I have often been the lone voice on Council asking tough questions that do not earn me much support from City Hall. But after years of door knocking I know that you have told me to keep going and to keep their feet to the fire.
That is why, if you re-elect me on October 16th, I will keep fighting for what’s right, as a fiscal hawk on Council, and will continue to defend your tax dollars.
I will also push for my vision of Calgary, and how we can make the City a friend of small businesses, and not the hindrance many owners tell me it feels like, when they come to seek permits and support. The City needs change from the top down, but to do that you need strong voices at Council to keep hammering away at administration to find savings, to find ways to cut regulations, and to find ways to be an ally of entrepreneurs and taxpayers.
My promise to you is simple. I will continue to be that voice for the people of Ward 4.