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Forget the Horizon, Downtown Calgary is in Big Trouble Right Now

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Calgary Downtown Empty

Do you travel through or live in downtown Calgary? 

Do you glare at our skyscrapers and see only a few lights on? 

This is a tale of a cowtown that stopped producing milk, even our ranch has closed. If there was a light at the end of this tunnel, not even our top economic spokespeople can offer any of us a realistic answer for where we are at now, or when we will even see the light. The economic destruction from COVID-19 continues to ravage the health of local businesses and almost every other industry that calls our city home. With that, there is a lot more to the story that reaches beyond March of this year. The question is, what does a pillar city in Canada do when their downtown is empty and graduates continue to emigrate?

Recent data from the CBRE from Q3 of 2020 show the office vacancy in downtown Calgary has hit 28.7%. That number may seem irrelevant without comparison to other metropolitan places in the country. The chart below shows the office vacancy percentages based on data collected of unused office space by square footage in the downtown core in each identified city.

Calgary office vacancy

Data Sourced: CBRE, “Canada’s Office and Industrial Quarterly Statistics Q3 2020”, CBRE.ca

The clarification we are lacking is that there is a very real problem with attracting commercial activity. The challenge lies within the lack of large firms that have more than 1,000 employees to fill these empty sky-high office buildings.

We cannot simply just ask companies to move their workforce, an example being Suncor’s recent decision to uproot 700 employees from Ontario to relocate to Calgary. Better described as 700 humans with families, friends and communities in Ontario. No figures have been released to state how many jobs will be coming to Calgary. 

Almost within the same week, we see the consolidation of Husky Energy by Cenovus. This does make “fiscal” sense for the financial health and future of the company, becoming the third-largest oil and natural gas producer in the country. Citing a piece in the Financial Post by Diane Francis, Cenovus will close the Husky head office in Calgary, which is not reflected in the Q3 data released by the CBRE. 

If we keep in mind that the headquarters for Husky Energy Inc was Western Canada Place, where we saw the Apache Corporation “strategically exit” Canada back in 2017. It will become clear in the near future that we could see another tenant evacuation of a huge building in downtown Calgary. 

One piece of that 28.7% of our current office vacancy is due to Nexen leaving their building on 8th street completely vacant, setting up shop in the same building as the newly purchased Husky Energy Inc. In this case, bottom level retail such as cafe’s are not included as occupied office space. 

If there are corporate tax incentives in almost every major city in the efforts of attracting big business, therein lies the question. What else can Calgary offer to sway large firms to come here? Take a look at the chart below stating the 2020 Corporate Income Tax Rates in Canada.

2020 Canadian Corporate Tax Rates

Source: TaxTips, “2020 Corporate Income Tax Rates”, Taxtips.ca

At some point in the recent history of Alberta, competitiveness turned into desperation. There is some benefit to local entrepreneurs looking to set up a business by lowering the barrier to entry, however, have we really seen that as a result of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country? 

Looking at the fact sheet prepared by Calgary Economic Development in May of this year. As shown in the chart below, take a look at the new and renewed business licenses. It is crucial to note that COVID-19 has created a mountain of economic problems for almost every city, which we can assume had a major impact on the 2020 numbers seen below. We may see this continuing to decline as the pandemic continues to ravage our economy.

In addition, It is important to note the lack of new business licenses issued since 2017. This is not a new problem but has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Business Licenses Calgary

Calgary Economic Development, “Fact Sheet: Calgary Small Business”, 2020 Edition Published: June 24, 2020, p 6., Calgaryeconomicdevelopment.ca

When faced with a challenge, Calgarians do not quit. The piece of the puzzle that has yet to be found is to restore incentive to local and foreign investment. The ideology that big tech would eventually be “sold” on Calgary’s infrastructure has not gained traction. 

Recent history teaches us that big tech follows big tech, an example being TikTok opening a new headquarters in Dublin back in August of this year, where companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, eBay, Paypal and Facebook also have European headquarters. While these names are well-known globally, the economic and sociological effect it could have on our city would offer Calgarians some indication that we are actually progressing in some way. 

Consider being a graduate enrolled in an extensive and expensive program this year. The lack of economic progress is tied with the lack of jobs in a psychologically destructive way. If we cannot incentivize foreign investment and create new job opportunities, more importantly, how do we hold on to waves of eager graduates that are well aware of the benefits of moving to other cities or countries? 

The narrative that new graduates carrying thousands of dollars in debt are given any chance to achieve anything close to previous generations in Calgary back in the high oil and gas days is now an irrelevant argument. Understandable that they may pack up and leave for greener pastures.

The evidence is in the 2019 Calgary Civic Census. The age demographic of 20-24 is our second lowest age demographic sitting at 5.94%, the lowest being the 15-19 year olds sitting at only 5.28%. The chart below shows the breakdown of our Calgary’s age segmentation. 

Calgary young people leaving

Source: Calgary Civic Census 2019, “Civic Census Results 2019”, Calgary.ca

Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto last conducted their population census in 2016. The comparison data ranked Calgary 29th out of 35 cities in Canada for the age demographic of 20-24. Thinking about the cities you are aware of in Canada, to not even rank in the top 10 for young adults adds to the enormous problem we will be attempting to remedy for an unknown amount of time. This data can be seen clearly in a CBC post relating to this issue.

The information above may offer some real data that has very real implications. However, the narrative less documented is what sentiment do young people feel in Calgary and what is left to be proud of. It cannot just be the Stampede or nothing at all. Even after emigrating to another city or country, what is it that they tell their newfound community about their home city? The vibrant, creative and hard-working young people in this city have a fighting chance, but only if there is some benefit to their future staying here. Without awareness of foundational values, celebration of culture and real opportunity to rely upon in your city, understandably, young people will continue to leave and seldomly will ever return.

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References:

Calgary.ca, “Calgary Civic Census 2019.” 2019 Civic Census Results, 2019, p. 18, Calgary.ca.

CBRE, “Canada’s Office and Industrial Quarterly Statistics Q3 2020”, CBRE.ca.

Calgary Economic Development, “Fact Sheet: Calgary Small Business”, 2020 Edition Published: June 24, 2020, p 6., Calgaryeconomicdevelopment.ca

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For more stories, please visit Todayville Calgary

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Alberta

Stand Together Against Bullying – Pink Shirt Day 2021

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021 is the 14th annual Pink Shirt Day, a globally recognized movement to end bullying in all its forms and encourage the growth of a global community built on acceptance and support regardless of sex, age, background, gender identity, sexual orientation or cultural differences. 

Pink Shirt Day originated in 2007 in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, in a local story that captured national – and eventually international – attention, when a new 9th grade student walked in on the first day of school wearing a pink polo shirt. 

Travis Price and David Shepherd are the two young men responsible for unintentionally launching the global pink shirt movement. According to Price and Shepherd, a group of students were physically and verbally bullying the young man for wearing pink to school. As senior students, Price and Shepherd saw the situation as an opportunity to set an example and take a stand against bullying in their school.
That night the two went and purchased 75 pink tank tops and released a call on social media (MSN messenger at the time) encouraging their fellow students to show up at school the next day wearing pink. According to Price, in a school of roughly 1000 students, “700 to 850 kids showed up wearing pink. It was incredible.” 

 

Since 2007, the movement has gained exponential traction and is now recognized in communities all around the world as individuals come together in an international display of solidarity against the devastating impacts of bullying.
The global movement to end bullying has led to the creation of countless local, national and internationally available resources, but there is still a long way to go.

Bullying Canada identifies 4 distinct types of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyber. Short term and long term effects of bullying vary based on each situation, and can lead to damaging and dangerous outcomes for victims, friends, bystanders and countless others. While commonly associated with children and young adults in school, bullying impacts individuals of all ages and backgrounds in many areas of life, including the workplace.
Statistics released by Safe Canada revealed that 47% of Canadian parents have at least one child that has experienced bullying, while approximately 33% of the population experienced bullying as a child, and 33% of teenagers reported being bullied recently. Furthermore, around 40% of Canadians reportedly experience bullying in the workplace on a weekly basis.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with bullying, reaching out is the first step. You are not alone, and help is available. Extensive networks of resources exist in Alberta and across Canada to provide support, aid and solutions for those experiencing bullying. 

For support from Bullying Canada, call (877) 352-4497, or email [email protected]

The Alberta 24-hour Bullying Helpline can be reached at 1-888-456-2323, or the online Bullying Helpline Chat can be accessed here.

For more resources on how to identify a bullying situation, get help, or help someone in need, visit https://www.alberta.ca/bullying-how-to-help-others.aspx.

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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Alberta

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GUY IN THE BLUE TRUCK?

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What happened to the guy in the blue truck

Open Letter to Premier Jason Kenney

February 23, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Red Deer – Mountain View, AB

On August 1, 2016 you began your “Unite Alberta Truck Tour” in a blue Ram 1500. Your mission: to consolidate conservative support by uniting the Tories with the Wildrose Party. We all know the results of the truck tour and how the tour carried over to the 2019 United Conservative election platform: “Getting Alberta Back to Work”.

It is now February 2021, four and half years after you launched the truck tour. Even though Albertans have suffered through the past year with COVID-19, the three pillars of your 2019 election platform are still of the utmost concern to Albertans: Jobs, Economy, Pipelines.

When the UCP government took office in 2019, no one could have foreseen the significant challenges that would be presented to both your government and Albertans just one year later. These challenges however, should be viewed a rallying point rather than a crutch.

Moving forward, Albertans are looking for strong leadership. We want to see drastic reductions in red tape. We want a government that champions our interests within Canada and to external markets. Simply put, we want jobs, a strong economy and pipelines. We are not interested in more panels and consultations. We do not want the ideological policies of those in Ottawa dictating our future or our children’s futures.

To secure our financial future, public sector bureaucrats, specifically those on Alberta’s “sunshine list”, need to share in the economic downturn that the private sector is currently facing. Alternative routes to get oil to market, not subject to the Canada Energy Regulator, need to be explored immediately. Small businesses need a concrete plan for reopening and a guarantee that no further lockdowns will be imposed.

Polls suggest that the conservative base is fragmented again. Albertans know what happened the last time this occurred. Premier, it is time to be the guy in blue truck again. Albertans are counting on you.

Sincerely,

 

Jared Pilon

Libertarian Party Candidate for Red Deer – Mountain View, AB

https://www.jaredpilon.com/

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