Over the past two days, the City of Calgary has hosted a civic forum inviting residents to chime in on the housing affordability crisis. I took a Friday afternoon off and spent three hours listening to presenters. I did so not having read a 30 point recommended blueprint drafted by “experts” which will be before city councillors for a vote. It was apparent that most of the presenters I had witnessed had briefed themselves on the document.
Firstly, I was generally impressed by the quality of presentations to the point that some hope has been restored with respect to the capacity of our people to articulate positions around social policy. People demonstrated an empathy for others not necessarily aligned demographically with themselves.
Secondly, the degree of the problem was showcased emotionally by those impacted. Statistical data points were highlighted by citizens holding career positions oriented around the issue. The city did an admirable job of accommodating no less than 150 presenters while providing audio / visual support.
A backdrop to the forum is an offer from our federal government to provide housing targeted funding with conditions oriented around a blanket zoning change to all communities which would ultimately expedite building approvals city wide. This blanket zoning change would enable “mid-block” infills to accommodate multi-family buildings irrespective of the character surrounding communities only ascribed to single family dwellings. You can see where this is going. The conditional funding offered is substantial. Municipalities will be asked to sign on from a position of weakness having not effectively planned communities for decades while home owners wonder why they are expected to acquiesce to a zoning change potentially negatively impacting their homes market value. Suddenly a carrot is being waved at city councillors across the country which will help break ground on new construction to aid in resolving the housing crisis.
While the federal government’s aggressive immigration policy spurned the housing crisis, the accommodation made for Ukrainian and African refugees has put us into a crisis and action is required – that is the kind of action now not subject to the luxury of urban planning studies. The failures are easily evident in massive urban sprawl and downtown core vacant office buildings. If we promise a Canadian way of life including a home to immigrants and refugees willing to contribute, it’s apparent to me that we must deliver or send them back with a note that we’ve failed them.
We can’t have everything all of the time in the context of serving multiple demographics within a civilized society. Canadian home owners have seen amazing valuation returns on their property and may continue to do so but will be asked to provide their community assets toward the assimilation of those marginalized. It’s actually social while preserving the capitalist ideal. The purchase of a home within Canada has never come with a guarantee that there would never be a zoning change. Everyone must do their part to solve a society ill. Working collectively is good for us all – especially during a time of much division. Some homeowners will be impacted more than others should an infill turn to a multi-family building. City bylaws may need updates. Life will go on.
When I first heard Danielle Smith speak back in the days of the Wildrose Party….I was impressed. She has the capacity to think and she has admitted to mistakes. Her biggest blunder of course was crossing the floor to the conservatives prior to the formulation of the “UCP”. In a word, she “blew up” and high tailed it right out of politics.
Years later…her constituents were willing to let bygones be bygones.
Last week as premier she spoke again in defense of the Oil and Gas Industry. She makes strong arguments and is an admirable stalwart in representing the industry as she has characterized Ottawa’s “just transition” dogma.
However; COVID is coming back to haunt her. An election campaign promise to pardon rebel anti-covid campaigners from legal breaches wasn’t so well thought out now that it’s been determined legally that pardons are untenable. Most recently, there is rumour that her office had reached out to prosecutors assigned to the Coutts crossing blockade which transpired during the height of the pandemic.
Serious conservatives are left wondering if her pandering to lunatics on the fringe is going to get the better of her and once more put us right back in the position of an NDP agenda. I envision much head shaking in downtown Calgary board rooms as we wonder if this will be yet another government imbued in scandal rather than good governance.
Policy initiatives to help her gain our trust:
- Get to the very bottom of the health care crisis and implement strong accountability measures (including professional bodies) while carefully budgeting new federal transfer moneys.
- Clean up runaway crime working with cities
- Enact policy to shore up a housing shortage
- Clean up abandoned wells ensuring tight admin for reclamation deposits
- Facilitate smooth flowing commerce
It’s quite the conundrum for musicians spawned by the era of virtual streaming and Napster’s historic foot hold. As of yet, I’ve never subscribed to Spotify. My reading of Johnny Cash’s autobiography has been inspired by the “Life In Music” series of Canadian bluegrass / folk guitarist J.P. Cormier. It’s been interesting to learn of dysfunction and cronyism behind the recording industry which may have produced my hesitancy in subscribing to Spotify. The Neil Young disconnect with Spotify and Joni Mitchell’s follow on weaves its semantic influence of my perception on the consumption of music. Context is such that my own musicianship has been on the rise of late.
I never understood the Napster appeal. I never understood why folks surmised that they deserved good music for nothing. Convenience is one thing and fair remuneration is another. We are apparently inherently self interested enough to circumvent the financial welfare of those who feed our id. The Spotify membership is affordable for all and this was a business model which obviously generated mass appeal and has consequently led to a monopolistic landscape for music consumption. It’s the reality and what is often the case for the masses generates hesitation by yours truly. The general sentiment for those with some semblance of taste is that music on the radio right now is uninteresting yet somehow the business side of radio has come to learn that this style of music aligns with advertisers. CDs and vinyl are now becoming tougher to access. Musicians are not necessarily adept at the distribution side of their own work. Production runs on vinyl require minimum orders which may exceed demand.
The consumption model for receiving music may be under scrutiny right now. That’s not to say that the Neil Young / Joni Mitchell spat with Spotify has initiated such but the egregiously low streaming royalty rates have not been sitting well with artists for some time. Undoubtedly times are changing and musicians such as blues comer Samantha Fish who seems savvy around business may start becoming the instigators of a modern form of the “label”.
It was quite the walk through today making my comparative to the2004 pulse as an example when I’d regularly spend time in the Calgary Plus 15 system for lunches and walks in the winter time while working downtown.
For those not local, the “Plus 15” system encompasses passage ways connecting buildings in the downtown core at 15 feet in theory from ground (second level). Some of the passage ways are more elaborate and buildings will host space allocated for merchants on level two.
At 3:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, half the shops and closed up and half are open and then there’s the deluge of “For Lease” signs. Very few people were around. Security guards are chatty ‘cause they’re so bored in spite of what should be increased demand in their duty associated with vagrancy. You see, in addition to their week day chores, the city has apparently passed a plebiscite requiring Plus 15s to be open now during weekends as a place of refuge for the homeless (could Calgary be the next Seattle?).
Back in ’04 people were dressed for the executive suite and corridors were jammed during lunch. There was excitement and people were poised for their next promotion. The middle management competitive ire was palpable. I remember thinking to myself back then as someone not making their salary….you just wait – these good times won’t last. I was right.
The Cenovus takeover of Husky has emptied the Husky building and in viewing the concourse and centre square within, the view of emptiness is breathtaking. Apparently, the fine lunch counter on the third floor remains open just for the lunch hours. The Nexen building still seems empty as well.
What will come of all this office space? The largest vacancies will be in the A Class space and rest assured that the pension funds as large owners won’t be as flexible as they should be in the short term.
The government benefit programs are all at work subsidizing merchants. In fact, when everyone else is open for business in Calgary with few restrictions….these plus 15 merchants for some reason or another still have their hours restricted. It’s bizarre but not surprising given what I’ve seen of political leadership in Calgary and Ottawa.
I’m not hearing enough about incentives to drive commerce to the downtown core. The new world wide initiative to impose a minimum corporate tax on corporations irrespective of headquarters could be a significant setback for office uptake in Calgary. Taxpayers should not be bailing out pension funds in lieu of malinvestment and ill thought urban planning.
Why would the Alberta provincial government spend $ 1.1 billion of money that it doesn’t have to fund a pipeline that had a strong probability of not being finished due to the political position of the U.S. Democratic Party? Well of course there was this small matter that your federal government would have been endorsers of such a plan given that it had bailed out a private corporation to pick up an equity stake in the pipeline industry due to their mismanagement of policy in context of a private corporation’s investment. It’s bungling. It’s a fiasco and as tax payers you should be outraged.
Governments have forgotten their role of being stewards of monies appropriate for disbursements applicable to specific services only they can be provide due to variables not deemed of interest to private for profit business. The construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, water treatment facilities, air traffic control towers, weather stations serve as examples whereby business would have no interest but society as a whole would be benefactors thereby warranting government support.
When oil runs through a pipeline, capital interests are poised to profit. However; interested for profit parties in the pipeline industry require good faith from land owners and governments to ensure that contracts will be honoured. This of course is where things get sticky and it is precisely why no government should ever invest in pipelines given their power to expropriate and nullify contracts through statutory law. They are their own worst enemy when investing in pipelines but apparently once again needed to learn the lesson the hard way with Keystone XL. Federally, a deal was struck to appease shareholders certain that otherwise government officials would be embarrassed in court.
Five years ago, it wasn’t fathomable to me that the U.S. electorate would have nominated a deceitful, tawdry, classless boor to lead the Republican Party. Not only did this man receive the nomination but he became the U.S President. This man’s party represented the position reflecting support of Keystone XL and it stands to reason that someone of Trump’s character should lose the office at the first opportunity. Under this guise, the $1.1 billion investment in Alberta by you the taxpayer was deployed. It’s a real head shaker.