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Video: Mayor Nenshi's welcoming and inclusive Calgary

On Thursday, December 11, 2014, Mayor Nenshi gave a "passionate speech about the tremendous city we live in" to hundreds of Calgary business-people. Hosted by the Calgary Chamber, the speech addressed the state of business in Calgary, but--more important--Mayor Nenshi spoke about the challenges we all face to ensure Calgary is a welcoming, inclusive community of opportunity for all. It is an important speech about the future of Calgary and we are pleased to share it with you.

While the entire hour is worth viewing, here is a list a quick links to get you to specific parts within the speech:

  • Opening from Adam Legge, President of the Calgary Chamber (0:00)
  • Introduction by John Piercy, SVP of Shaw Business (8:32)
  • Mayor Nenshi on the state of business and citizen satisfaction (11:12)
    • "We're about much, much more than one number"
  • Calgary's new four-year budget and business plan (18:10)
    • "Efficiencies are baked in." "Calgarians consistently tell us they want more and better services."
  • The challenges facing Calgary business (23:52)
    • "The world is not all sunshine and roses."
  • The promise of a great city (26:05)
    • "The opportunity right here, right now, to live a great Canadian life."
  • Improving hiring practices in Calgary (27:33)
    • "How are our hiring practices... maximizing the potential of the people that live here?"
  • Affordable housing and secondary suites (35:32)
  • Ensuring a welcoming city for all; thoughts on Bill 10 (41:48)
  • Concluding thoughts on the kind of city we want (47:01)
    • "I saw the Christmas spirit in June."
    • "Recommit ourselves to community, to citizenship, to compassion."
  • Lightning round Q&A (54:52)
  • Thanks to Mayor Nenshi from Jerry Rudelic, President and CEO of Alberta Blue Cross (59:39)
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Column: City of Calgary a lean, efficient machine; Latest budget contains more than $50 million in efficiency savings

I haven't written an op-ed in the Calgary Herald for over a year, so the passing of The City of Calgary's new four-year budget and business plan seemed like a perfect opportunity to return. Here's my column as it appeared in today's newspaper:

This week, after six days of pretty intense debate, your city council passed its four-year business plan and budget, with a final vote of 14-1. Before I tell you a bit about what the budget means to you, it's helpful to step back and take a look at the process.

First, why is it that you never see such intense scrutiny of a federal or provincial budget? After all, over 90 per cent of the taxes you pay go to the provincial and federal governments (and Calgarians, as a whole, send nearly $4 billion a year to the provincial government, and over $11 billion a year to the federal government, than we get back from either of those governments).

The answer is two-fold: first, your municipal government holds itself to a very high level of transparency and accountability. We started discussing this business plan and budget in January, and more than 24,000 of you participated in helping to build it - online, at public events, even on the Engagement Bus. You told us what you wanted more of, what you wanted less of, and how we should pay for it.

Second, the city calculates our taxes and budgets differently than other governments. Our only source of tax revenue is the property tax. I'll save the lecture on why this tax is regressive and unfair for another time, but allow me to explain that the city uses a revenue-neutral process, meaning that we don't get any benefit from increases in property values - the tax rate is reset every year to ensure that the dollars raised are the same as last year.

This means that, to cope with inflation and growth, we must explicitly change the tax rate. This is unlike the other governments, who automatically get more: if your income goes up, your provincial and federal taxes go up. If more people buy stuff, the federal government gets more GST.

Your city council has also chosen to have the budget discussion in public, live on TV and the web, with every senior manager coming to council to defend every budget line - talking about what they do and what value they add to the community.

And do they ever add value. In the recent city satisfaction survey, 79 per cent of you were satisfied with city services (up from 68 per cent in 2009) and 65 per cent said you get good value for your tax dollar (up from 49 per cent in 2009).

So, what's in this budget? First, know that your city is lean and efficient. The budget is full of benchmarks comparing our work to other governments and to the private sector.

A few random examples: Calgary's labour cost in fleet services is 20 per cent below the Calgary market. The number of water main breaks is the lowest of any major city, and our wastewater treatment costs are far lower than places like Toronto and Winnipeg. Our road costs per lane kilometre are the lowest of any major city.

But we can be better. We are undertaking zero-based budget reviews of all our departments and are already seeing savings in places like roads and parks. In addition, this budget contains over $50 million in efficiency savings. We continue to make structural changes to reduce energy use and create a more financially sustainable city.

In this budget, you'll see a number of positive changes, including the launch of the Green Line Transitway and introduction of four-car CTrain service, replacement of two major bridges, building three interchanges, and the widening of McKnight Boulevard, new fire stations, and new police, fire and bylaw officers, as well as new and refurbished parks, recreation centres and arenas to keep up with growth.

And you get all that for the lowest property taxes of any large city in Canada.

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi
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Donate to the Mayor's Annual Christmas Food Drive

Today, I joined with The Calgary Food Bank, my City of Calgary colleagues, Canada Safeway, many local media personalities, and representatives from every organization in this poster to launch the 26th Annual Mayor's Christmas Food Drive.

While I'm proud that Calgarians come together (whenever the need arises!) to help their neighbours, I'm sad to say that the need has not gone away. Too many of our fellow citizens still go hungry. Over the last year, 129,948 families and individuals had to use the Calgary Food Bank, and 42 per cent of them were children.

The holidays aren't an easy time for a lot of our fellow Calgarians--especially following the heavy September snowfall and power outages in the core in October. And the Calgary Food Bank knows the need for food hampers is about to jump (as it always does in December) by 70 per cent.

Last year, Calgarians helped raise over half a million dollars worth of food and cash donations through the Mayor’s Christmas Food Drive. Please help me to beat that amount this year. Together, we can make our community hunger-free.

You can donate food at any of our partner locations (indicated in the poster) or make a cash donation online.

Thank you!

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi
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Survey says: We love our city!

I love good data because it leads to good decisions. The release of today's annual citizen satisfaction survey gives The City an excellent, quantifiable snapshot of what Calgarians are thinking.

The data show what most Calgarians already know: we live in a great city with a high quality of life. We are proud to live here and, for the most part, we get good value for our tax dollars. Plus, we're optimistic that, as a community, we're on the right track. I’m proud that the citizen satisfaction survey has consistently shown this since I've had this role.

You can review all the findings at, but here are a few highlights:

  • Quality of life perceptions remain very high, and much higher than in 2010.
  • Satisfaction with city services remains high.
  • When it comes to the big issues, infrastructure, traffic, and roads remain at the top, followed by transit.
  • Nearly two-thirds of people perceive good value for their municipal tax dollar.
  • There's broad consensus asking for more investment across city services.

I encourage you to dive deep into the study, which was conducted by respected research firm Ipsos Reid.

As we get closer to budget decisions over the next two weeks ( the opinions of you and your fellow citizens will continue to be very important.

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi
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Huge improvement at Calgary Transit: Real-Time bus information!

Really big news out of Calgary Transit! Starting immediately, you can get real-time bus information using, the mobile site, Teletext, and Teleride--that means no more waiting for the bus in -27 degree windchill! Instead, you can check for the next bus and find out exactly how many minutes away it is based on its GPS location.

This revolutionizes the way we use Calgary Transit, and it is a dramatic step forward in making transit much more customer-focused. The new website is also much better (and mobile-friendly!) so it can be your best source for next ride information and route planning.

As we created the RouteAhead (Calgary Transit's first long-term strategy), we often heard from customers about what we could do to improve customer service. The new website, improved trip planner, real-time data, and multi-language supports are in direct response to what we heard.

To learn more about the improvements of, check out the video above.
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Mayor Nenshi Reads: The Change Your Name Store

In this latest edition of Mayor Nenshi Reads, the Mayor Naheed Nenshi reads The Change Your Name Store by Calgary author Leanne Shirtliffe with illustrations by Tina Kugler.

This is one of a series of children's books read by Mayor Nenshi to encourage literacy and reading time with adults and kids.


Action Plan is The City's budget, and it needs your feedback

Today, The City of Calgary released its four-year business plan and budget--Action Plan. Unlike other orders of government, there are no surprises in this $22 billion plan. It was created starting with the input of citizens and public direction from City Council. Now that we have this comprehensive budget, we are looking for your feedback on it (by phone, online, or in person). And, in the coming weeks, City Council will debate, line by line, the Action Plan that will guide our municipality for the next four years. It's important stuff, so I hope you have an opportunity to check it out.

Here's my letter that appears in the beginning of Action Plan...

Fellow Calgarians:

Business plans and budgets are some of the most important documents we can create for our city. They provide a detailed roadmap for Calgary over the next four years—direction to over 15,000 City of Calgary employees and many community partners to deliver important daily services, programs, and infrastructure to 1,195,200 Calgarians. 

This is your document. Action Plan is based on a month of engagement, and discussion with thousands of Calgarians. You told us about your priorities and Council, in turn, based its priorities on what we heard from you. From there, our colleagues in The City of Calgary produced a very thorough set of business plans and budgets.

Our biggest issue is managing growth. This is certainly better than the alternative, but it means we have to make smart decisions about how we grow to ensure prosperity and opportunity. In fact, since I've been your mayor, we have experienced three of the five largest annual population increases in our history. We have added an entire City of Red Deer two times over! 

I’m proud that, together, we've produced an Action Plan that provides the services and infrastructure Calgarians need while keeping our property taxes among the lowest in Canada. Of course, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we now have a solid foundation from which to start.


Naheed K. Nenshi