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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

Alberta

Malign Neglect: What Calgary’s Water-Main Break Reveals about the Failure of City Government

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From the C2C Journal

By George Koch

The rupture of Calgary’s biggest water main revealed more than the problems of aging infrastructure. It showed a civic bureaucracy unable to provide basic services or fix things when they break, and a mayor eager to blame others and scold citizens for their selfishness in wanting city services in return for their tax dollars. Above all, it laid bare the increasing tendency of governments to neglect their core responsibilities in favour of social policy fetishes, and to sidestep accountability when things go wrong. Clear, competent, mission-focused public servants are a vanishing breed, writes George Koch, and governing a city is now mainly about keeping city workers, senior officials and elected politicians happy.

As the enormous task forces of the U.S. Navy steamed westward across the Pacific Ocean in the final year of the Second World War, aiming ultimately for Japan but with some of the most vicious fighting still to come on islands like Okinawa and Iwo Jima, commanding admirals issued orders that any man who fell overboard would be left behind. No ship was to slow down for search-and-rescue; nothing was to get in the way of the mission. Several weeks ago, during one of the Stanley Cup semi-final games, a player was hit hard, fell to the ice, got up with difficulty, hobbled towards the bench and disappeared down the “tunnel”. The game went on, uninterrupted. Here too, the mission – entertaining millions – took precedence.

But when two municipal workers on a crew attempting to repair a catastrophic infrastructure failure in a major North American city are injured, the work immediately halts. Although the broken item serves a function vital to civilization and life itself, the mission of restoring water supply as quickly as possible becomes secondary. This happened 10 days ago, a week after the rupture of a high-pressure water main in Calgary had sent water shooting up out of busy 16th Avenue, triggering frantic 911 calls and initiating a “one week” repair saga that as of this writing is still weeks from completion.

Mission failure: The rupture of Calgary’s high-pressure water main on June 5 flooded 16th Avenue and threatened the city’s water supply; repairs were halted for a day after two workers were injured, an excess of caution that led to anger and frustration over the city’s basic competence. (Sources of photos: (top) Acton Clarkin/CBC; (bottom) CTV News)

The two injured workers were taken to hospital (thankfully, with non-life-threatening injuries) and the repair work eventually resumed the next day. But the interruption, piled atop days of confusing, contradictory, self-serving and at times seemingly false explanations and promises from senior city officials and embattled mayor Jyoti Gondek, generated further mistrust and anger among Calgarians over their city bureaucracy’s inability to operate the basics and get things fixed when something breaks down. The safety stand-down came on the very day the city had originally promised to restore water service, a time when every hour was precious, when the sacrifices by city residents and businesses were still bearable, when a return to normality seemed imminent. So why imperil the mission with nearly 24 hours of navel-gazing?

Though soon forgotten as new problems arose, the decision is emblematic of governments’ misplaced priorities, subordination of their core mission to their social policy fetishes and confusion over whose interests they exist to serve. Governing a city appears to have become primarily about keeping city workers, senior officials and elected politicians happy. Above all, to shield them against real accountability. Residents and businesses – the people who vote and pay the bills – are basically problems to be managed.

Built in 1975, the Bearspaw South feeder main draws from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Facility on the Bow River (bottom) and supplies 60 percent of Calgary’s drinking water. (Sources of photos: (top) The City of Calgary Newsroom; (bottom) Environmental Science & Engineering)

A few key facts for readers distant from Calgary. The 2-metre-diameter Bearspaw South feeder main burst its concrete casing on the afternoon of June 5. Installed in 1975, it draws from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Facility on the Bow River in the city’s northwest, and normally supplies up to 60 percent of the city’s drinking water. The break required the city to rely on a much older but very reliable plant drawing on the Glenmore Reservoir, which dams the Elbow River in the city’s southwest. The rupture prompted Stage 4 water restrictions with various bans and recommendations (more on that below), including a call for Calgarians to collectively cut the city’s water consumption by 25 percent, to 480 million litres per day. People immediately responded and, within several days, the city was reporting a water surplus. (For those seeking more details, the Calgary Herald has logged the key daily events.)

From the beginning, the city’s attempts to explain things did not quite add up. The water main had been inspected and tested regularly, officials said, or at least once for sure, and had received “maintenance” as recently as April. Most people probably assumed this involved physically examining it from the inside, then subjecting it to excessive pressure to see if it would hold, and patching up any weak areas. But all that would require first draining a pipe that, after all, 1.6 million people depend on every minute of every day. Later it came out that the line had last been drained and inspected in 2007.

So then it was explained that sophisticated external sensors had not detected any leaks in the most recent inspection. But then someone pointed out that catastrophic failures of an entire multi-layered structure of inner concrete core, steel piping, wire tension coils and outer concrete don’t usually begin with small leaks. And then someone else let slip that the line’s robustness had been confirmed by modelling, i.e., relying on theory.

“This pipe is only at the halfway point in its life cycle,” lamented Sue Henry, Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. “By all accounts, this should not have happened, but it did.” But others pointed out that the 100-year-lifespan claim was itself bogus. Lines of this type, said Tricia Stadnyk, Canada Research Chair in hydrologic modelling with the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, are rated to last 50 years. And the Bearspaw South line was built…49 years ago. (The lifespan issue gets even worse – more on that below.)

A story full of holes: City officials said the water main had been inspected and tested regularly, and that no leaks had been found; experts pointed out a catastrophic breakage of the line’s multi-layered structure would not likely begin with small leaks – and it emerged the line had not actually been drained and inspected since 2007. (Sources: (left photo) The City of Calgary Newsroom; (right image) The City of Calgary Newsroom)

Gondek, for her part, extended her track record of blaming anyone but herself by claiming the disaster could have been averted if only Alberta’s UCP government had “paid enough attention” and not denied Calgary the money it desperately needed for preventative maintenance and repair. The implications of her claim didn’t quite gibe with city officials’ assurances that the line was considered just fine. And Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shot back that Gondek “has never asked us for funding to repair their water supply infrastructure,” and that the province is providing the city with $224 million to allocate as it pleases. Others noted it was never a question of money at all, because Calgary has generated successive annual budget surpluses but either spends those funds on more congenial pursuits or carries them over into future years.

Still, for a few days it seemed as if water service would be restored within, or very soon after, the promised one week. But on June 15 it was announced that line inspections (which apparently had occurred in the physical world and not merely in city officials’ media narrative) had found five more “hot spots” – i.e., potentially calamitous weaknesses. The repair timeframe was abruptly extended to three to five weeks, well into July. And with that, the City of Calgary declared a State of Local Emergency.

Pointing fingers: Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek blamed Alberta’s UCP government for denying Calgary the money for maintenance and repairs; however, Calgary had never asked for such funding, and in any case received $224 million this year to allocate as it pleased. (Source of screenshot: The City of Calgary Newsroom)

There is an emergency in Calgary – and virtually every city across North America and the Western world. At least two types of emergency, actually. The first type is the open, at times almost gleeful refusal to focus on the basic responsibilities of municipal government. Such as paving roads – Calgary’s are notoriously cracked and potholed – instead of removing lanes from busy thoroughfares and lowering speed limits in order to create still more unused bike lanes. Or ensuring that public transit facilities are clean and safe for law-abiding users, as opposed to all-but abandoning buses and C-Trains to drug addicts, while still pushing for funding of the next multi-billion-dollar transit line.

Many Calgarians have grown exasperated at such neglect and indifference, and quite a few are paying close attention. One letter-writer to the Calgary Herald pointed out that aging water infrastructure is a well-known problem in civic government circles, noting that the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association in 2014 set the goal of getting “unaccounted for” water down to 10 percent of total treatment plant outflow. While that figure seems unsettling enough, five years later a third-party engineering report estimated that Calgary was losing 17-28 percent of all its treated water. While some of that was for fighting fires and some was theft, the majority was believed to be leakage. That makes it sound like very few of those “100-year-rated” lines had ever been inspected, tested and confirmed sound.

Core failures: As in many Western cities, Calgary’s leadership refuses to focus on the basic responsibilities of municipal government, like fixing potholes, clearing snow or ensuring public transit is safe and effective; it prefers building bike lanes people don’t use and planning the next multi-billion-dollar transit line. (Sources of photos (clockwise starting top left): Dave Gilson/CBCRachel Maclean/CBCPostmediaMatt Scace/Postmedia NetworkNick Blakeney/CityNewsRebecca Kelly/CBC)

The staggering water volume implied by that percentage range – and worse, the toleration of the problem for at least a decade – evokes a deeply disturbing decrepitude analogous to the massive leakage from oil pipelines in the dying years of the Soviet Union or the chronic tapping of oil pipelines by thieves in Nigeria. Neither is a place Calgary should emulate. The 17-28 percent range is also, coincidentally, similar to the amount of water Calgarians are now expected to conserve. If Calgary’s pipes didn’t leak, we’d hardly have to conserve water at all even with the city’s biggest water main down. “It’s time,” declared attentive letter-writer Guy Buchanan, “to rethink projects such as the Green Line LRT project and concentrate the $4-billion of reserves that council is hoarding to fortify life-sustaining infrastructure.”

This fiasco is, unfortunately, just one example of an operating mentality averse to focusing on dreary real-world problems. The City of Calgary also hates clearing roads in winter and, every year, whenever it snows hard, the warming Chinook winds fail to arrive on schedule and streets remain snowbound, chaos erupts and the excuse – every single time – is that the city lacks the money and equipment needed to plough its roads and, in any case, does not have a “bare pavement policy.” These words come out of the city spokesperson’s mouth right about the time that private-sector operators wrap up clearing streets and sidewalks at private condo developments and old folks’ homes, have restored Walmart and Safeway parking lots to pristine expanses of black pavement, and can all head to Timmy’s for a well-deserved round of late-morning dark roasts and crullers.

The second type of emergency is what has been termed the “crisis of competence” that is afflicting not only governments but utilities and complex systems in general. Put simply, two generations of experienced technical specialists, managers and tradesmen have been gradually retiring, quitting in disgust or getting purged from organizations that now prioritize adherence to internal process and conformity to progressive ideology over the nuts and bolts of keeping systems running, heeding numbers that don’t lie and respecting unforgiving physical reality. The incoming cohorts, meanwhile, often don’t know what they’re doing and don’t want to learn, hiding their ignorance behind a veil of virtue-signalling arrogance.

Crisis of competence: Experienced technical specialists, managers and tradesman have been leaving or getting purged from organizations that prioritize conformity to progressive causes like ESG and wokism over the nuts and bolts of keeping systems running. At bottom, engineer James Buker, a retired city waterworks employee. (Source of bottom photo: Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia)

The National Post’s Jamie Sarkonak had a good column on this over the past week. “Today’s students can’t read as well as their predecessors; workers are increasingly hired on non-meritocratic basesmedical errors and aviation ‘safety issues’ are on the rise,” Sarkonak wrote. “Meanwhile, decision-makers are often so risk-averse they struggle to decide anything. At small scales, everything still works. But at large scales, the effects can be disastrous.” His piece also references a more detailed description of the phenomenon in the Palladium online journal.

As luck would have it, Calgary’s water main debacle produced an archetype of that vanishing breed. James Buker was an engineer in what used to be called the Waterworks division from 1975 to 2016, serving as head of water transmission and distribution for much of the period. Following the Bearspaw rupture, Buker told journalists that such an event became foreseeable after a similarly catastrophic though less damaging water main rupture in 2004. Excavation revealed that pipe had deteriorated to “talcum powder”, as Buker described it, in barely 20 years. This in turn led to the conclusion that the precast concrete used in an entire generation of city water infrastructure installed between 1950 and 1990 was insufficiently resistant to corrosion from soil. Buker was present for the installation of the Bearspaw South line in 1975. The problem, in other words, was well-understood. By some, at least.

But the inversion of priorities that sees the city authorize spending on ugly cactus-like plants for roundabout verges or cartoon-like bas-reliefs of leaping trout in dank freeway underpasses, and the extirpation of men with a mindset like Buker (or another retired city engineer who revealed that 2007 inspection date mentioned above), are not the kinds of emergency Gondek or other public officials have in mind when they declare one. Their kind of emergency mostly involves increasing their powers to boss the rest of us around. In their minds, the critical task is getting the citizenry good and compliant, in this case focusing us entirely on water conservation, so that we don’t ask too many questions about how the work is going and we blame ourselves when “we” fall short.

Hectoring and lecturing: When the state of emergency was declared, local media focussed increasingly citizens’ compliance with water restrictions; the mayor lectured Calgarians on the need to “dig in and do a little bit more”. Shown at bottom, people filling their water jugs at the city’s emergency supply trailer. (Sources of photos: (top) Helen Pike/CBC; (bottom) The Canadian Press/Jeff Mcintosh)

This is more than a rhetorical flourish. Following the state of emergency declaration, local media coverage shifted emphasis from the situation’s technical aspects to water conservation and more water conservation. Multiple articles were devoted, for example, to showcasing how residents in bedroom communities like Airdrie, which draw their drinking water from the city, were “rallying” to cut their water use.

Gondek has been lecturing Calgarians as if we are schoolchildren or simpletons, noting “how well you’re doing” and “when you need to dig in and do a little bit more.” She urged businesses to ask employees to work from home because this, after all, “would save them the time of having a shower in the morning and no one has to worry what they look or smell like, for that matter.” The mayor, though, always turned up looking good, and there were no reports she didn’t smell good.

Going by the city’s rhetoric, the crisis was largely about our failures. As if a construction company owner worrying he’ll have to shut down the jobsite and lay off his workers because the “Stage 4” water restrictions have forbidden welding, applying hot tar or even using glue due to the purported fire hazard is being narrow-minded. As if the costly disruption to thousands of businesses employing tens of thousands of people can just be shrugged off. As if a retired business owner who laboured for 40 years to afford a decent house in a good neighbourhood and now wants to enjoy gardening – and who, after all, pays many thousands in property taxes and water fees every year – is being selfish in worrying that her plants will die. As if receiving water from the City of Calgary is a gift, a privilege the city has every right to withdraw.

Water, water everywhere: The clampdown was based on a fear the city would not have enough water to fight a single major fire, this in a city posting daily water surpluses of 100 million litres, with two rivers (including the Bow River shown at top), two large reservoirs (including the Glenmore Reservoir shown at bottom) and multiple small water bodies to draw from.

Governments today appear to have only two basic states: immovable indolence and unchecked panic. When the first state trips over to the second, a machinery of absurd over-reaction kicks in, including costly campaigns to eradicate phantom risks. The clamp-down on industrial fire hazards was so severe that a reported 800 Calgary construction jobs were at risk of shutdown. The city feared it would not have enough water to fight even one major fire. This despite posting daily water surpluses as high as 100 million litres and having available two rivers, two large reservoirs and dozens of smaller water bodies to draw upon with pumps. The blanket ban on outdoor fires wasn’t lifted even when it rained four days in a row.

The postmodern world’s inability to rationally assess risks and balance possible risk-reduction measures against foreseeable costs and benefits includes a blindness to the principle that too much caution itself creates danger. Every additional precious hour lost during the water main repair process – such as through that nearly day-long safety stand-down – placed additional weight on the 92-year-old Glenmore facility. It was considered an engineering marvel of its era and its feeder main has proved better-built than anything installed in the last 50 years. But if it failed too, Calgary would be without safe drinking water. People might actually die.

Of course it is great – stirring, in fact – how Calgarians rallied almost as one and did what needed to be done under inconvenient circumstances. Limiting water consumption has been a topic in every conversation; people really do care. The same civic-mindedness was shown during a brutal cold snap last winter, when southern Alberta’s electrical grid became overloaded and the system operator was on the verge of ordering rolling blackouts. People responded within minutes to an urgent request to shut off unneeded lights and electrical devices, and the problem passed. But if a whole city’s population can instantly do the right thing on more than one occasion, why can’t that city’s government also do the right things, like paving roads and inspecting aging water mains?

They don’t make ‘em like they used to: The water main break forced the city to rely on the 92-year-old Glenmore Water Treatment Plant (right), built on the north side of the Glenmore Reservoir (left), an engineering marvel of its era.

In the same spirit, I’m certain there still must be dozens, hundreds, even thousands of earnest and well-meaning city managers, tradespeople and technical specialists who know what they’re doing and would love to focus on just getting the job done, if the internal culture would only let them. The repairs are getting done – even if it’s with the help of a small army of private-sector “partners” – so the entire city payroll can’t be incompetent.

But if the Bearspaw South rupture had been felt and not merely declared to be an emergency, then the repair work wouldn’t stop for two injured workers. As Star Trek’s Mr. Spock liked to intone, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” All good progressives used to nod in rhythm to that line; but either the present-day City of Calgary is from a different other planet, or the “many” whose needs must be met aren’t actually the city’s residents.

It’s worth noting that the same progressives who now worry about two injured workers more than 1.6 million city residents were happy to destroy anything and anyone who got in their way during Covid-19. Those questioning the narrative were cast aside like used Kleenex or crushed like cockroaches. The (futile) mission of “stopping the spread” took precedence over everything: the economy, the individual, religion, social relations, common sense, basic rationality.

“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” said Star Trek’s Mr. Spock (left); the same progressives who used to nod in agreement to that line seemed more worried about two injured workers than the mission to repair infrastructure critical to 1.6 million Calgarians. Shown at right, a Japanese kamikaze pilot in a damaged single-engine bomber over the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Essex, off the Philippine Islands, November 1944. (Source of right photo: Rare Historical Photos)

But when it comes to civic infrastructure, the mission doesn’t top the priorities list. Unless the real mission is something other than what is stated. If the mission is to avoid accountability, to go back to the way things have been for the past 30 or so years, and to save the faltering political career of a deeply unpopular mayor, then it all makes a kind of sense. Bringing in specialists from the private sector (from the oil and natural gas industry, no less) to help get them out of the mess, as they quietly announced about 10 days into their week-long repair job – “our best and brightest”, as Gondek put it without any apparent self-awareness – should be seen as confirmation of their desperation, not as a hopeful sign they’re about to change their ways.

George Koch is Editor-in-Chief of C2C Journal.

Source of main image: @cityofcalgary/X.

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Alberta

Protecting the right to vote for Canadian citizens: Minister McIver

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Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver issued the following statement in response to Calgary City Council’s vote to extend the right to vote to permanent residents:

“Yesterday, Calgary city council passed a motion advocating for permanent residents to be extended the right to vote in civic elections. Alberta’s government has been clear since the beginning: only Canadian citizens are able to vote in civic elections. That will not be changing.

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms the right of every Canadian citizen to vote and to run as a candidate. This right extends to voters in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

“Protecting our democracy is of the utmost importance. Our provincial election legislation, like the Local Authorities Elections Act, has also been clear since its inception that voting is a right of Canadian citizens.

“Alberta’s government is also ensuring that voting is accessible for more Albertans. The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act proposes to enable special ballot access for any voter who requests it, without having to provide any specific reason such as physical disability, absence from the municipality or working for the municipal election. The ministries of Seniors, Community and Social Services and Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction are also making it easier for individuals to obtain the identification Albertans need for a variety of services, including the ability to cast a ballot.

“Our government will continue to protect the integrity of our elections and make sure voting is accessible for all Albertans who are Canadian citizens.”

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