Story: ,

Video: Poverty in Calgary--the problem, perspective, and opportunity

On March 5, 2015, Mayor Nenshi was a speaker at the 14th Soul of the City event hosted by Calgary Economic Development. The topic: poverty in Calgary. In this candid address, the mayor challenges stereotypes about poverty and addresses his own personal experience with poverty.

During his address, he challenged Calgarians to support the Enough for All strategy to end poverty in Calgary.

This is one speech not to be missed!

An update from Mayor Nenshi: A Better Calgary in Progress 2015


Every year, we do a survey of Calgarians to get a snapshot of how you feel about your city, and the results have been consistent over the past few years: Calgarians are proud, optimistic, and very satisfied with the service they get from their city. Compared to other cities, that’s amazing. It means that we (your government) are on the right track, but it also means you expect us to constantly improve, become more responsive, and serve all Calgarians with the high quality of service you’ve come to expect.

Over those four years (and a handful of months), I've worked hard as your mayor to lead City Council on the issues that matter to Calgarians. Together, we’re better managing growth, improving transportation options for all, investing in our communities, and making a more citizen-focused government.

In the past year and a quarter since I was re-elected as your mayor, we've done a lot to make Calgary even better. From breaking ground on new recreation centres and the New Central Library to conducting more zero-based reviews of City departments to advancing new Calgary Transit projects, it has been a busy time. This document is a brief look at some of the progress we've made, and it is organized based on my re-election campaign platform. The list of highlights below is not everything we've done, but it’s a good collection of the work we do that I committed to doing during the last election.

It’s a great honour to serve as your mayor. I will continue to work hard to fulfill the promise of our community: a city of opportunity for everyone.


Naheed K. Nenshi

Even Better Transportation

We need to make it easier to move around the city, regardless of what mode you choose: car, transit, bike or foot. During the last election, I promised to champion projects that will improve transportation options for all Calgarians whether they want to drive, take public transit, bike, or walk.

  • City Council approved funding for four new major interchanges at Glenmore/Ogden Rd, Macleod/162nd Street South, the TransCanada Highway/Bowfort Rd and at Stoney Trail/14th Street NW totalling over $260 million.
  • Council also funded over $130 million for connections to the West and SW legs of the Ring Road, $20 million for an expanded/upgraded Crowchild/Flanders Ave interchange, $35 million for twinning Peigan Trail, $70 million for major upgrades at Macleod Trail and 194 & 210 Avenue, and several other major road infrastructure projects.
  • We are moving ahead with six major rapid transit projects including two legs of the Green Line Transitway (North Central and Southeast), Southwest Transitway, North Crosstown (16th Ave) Bus Rapid Transit, South Crosstown Bus Rapid Transit, and the 17th Avenue Southeast Transitway.
  • Council also approved the funding of an additional $200 million to replace the entire current fleet of the original “U2” Light Rail Vehicles. This will improve system reliability. The new LRT cars will also be used for 4-car trains starting in 2015.
  • Calgary received $48.4 million from Federal Government through PPP Canada on July 30, 2014 for construction of a new compressed natural gas bus storage and transit facility in NE Calgary. This is part of the City’s larger strategy to reduce greenhouse gases and save operational and fuel cost by purchasing natural gas-powered buses.
  • Council approved four new pilot separated bike lane projects downtown, which will be built and opened in mid-2015. The routes are 12th Avenue SW, 5th Street SW, 8th Avenue SW and a short link along 9th Avenue SE in the east side of downtown. This will connect to existing river pathways, the 7th Street SW cycle track and other bike lanes. This is in addition to projects such as the Bowness Road upgrade which was installed in the fall of 2014.
  • The Transportation department is in the early stages of developing a new pedestrian strategy called Step Forward. This will set out the strategic directions, actions, and investments to make Calgary a safer and better place to walk.
  • In September, Council authorized the release of 126 new taxi plates in 2014 (with specific conditions that those taxis must operate on Friday & Saturday nights at peak times), and Council authorized an additional 257 taxi plates to be released this year to improve taxi service in our city.
  • The City continues to collect real-time data of taxi cab movements to better understand the taxi industry. We use that data to improve taxi regulation & service in Calgary.
  • Building on the creative solutions implemented in 2011 (such as allowing taxis to wait by fire hydrants) The City continues to work creatively with industry and stakeholders to find better ways to connect the public with taxis. For example, a new taxi pull-out design was set-up at Stampede Park which greatly improved taxi service at last year’s Stampede. The City is setting-up “taxi hubs” at the end of each of the four LRT lines where late night transit users can access taxis to get home.
  • The City and Uber began discussions in the fall of 2014 about bringing their Uber Black service to Calgary.

Even Better Growth

We need great neighbourhoods—new suburbs with a choice of housing and amenities and thriving established neighbourhoods with thoughtful redevelopment and renewed infrastructure. As our city continues to experience record population growth, we must ensure every corner of this city is filled with great communities that have the amenities, infrastructure, and overall quality of life that we all expect and deserve. Evolving existing neighbourhoods and changing the way we build new neighbourhoods takes time and effort from many different parties, but we have made great strides in this area.

New suburban neighbourhoods
  • We are in the midst of the creation of six new Developer-funded Area Structure Plans (ASPs – large scale plans for new communities). By creating a New Community Guidebook and using a new format and process for creating ASPs, we have reduced the time-frame from over three years to as little as nine months. These plans are some of the first to return to a “grid” street network, enabling better walkability, more efficient transit, and allowing developers to build a greater diversity of housing.

Established neighbourhoods
  • The planning department has undertaken a major new Main Streets initiative. This initiative will see the City work collaboratively with community stakeholders across the city’s 24 main streets (such as Kensington, Inglewood, Edmonton Trail, Bowness Road, etc) to establish new visions, plans, and implementation strategies for these important streets. Main streets are the lifeblood of many Calgary communities and are a huge part of the vitality of our city.


Even Better Communities

Our city needs to be attractive, safe, and vibrant, with opportunities for all. While Calgary is already one of the best, it’s not the best for everyone nor is it in every part of the city. We have work to do to address our poverty and affordable housing needs while also ensuring that safe communities where people can live a great life with their families.

  • In 2014, The City began accepting permit applications for six-storey wood-frame buildings (previously, wood-frame construction was limited to four-storey buildings). This is an innovative way to make housing more affordable for Calgarians by making it easier and cheaper to build six-story housing complexes.
  • My Council colleagues and I continue to advocate for Calgarians with the federal and provincial orders of government for additional funding for affordable housing.

Parks and Recreation
  • Construction is currently underway at three of the four new recreation centres: Rocky Ridge, Quarry Park and Great Plains. Work on the Seton recreation centre is currently at the detailed design level and will break ground later this year. Although the projects experienced a bit of a delay due to the flood, they are all on budget.
  • Three new outdoor artificial turf soccer fields and four new indoor soccer fields were completed this summer and are now open to the public at the newly expanded Calgary Soccer Centre.
  • Upgrades to Shouldice Park are now under way and these amenity upgrades, funded in partnership with the Calgary Amateur Football Association, will improve the facilities for all Calgarians.
  • Detailed design work is underway for development of Haskayne Legacy Park.

Arts and Culture
  • Council approved Living a Creative Life—the arts development strategy for Calgary stewarded by Calgary Arts Development Authority.

Eamons building
  • On December 1, 2014 Council approved my proposal for a new $35 million fund to repair and maintain The City’s inventory of heritage assets including Historic City Hall.
  • I was proud to work closely with the Catholic Archdiocese to preserve the historic McHugh House to ensure it remains available for future public use within Humpy Hollow Park in the Beltline.
  • As part of the construction of the new Tuscany LRT Station, we protected the original Eamons building that was on site. The City is currently looking for an occupant for this important heritage building.

Crime and Safety
  • Crime rates in our city continue to fall to levels not seen since the mid 1960s, this is due, in part, to good policing and good policy.
  • Council continues to support community policing programming and approved a police budget that is fiscally responsible and maintains the current number of officers.
  • Council supported funding increases to our youth intervention and youth justice programs (MASST, after school programs, etc...) that are run by Calgary Police Service and Community and Neighbourhood Services. These programs will have a critical impact on the lives of youth who are at risk in our community thereby helping to build resilient kids and stopping crime before it happens.
Poverty Reduction
  • Council funded the implementation of the Enough for All strategy, the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative’s work plan to move forward with reducing poverty in our community. Vibrant Communities Calgary will take over stewardship and implementation of the strategy in 2015. I am very proud of this project and it was something I advocated for when I was first elected.

  • On May 5, 2014 Council approved construction of a large indoor/outdoor organics composting facility at the Shepard Landfill site. When the facility is completed in 2017, The City will expand the Green Cart service city wide. Sixty per cent of our household waste is food and yard waste and composting our organic waste will greatly extend the life of our landfills, minimize the environmental impact our food and yard waste has our environment, help us reach the City’s goal of sending 80 per cent less waste to our landfills by 2020 and produce valuable compost.
  • Council approved construction of the Bonnybrook Plant Cell D expansion, a $714 million waste-water treatment plant expansion to accommodate the City’s future growth.
  • Council approved $35 million to repair and restore the City’s tree canopy in response to the damage caused from the September snow event.

Economic Development
  • Council approved the updated, 10 Year Calgary Economic Development Strategy on November 3, 2014. Calgary Economic Development will work with community stakeholders to implement the strategy.
  • I continue to support Calgary Economic Development’s Be Part of the Energy labour attraction and promotion campaign. In October, I visited cities and spoke at universities across Canada to promote Calgary as a great place to work and build a life.
  • I’ve been a strong supporter of Tourism Calgary and the Calgary Hoteliers Association (PDF download) coming to a new financial and cooperative agreement last year. Tourism Calgary recently adopted a new board structure and bylaws at their recent Fall AGM reflecting the new working relationship. This new relationship is in a more financial sustainable position.

Flood Recovery & Future Flood Mitigation
  • In June 2014, The City released a consultant’s report on the viability of a flood water diversion tunnel connecting Glenmore reservoir directly to the Bow River. The report confirms that the tunnel is a viable option but will cost between $450 million and $500 million to build. I am advocating that the provincial government conduct a data-driven process to evaluate the tunnel along with the other two proposed up-stream, long-term flood mitigation projects to determine which combination of projects would offer the best, most cost-effective, long-term flood protection for Calgary.

Even Better Government

We need a municipal government that is citizen-focused and facilitates the success of citizens... but government can't do it alone. The City is constantly improving and adapting to the needs of our citizens—you—and we’re doing it in a prudent way that ensures we have some of the lowest property taxes in Canada. Your involvement in government and your community ensures that we all work together to make this city even better.

Becoming a citizen-focused organization
  • Hired a new City Manager who started work in June 2014. Jeff Fielding has a strong track record leading in the cities of Kitchener, London, and Burlington. His leadership will help The City move towards becoming a more citizen-focused organization and adopt results based accountability.
  • In our latest four year budget and business plan for Calgary (Action Plan 2015-2018), The City set a variety of citizen-focused performance metrics and goals throughout its four-year business plan. With data and regular reporting, The City can better monitor service performance to reinforce a culture of continual improvement.

Responsible spending and improving services for citizens
  • Council passed The City’s new four-year strategic business plan and budget that will ensure citizens receive a high level of service and that we continue to build Calgary to accommodate growth all while keeping our property taxes the lowest of any major city in Canada.
  • The Cut Red Tape program (run out of the Mayor’s Office) has been very successful in making it easier for citizens to work with The City. Over the past few years since the program started, it has saved over $12.7 million and 119,000 hours for citizens and City employees. My colleagues throughout the organization have implemented over 40 different programs to cut red tape for business or citizens. In January, the program was recognized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for its innovation and success in cutting red tape.
  • I’m a big supporter of the “one-window” service delivery model by Animal and Bylaw Services. Work continues on cross training officers from the different lines of service so any officer can address an array of issues they encounter with the public (no matter their specialization), from animal issues, to general bylaws infractions to business licensing questions.

Transforming the planning system
  • The Planning department undertook a major reorganization in the past year. The department’s new structure will enable faster and better decision-making and more collaboration. The City has also continued to expand its “e-services”, which aim to shift more of how we do business online. E-services have been proving to save millions of dollars and thousands of hours for the City, businesses, and citizens.

Improving Ethics & Transparency
  • In 2013, Council passed my proposal to create a new Ethical Conduct Policy for Members of Council and the new Gifts and Benefits Policy for Members of Council. This good work has been followed up with the new Disclosure Policy for Members of Council, a policy that is based on the work I have already been doing in my office. The new policy restores (and builds upon) the previous Council practice (from 1972 to 2000) of having Council members disclose their real estate holdings. The new policy requires that Council members and their immediate family members disclose their real estate and financial holdings along with any outsider employers. The disclosure registry will come online in early 2015 and will improve transparency and help clarify any pecuniary interests when they come up.
  • On December 15, 2014 Council approved the Code of Conduct for Citizen Members Appointed to Council Established Boards, Commissions and Committees which is a new policy to ensure accountability with appointees. Citizen members appointed to Council established Boards, Commissions and Committees will now be held to the same ethical conduct standards as Members of Council and members of City The City.

City Charter
  • In 2014, I was very happy to sign the “Framework Agreement for Charters” with Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Premier Jim Prentice. This framework agreement lays out the two-year work plan to develop a new relationship between Alberta’s two large cities and the Government of Alberta. Since the signing on October 7, 2014, work on a new charter has proceeded quickly with the intent of being completed by the spring of 2016.

Citizen Engagement

  • I am very proud of the work done by the Mayor’s Committee on Citizen Engagement. Through the 3 Things for Calgary campaign, they have encouraged thousands of Calgarians to make a habit of volunteerism and community-building. Recently, they worked with The City Clerk’s Office to produce the third We Should Know City Hall event that gave citizens a chance to learn more about their municipal government.
  • I was happy to launch Mayor Nenshi’s Walk Challenge. By encouraging more kids and parents to walk to school, we are helping to ease traffic around schools while also helping our kids protect the environment, be healthier, and do better in school.
  • In preparation for the Action Plan 2015-2018 budget deliberation, The City did an extensive engagement process that started in early 2014 and involved over 24,000 citizens. Your feedback and ideas helped Council to create its priorities for the next four years. Your input was also used by The City as they prepared draft business plans and budgets. There were numerous engagement tools employed from focus groups, to 21 in-person open houses and public events, to a detailed website with three online tools. There were over 35,000 social media interactions, 21,216 website and online tool visits, 3451 submissions online, and 3367 in-person attendees.
  • Action Plan 2015-2018 budget document used a new, more readable, and user friendly format and piloted a new online budget dashboard to make it easier for Calgarians to look at ever line in the budget.
  • Council funded the implementation of the new engage! policy—a new strategy embedding engagement best practices into The City and supporting a cross-department team that will standardize and improve all communication between The City and our citizens.
Story: ,

Mayor Nenshi's office budget and expenses: January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014

Below are links to download and view the Mayor's Office budget and expenses for January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014.
Once again, the Office of the Mayor is under budget for the year. This includes being under budget for business travel, conferences, and communications. 

To save citizens money, some of the Mayor Nenshi's travel is paid for by third parties (e.g.: conference organizers). Those include:

January - May 2014:

  • International Leaders Program (London, UK), Feb. 1-8 - UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • LondonX Conference (London, ON), Mar. 1 - LondonX
  • BC Southern Interior Local Government Association (Penticton, BC), May 1-3 - SILGA
  • Annual Meeting of Northwest Territories Communities, (Inuvik, NT), May 8-9 - NWT Association of Communities
June - December 2014:

(list to come)
Story: , ,

Video: Mayor Nenshi speaks with Calgary Rotary Club

On March 17, 2015, Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke to Rotarians on a variety of topics including the state of municipal politics and important shared issues between Calgary and the provincial and federal governments. This included effective future flood mitigation and funding for infrastructure, transit, and affordable housing.

Direct links to topics:
"Service Above Self"
Getting things done at The City of Calgary
Flood mitigation and the provincial government
The federal government and the investment needs of cities

Mayor Nenshi answers citizen questions for 2014 World Mayor Prize

On February 2, 2015 Mayor Naheed Nenshi was named the winner of the 2014 World Mayor Prize awarded by the City Mayors Foundation.

When the top 3 mayors from around the world were selected, City Mayors Foundation offered those citizens who participated the opportunity to pose some questions to Mayor Nenshi. The foundation selected the top 16 questions. Below are Mayor Nenshi’s responses.

By Chris R, New York City, USA
Question: Given your background as well as your progressive social and political views, did you have to think long and hard before entering local politics in a conservative province like Alberta?

Mayor Nenshi replies: I reject these terms – ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’. I think they are meaningless to the vast majority of people, who just want good government at a decent price. As the former Governor of Washington and Senator, Dan Evans, wrote in 2002, “There are no Republican schools or Democrat highways, no liberal salmon or conservative parks.” I really believe that this kind of categorization alienates people and keeps them from participating in the political process. So, the answer is no. I know my community and I had a good sense of what people want and need. What I did think long and hard about was the personal cost: was I willing to give up my personal life to be in the public eye? Could I do better on the inside than as an academic and pundit—as an ideas guy? Could I develop a thick enough skin to deal with really mean people on the internet? Could my family? These are questions that I still think about: how can we remove some of these barriers to get more good people entering politics? I think not pigeon-holing folks before they even get there might be part of it.

By Vivian H, Calgary

Question: In the University of Calgary alumni magazine (Spring 2011) you are quoted as saying, “To this day I still don’t really think of myself as a politician. I see myself as continuing to be a community advocate, just trying to build a better city.” I would hope that the aim of most politicians is to build a better city, province or nation. In your experience, is this the case? Or do most enter politics for less altruistic reasons?

Mayor Nenshi replies: This is a really tough question. I deal with politicians in various orders of government every day, and I can say that the vast majority of them do this job because they truly believe in a better community. Indeed, I can’t imagine why anyone would get into this business for any other reason. The costs are too high - there are easier ways to make money, and many would argue that there are even easier ways to influence decisions. That said, citizens often see acts by politicians that are inexplicable when viewed only through the lens of public service. Citizens can be forgiven for asking “who benefits from this decision? Who are these politicians working for? Who are they listening to?” I do it too. I’m not naïve enough to say there’s no self-interest or even corruption in politics. But I’m also not willing to say that these factors influence the majority of politicians or the majority of decisions. However, the systems we have created tend to amplify some voices – the echo chamber is very real. As public servants, we have to work hard to listen to the community in a deeply authentic way, invite people into our decision-making process, and ultimately, apply a decision based on our values, our judgment, and our best view of the future. Some people, mostly in media and political science, find my attitude not only a bit unsophisticated, but ultimately self-defeating, since it flies in the face of current political thinking about micro-targeting groups of citizens. I reject that. I think people are fundamentally good, and fundamentally smart, and can be trusted to support us when we do the right thing.

By Ian R, Calgary
Question: Calgary's wealth is largely due to the oil and gas industry in Alberta and you've used this wealth to bolster the city's infrastructure and transit with continued success. We know oil is a finite resource, and an addiction we have to wean ourselves off if the city is to prosper after the oil is gone. What steps are you taking to ensure Calgary diversifies its industry and wealth, ensures its future, and sets and example to the rest of the world for life without oil dependency?
Mayor Nenshi replies: I often discuss the need for us to monetize the resources we have while we have them and to ensure that we are using the proceeds to secure a legacy for future generations. There are, I think, two ways of doing this: save cash and build infrastructure. We can’t do too much about the first one: that really is up to the provincial government. But we need to manage our debt and build up cash reserves now, as best we can, to ensure that future Calgary governments have flexibility in providing services and are not crippled by interest payments, for example. This is one of the reasons I’m pushing hard for full cost-recovery in suburban development. I’d rather have the costs covered up front than recovered from all taxpayers over decades. The second one – infrastructure - relies on a lot of funding from other levels of government, and we continue to advocate hard for it. Transit is a great example: It’s incredibly expensive, but has extraordinary positive externalities for many decades to come. Finally, and somewhat out of my authority, the best way to diversify an economy is not for government to pick winners and losers, but for us to invest in education at all levels, and in continuing a vibrant entrepreneurial environment.

By Nauman S A, Calgary

Question: Would you support a provincial sales tax in Alberta that provides a certain percentage to local municipal government infrastructure projects?
Mayor Nenshi replies: I don’t think we will ever have the political will for a provincial sales tax. That said, we need to diversify municipal revenue sources in a way that allows cities predictable, stable, long-term revenue to invest in infrastructure. I’m agnostic on what this looks like, but I think our new Premier understands the issue and will help us find better ways of sharing revenue.

By Sadruddin N, Chicago, USA
Question: What is your plan to bring international tourists to Calgary to allow the city to have global name recognition, and most importantly generate revenue through tourism.
Mayor Nenshi replies: I encourage everyone to check out Our tourism programs in Calgary are getting better and better, since we have such a great product to market – arts, culture, great restaurants, and, of course, landscapes that are amongst the most beautiful on the planet. Come visit soon!

By Deborah McC, Calgary
Question: You have often spoken of the different challenges that large cities face compared to smaller ones, as well as the significant issues facing cities that are rapidly growing. Can you please tell us what some of those challenges are and how you propose to deal with them?

Mayor Nenshi replies: We have created a system of diseconomies of scale - where it is more expensive to serve a larger population than a smaller one, and where the property taxes new residents pay don’t cover the costs of the services they need. Transit is a good example. In a smaller centre, transit is sometimes seen as a necessary evil: you have to have it, but you can get away with a minimal level of service. In a larger city, it’s absolutely necessary as you simply can’t afford to build roads to accommodate cars for everyone, and not everyone can afford a car. But once you build rail, you’re in a completely different world of cost and it’s impossible to cover capital costs with property taxes alone. Social issues such as homelessness are another example. People in need tend to congregate in larger centres, and so dealing with social issues becomes a regional issue, where the big city is managing the issues for the smaller towns. To address this, we need to fundamentally rethink how we fund cities. We need to be able to access revenue sources beyond the property tax and carefully delineate the responsibilities of the city with that of the province and federal government, and fund it appropriately.

By Nauman S A, Calgary

Question: The next major issue in Calgary appears to be housing costs. With developers not responding very positively to your ‘build vertical’ instead of urban sprawl, what are your next steps to make housing affordable for current and future residents?

Mayor Nenshi replies: Actually, we are well on our way to achieving a better balance between growing outward in new communities and infilling established neighbourhoods with greater density. Since I took office, we’ve seen about one-third of our population growth occur in established communities; this is a substantial shift from less than a decade ago when established communities were losing population and new communities comprised over 100 per cent of growth. I’d also suggest that our new communities are much denser today than in the past, and they are more mixed use and provide a better variety of housing choices. Within the development industry (with a few notable exceptions) we also see many builders who traditionally only build new single family homes now developing more multi-family projects as well as infill in older communities. To make housing more affordable, we need to provide more housing choice and greater housing supply across the entire housing spectrum from new rental housing stock through entry-level home ownership.

By Vicki W, Calgary

Question: Considering the amount of damage to property during the Calgary flood because so many of the areas were close to the river what would you like to see done to prevent future destruction to and flooding of Calgary?
Mayor Nenshi replies: We have already taken a number of practical steps at the municipal level to better protect individual properties and communities. This includes things like local flood protection through the construction of berms and regulations for individual properties to ensure that buildings are more flood-resilient. The province is also working on better regulating water levels of upstream dams, and examining a ‘Room for the River’ approach to make floodplain development more resilient. As you may have heard, we are also looking at three very large capital projects: a dry dam at McLean Creek, the Springbank Reservoir (or dry dam) and the Glenmore Diversion tunnel. Work on analyzing all of these is proceeding. It is likely we will need multiple projects to protect the city from the kind of damage we sustained in the 2013 floods (or even worse flood events).

By Edward A, Calgary

Question: Hello. What is the current value of Calgary’s municipal debt? How is it being paid off?

Mayor Nenshi replies: Current debt is about CAN$4 billion. This is relatively high compared to other Canadian municipalities, but we do have a sound plan to reduce our debt-load in the coming years. A substantial portion of this debt was accumulated during the 2000s as a result of a development levy agreement for new growth in The City that failed to collect money to pay for water and wastewater infrastructure (in particular). As a result, City Council had to make the very difficult, but necessary, decision to increase utility rates to pay off this debt. The current development levy agreement does help cover more of these costs, but it is not enough. We are establishing a new development levy agreement this year and one goal of that agreement is to ensure that growth better pays for itself so we don’t accumulate debt and burden future generations. Another substantial portion of our debt is short term and was used to develop major projects like the West LRT. Our debt (and its carrying costs) were negatively affected by a slower than anticipated payment of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grant by the provincial government. Once those MSI grant dollars finally flow to The City in the next few years, our debt load will be greatly reduced.

By Cheryle C, Calgary
Question: When do you estimate that homelessness will be eliminated in Calgary?

Mayor Nenshi replies: Calgarians should be proud that we’ve shown great leadership using a “housing first” strategy to eliminate homelessness. Cities around North America are now following our lead. The Calgary Homeless Foundation is responsible for implementing our 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness with a deadline of 2018. I’m not naïve - it’s not going to be easy to eliminate homelessness by the deadline we’ve set for ourselves. During our last count in October 2014, there were 3,531 homeless in Calgary. That’s a lot of people, but I am optimistic because - given our record population growth over the past few years - that number has stayed relatively static when it could easily have gone up. I’m confident we are on the path to eliminate homelessness. Over the past seven years, we’ve helped house nearly 6,000 people. And we continue to worth with other orders of government to create more affordable housing for our citizens. I’m optimistic because we are seeing the success of other housing programs like the Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation (which helps middle-income Calgarians purchase their first home) and the RESOLVE Campaign (which brings together homebuilding companies to create affordable housing for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians).

By Azim J, Toronto, Ontario

Question: We have seen high racial tension in many major cities in Europe and the United States. Toronto, has reached the point where foreign-born residents outnumber locally-born ones. Do you think Canada's policy of multiculturalism is heading towards disaster, and how would you, as Mayor, ensure that racial harmony is maintained.

Mayor Nenshi replies: Calgary is often held up as an example about how a community can thrive in a multicultural and pluralistic society. Our city continues to benefit by being an attractive place for people from around the world who want to live and work. I can’t speak for the realities of other communities, but I know that Calgary will continue to work hard to draw smart, passionate people our city. Even during the current economic downturn, Calgary business needs more skilled workers to succeed. I believe that our success with multiculturalism is linked to a history of true meritocracy. In Calgary, few people care about where you come from, what you look like, whom you love, or how you worship - they care about what you bring to the table. Certainly, we all have our cultural differences, but Calgarians have created a unique Calgarian culture that is influenced by all cultures which come to our city. If we continue to resist insularism and close-mindedness in all communities, and actively fight intolerance in all its forms, we will continue to be a successful multicultural city.

By Kimm R, presently in India

Question: Community Association membership can include individuals who do not actually live or have a business in the community. Where there is rapid development, this can lead to an imbalance in how the voice of the community is represented when major new developments are proposed. What do you believe is the role of the Community Association in municipal affairs and how will you ensure that they are equipped to fulfill that mandate?

Mayor Nenshi replies: Especially in dealing with development or redevelopment, we’ve ended up in a situation where Community Associations are a de facto fourth order of government. In my opinion, this is inappropriate and unfair to the members of the community association. While we have some Community Associations in dealing with development and planning matters that are well equipped, experienced, well governed, and highly representative, there are some tha not as experienced or even not well governed or not representative of the community as a whole. We need to both better define a meaningful role for the Community Associations and move to more authentic consultation with people who live in communities. We have a lot of work to do in this area, and I look forward to working with community members and my colleagues at The City on solutions moving forward.

By Lori R H, Calgary

Question: Your passion for the arts and especially literacy are always at the forefront of your civic activities. Why is literacy so important to you, and how do you feel it impacts the economy of a city?

Mayor Nenshi replies: Canada is one of the most educated countries in the world, and Calgary’s levels of post-secondary completion are among the highest in Canada. We are, by definition, a well-educated community. Undoubtedly, that is part of why our economy and our community is so successful. Literacy for everyone is an important foundation for our community - a point from where we build great places to live, great cultural institutions, and great businesses. It allows people to participate in civic life and in their community. It’s not just about kids, either. While early childhood development is vital to community health, we need to ensure that literacy programs are available for all adults and particularly for new Canadians. That said, focusing on children is also important. That’s one reason I started a regular series called ‘Mayor Nenshi Reads’ where I read books to children in person and online. Another reason: it’s lots of fun!

By Jennifer D, Calgary

Question: What urban or social initiatives have you seen in other cities that you would really like to see implemented in Calgary?

Mayor Nenshi replies: I am constantly looking for good ideas to borrow or shamelessly steal, and I encourage others to shamelessly steal from us. Here’s one interesting example: under the leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City has seen a lot of success through their Vision Zero initiative in reducing collisions and fatalities in their streets. There are a lot of things that we can learn from their work and implement in a Vision Zero initiative of our own to make Calgary safer for everyone – drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

By Marian Z, Calgary

Question: What is your vision for Calgary in 2020? What do the citizens of the city need to do or understand to help achieve your vision?

Mayor Nenshi replies: My vision for Calgary is that of a city of opportunity for all - a place where every Calgarian has the chance to thrive. That requires a lot of hard work from both the government and its citizens. From a government perspective, this involves:
• Building great neighbourhoods - new suburbs with a choice of housing and amenities and thriving established neighbourhoods with thoughtful redevelopment and renewed infrastructure.
• Creating a complete transportation system that makes it easy to move around the city, regardless of what mode you choose: car, transit, bike or foot.
• Ensuring all communities are safe, attractive, and vibrant with housing options and services for people of all walks of life.
• Continually improving municipal government to keep it citizen-focused and efficient.
But, of course, government can’t do it alone. To be successful, we need the involvement of citizens for every step along the way. We have a good start with ImagineCalgary - our citizen-created vision for the future of Calgary - and that continues to guide The City of Calgary in all it does. But citizen engagement and feedback as we move forward will ensure we are on the right track and nimble enough to adjust to serve Calgarians better. Finally, our community is only as good as its citizens. Every act of volunteerism, large or small, is an act of community-building that makes Calgary even better. When we started the 3 Things for Calgary project to encourage every citizen to do at least three things to improve their street or neighbourhood or even the entire city, we wanted to help prompt every Calgarian to action. Thousands of actions later, I’m inspired by the power of everyday Calgarians, and I hope we will continue to make our city better together.

By Kris S, Lethbridge, Alberta

Question: You are an outspoken proponent in many areas that matter to a great number of social democrats in Alberta. Would you consider a future career as a national or provincial representative of the people?

Mayor Nenshi replies: I have the best job in Canada, if not the world. I get to serve the people of this great city every single day with all I’ve got. And I have at least three years left in my mandate. Why would I want a demotion?

By Janet W, Calgary

Question: You are a recognizable, popular and highly visible personality not just in Calgary but also across Canada. How and when do you get private time away from the office? Is there ever a time when you can be somewhere where nobody recognizes you and you can just be yourself for a little while? How do you feel about living in the spotlight?
Mayor Nenshi replies: This is likely the biggest surprise of my job. I really didn’t expect this level of notoriety. Even when I took a rare holiday with my family recently, I was recognized everywhere I went – even on a remote rural road in the jungle! I have a rule in the office - I try to keep one of Saturday or Sunday free of meetings or events so that I can read, think, refresh, and prepare for the upcoming week. I only succeed one out of every three weeks or so, but it makes a difference. My family and friends are kind of used to it. They all know how to use every camera phone on the market and put up with interruptions. But they, like me, always remember that even if this is my 50th selfie of the day, it’s this person’s first picture with the Mayor, and I need to make sure it’s special for them. So, while it can be weird and tiring when every trip to the supermarket becomes an open house on snow removal (when all I want is to get my loaf of bread and go home) it’s also gratifying that people take such an interest in politics and feel comfortable talking to me. In 2015, I hope to try something new: maybe a long weekend in a big city, where it might be easier to be anonymous as I explore a cool urban vibe.

By Ross B, Calgary
Question: What do you think of the idea that mayors should rule the world?

Mayor Nenshi replies: I believe people should rule the world. Mayors are in a unique political position. We are closest to the people we serve. The work of cities affects people’s daily lives from clean water to transportation to recreation and culture. A mayor knows (or, at least, should know) the real needs and wants of their citizens and has the opportunity (much of the time) to make the lives of citizens better every day. So, yes, I can understand why some people should say mayors should rule the world. Compared to other politicians at other orders of government, we’re able to have a more direct impact on people’s lives. It wouldn’t hurt if mayors were listened to a bit more by other orders of government. As the voice of our citizens, we definitely have something important to say. I wish, for example, the federal government would make more investment in transit infrastructure across the country. If mayors ruled the world, perhaps we’d fix the problem. But ruling the world is a bit much. Plus, I don’t look good in a crown.

Committee News in Brief - March 17, 2015

Council News in Brief - Pilot
Priorities and Finance Committee (PFC)
March 17, 2015

Water Services Zero-Based Review Final Report and Administration's Response (item 3.2)
The Committee approved the Water Services Zero-Based Review from Scottish Water International and Administration’s response to the recommendations. The recommendations, once fully implemented, are estimated to generate between $2.4 and $5.0 million in annual financial benefits, as well as improvements to customer service. The Committee will recommend that Council direct Water Services to report back within one year with a detailed implementation plan that includes timing and cost considerations.

Snow Clearing of Pedestrian Priority Areas (2015-2018 Action Plan) (item 3.9)
New funding ($2M/year) for snow clearing of important pedestrian and transit customer links was approved as part of Action Plan 2015¬-2018 to assist Calgarians with mobility challenges to reach work and community destinations. Through a collaborative effort Roads, Calgary Transit and CNS created an initial go¬ forward plan that could be implemented starting in 2015. The Committee approved the report and recommendation that Council direct Administration to report back on the effectiveness of this initiative in conjunction with the annual update on Snow and Ice Control activities.

2014 Year End Accountability Report (item 3.3)
Administration presented the 2014 Year ¬End Accountability Report to provide information on the achievement of 2012-¬2014 business plans and budget commitments during 2014. This is the final report for the 2012-2014 cycle. Administration highlighted achievements and the organization’s advancement of Council’s Fiscal Plan. Key points of discussion included productivity gains generated by the Corporate Strategy on Efficiency and Effectiveness, year-end variances and progress toward the 2020 Sustainability Direction.

Future Accountability Reporting (item 3.4)
Administration presented proposed changes to future accountability reports to Committee for information. The recommendations were developed based on feedback from Council and Administration and were received favorably by Committee members. The changes also align with The City Manager's Leadership Strategic Plan and the recently ¬approved Action Plan 2015-¬2018. The new reports will: build on strengths of previous accountability reports and provide a better balance between the values of individual responsibility and collective accountability; increase focus on the collaborative efforts of The City in progressing towards Council Outcomes, and; provide Council with shorter, more meaningful and concise reports.

Budget Savings Account Proposal (item 3.5)
Administration presented the Budget Savings Account Proposal in response to Council’s request to encourage and provide incentives for business units to seek annual savings, innovation and efficiences, within their operating and capital budgets. The proposal calls for the establishment of a new reserve , into which qualifying savings generated by business units, through the efficient and effective management of their operating and capital budgets will be accumulated for investment in new initiatives which are required. Once approved by Council, the creation and implementation of a Budget Savings Account will be monitored and reported quarterly. The first report will be brought forward in April.

Corporate Project Management Framework Progress Update (item 3.6)
An update on the development and implementation of the Corporate Project Management Framework was provided to Committee for information in response to Audit recommendations. Work is now starting with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) to develop corporate project management guidelines specific to disaster events and improve project management processes related to Tangible Capital Asset reporting. Council recently approved a Notice of Motion to further review The City’s project management practices and the City Manager will report back no later than end of May 2015.

Deferral Report: Municipal Naming, Sponsorship & Naming Rights Policy (item 3.7)
The Committee approved deferral of this report.

Eamon's Building Utilization Supplemental Report - Deferral (item 3.8)
The Committee filed the current recommendations and directed Administration to submit the Report Recommendations directly to Council on March 30, 2015.

Status of Outstanding Motions and Directions (item 3.10)
The Committee moved the Outstanding Motions and Directions.

Council Innovation Fund Application: Legislative Governance Task Force Work Plan Implementation Project (item 3.11)
The Mayor’s Office presented an application for $350,000 from the Council Innovation Fund for a Legislative Governance Task Force Work Plan Implementation Project to be completed in two phases over the next two years. Phase 1 of the project is intended to result in a new, more effective and innovative way of Council conducting citizen member appointments to Boards, Commissions and Committees. Phase 2 will focus on updating the Procedure Bylaw and thereby contributes to Council’s Action Plan 2015-2018 objectives of a “Well-run City” and the Council approved work plan for the Legislative Governance Task Force.

Council News in Brief is an informal summary of highlights from Calgary City Council’s meetings. The City Clerk provides the complete and formal documentation of Council’s meetings.

A quick guide to the City budget

What? You don't have time to read all 1,137 pages of The City’s four-year Action Plan? Don’t worry!

The City of Calgary created a Citizen Summary of Action Plan just for you! Find out what The City is doing for you over the next four years and learn how The City’s budget works.

Get it online at, download it here, or visit any City Recreation Centre, Calgary Public Library or the Municipal Building for a print copy.

Here's an example of what you can expect inside: