Calgary councillors seek more debate on Green Line LRT ‘Stage 1’

Calgary city council spent hours Monday debating the so-called “Stage 1” of the Green Line LRT, but now two councillors want even more debate.

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'Thank you actually': Nenshi commends Chabot for failed social media ban proposal

A day after slamming a proposed social media ban as a personal attack and waste of council’s time, Mayor Naheed Nenshi thanked a colleague for bringing the pitch forward and sparking a needed conversation.


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Volunteers continue to raise funds for Nenshi's $300,000 lawsuit bill


Calgary city council plays games with an Alberta government tax break and Calgarians will pay the piper, after this fall's election



You've been played. You've been screwed. You've been had.

Calgary, you've been taken for a ride.

But it won't happen until AFTER the election this October.

The smart money never figured these no-one-can-touch-us-so-we-can-do-what-we-damn-well-please tax grabbers at city hall would pull off this latest shell game where, once again, you end up being the loser.

The smart folks thought the city council big spenders, who believe taxpayers are an ATM for their own use, wouldn't stoop so low and take another tax break from the province while at the same time making it look like they were somehow doing you a favour.

Especially not in an election year.

But they did.

Here is how it went down.

On Monday night, after supper and following two hours of scheming behind closed doors, a slim majority of those present on city council had a plan.

The Notley NDP left almost $24 million on the table after taking their share of property tax cash.

This dough was supposed to go back to you — this year and every year.

What happened instead? City council decided to give you the province's tax break this year and take it away next year.

After the election.

It's the same reasoning behind giving you a small rebate on your property tax bill this year by taking money from the city's rainy-day fund.

By doing both these things, the final tab on your tax bill this year should be more or less the same as last year.

But, in 2018, after the election, you will not get the tax break from the province.

And there's no rebate on your taxes.

The result? In 2018, after this fall's election, you will start off with a 3% tax hike even before council increases your taxes for 2018.

Subject to a green light from city council, your tax increase for 2018 is pegged at 4.7%.

Do the addition.

"It was a big smoke and mirror game," says Coun. Andre Chabot, who is running against Nenshi for the mayor's job.

"Next year is when Calgarians are really going to see it," says Chabot, who doesn't like the games being played in the big blue playpen.

"If you need something, be upfront about it. Don't play these smoke and mirror games to confuse people."

Chabot says it reminds him of the infamous $52 million tax break, where city council gave it back for only one year and now takes the annual break every year.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," says Chabot.

Shame on us.

Chabot says he would like city council to reconsider this latest cash grab. But will enough people bellyache to push the issue?

For the record, this was the vote. Please take down the names.



Coun. Sean Chu says when he saw what was going on at council Monday night he thought: "How can they do this to people? I felt really, really crappy. It was unbelievable."

He doesn't buy the argument it's nothing to sweat over. It's only a small amount of money.

This is what is said every time council takes what isn't theirs, and these so-called small amounts of money soon add up to a big amount of money.

You know the old saying, look after the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

Besides, in principle, it is the people's money. Period.

Then again, this is a city council trumpeting a big LRT line from the far north of the city to the deep south. The only problem. They don't have anywhere the dollars to cover the billions in costs.

So city council scrambles, picking the pockets of beleaguered city taxpayers again.

As usual, city council counts on Calgarians remaining in a deep, deep sleep.

Chu isn't asleep. This is not a bad dream where you can wake up. It's all very real.

"I'm still shaking my head," says Chu.

So are we, councillor. So are we.


Council to debate fate of $23.7M in unused 'tax room' from province

Calgary’s elected officials will soon debate what to do with $23.7 million of so-called “tax room” that’s landed on the table because this year’s provincial tax request is lower than anticipated.

While a report scheduled to go to council Monday states $23.7 million is “available for the city to fund various critical initiatives if council so chooses,” there appears to be little appetite among councillors to absorb the money indefinitely — a move that would result in a minor property tax increase for homeowners in an election year.

“At the end of the day, if we take what is viewed as a tax relinquishment the net effect is we’re taxing Calgarians $23 million more than we said we would because we don’t control what the province asks,” said Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot.

“If we take that $23 million, our (property taxes) go up.”

Coun. Andre Chabot

While Calgary’s city council unanimously approved an effective tax freeze in November, by dipping into the rainy-day fund to offset a 1.5 per cent property tax hike, the overall change in taxes is always dependent on the province setting its portion of the city tax bill, called the education property tax, in its spring budget. 

This year’s provincial property tax requisition on the city is $785.2 million, an increase of 0.05 per cent from 2016 when the province took $784.8 million.

Occasionally, as is the case this year, the province takes less education tax than what the city budgeted for, leaving what’s known as tax room — funds that were grabbed by the city from 2011 until 2013, when council rescinded a motion that saw the city automatically absorb the money offered by the province.

In 2013, $52 million in tax room became part of the city’s tax base indefinitely and following a heated debate and even a reality-TV style event, council narrowly approved spending the money on the Green Line LRT for ten years. In 2011, a $42 million tax room increase helped fund a library, recreation centres and other projects. 

Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating, who voted against the 2011 decision to collect any extra property taxes if the province lowered its requisition, said he plans to go into next week’s debate about the $23.7 million with an open mind.  

“I’ll wait for the discussion,” he said, adding the tough times facing may Calgarians will be top of mind. “I’m keenly aware that people may need every dollar they can get.”


Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott said he’s opposed to taking the $23.7 million in tax room. 

“I like that if we are going to take the tax room, we actually have a plan for it before we take it,” said Pincott. “We haven’t identified any major need at this point that we should jump in and do.”

Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu, who prides himself on being fiscally conservative, said he believes the looming October municipal election means council won’t do anything to raise citizen’s taxes when the matter comes before them next week.  

“I think we should have an election every year so everyone always turns into a fiscal conservative,” Chu said.

According to the report on 2017 property tax scheduled to go before council Monday, this year’s effective municipal tax freeze will see the typical Calgary house face an annual $7 decrease in property taxes, assuming council chooses not to take the $23.7 million in available tax room.

The 2017 combined property tax rate increase is set at 0.7 per cent (made up of 1.5 per cent on the municipal side and -0.6 per cent for the province’s portion) and without the one-time 1.5 per cent property tax rebate approved in November, the typical Calgary homeowner would have been on the hook for a $20 property tax increase. 

Non-residential tax bills are set to increase 0.4 per cent this year. 

Last year, the average homeowner faced a $169.80 hit to the wallet when property tax bills were mailed out, a 6.1 per cent jump over the previous year that was largely blamed on the province increasing its annual property tax requisition. Non-residential tax bills increased 3.8 per cent in 2016. 

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"Andre Chabot on CalgaryNEXT"


Clip description

Councillor Andre Chabot said Thursday Mayor Naheed Nenshi violated "disclosure terms for an in-camera meeting" when he commented on CalgaryNEXT. He joins Bruce Kenyon on the Morning News.


Chabot calls Nenshi’s CalgaryNEXT comments a “breach of process”

Calgary,Alberta / News Talk 770 (CHQR)
  | Last Updated: March 29, 2017 11:53 pm

According to city councillor-turned-candidate for mayor Andre Chabot, Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s prognosis for the CalgaryNEXT and West Village projects being “dead” is a “breach of process.”


“The current Mayor violated disclosure terms of an in-camera meeting,” Chabot said in a blog post on Wednesday.

In an interview with News Talk 770, Chabot elaborated, saying Nenshi’s comments are not reflective of the direction council has given publicly on the CalgaryNEXT file.

“If you’re going to represent council’s opinion, then it should only be reflective of what whatever’s been made public,” said Chabot.

In a tweet earlier in the week, Chabot called the comments “another [example] of the mayor’s arrogance.”

“To get out in front of an issue and make it seem as though it’s a decision you can unilaterally make suggests that you have authority to make those kinds of decisions.”

“Whatever decisions are made, they are not made by any one member of council – the mayor or otherwise. They’re made as a body, and only council can make those decisions.”

On Twitter, Nenshi responded to Chabot’s allegations of violating council in-camera rules, saying he has been making comments about CalgaryNEXT publically for months.

Meanwhile, Chabot disagrees with Nenshi’s assertion that the CalgaryNEXT project is dead.

“I don’t think that anything that’s envisioned for this city is dead,” said Chabot. “The question comes down to how is it going to get financed?” 


Why Andre Chabot presents a real challenge for Nenshi

The Ward 10 councillor could be the only true challenger in the 2017 mayoral race


Andre Chabot is the only established politician challenging Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his seat in the 2017 election.

The 2017 mayoral race got very real on Wednesday when Andre Chabot’s worst-kept secret was officially let out of the bag.

Short of a high-profile celebrity stepping forward, Chabot is now the official underdog in this race (sorry Larry). Unfortunately, most people have no idea who he is and if he’s the real deal.

After watching him for countless hours in council, I can tell you that he poses a bigger challenge than many people might think.

First off, he’s a details guy. When a point of order is raised at a Calgary council meeting, chances are it’s coming from Chabot.

It’s tempting to gloss over the details when you’re facing thousands of pages of reports and secondary suite applications. He clearly doesn’t, based on the questions he regularly asks.

Unlike councillors who vote strictly on ideological lines, Chabot has shown that he’s willing to bend a bit. While he probably won’t pitch a city-wide solution for secondary suites anytime soon, he was able to partner with Gian-Carlo Carra on a motion to reduce the red tape on them in certain cases.

In the early days of the bike lane pilot, his was probably the deciding vote. You look at the 8-7 split and his name stands out, voting in favor with Druh Farrell and Evan Woolley.

What Chabot lacks is that instant charm that comes across well through the television. Even he admits it. But that’s not to say he can’t turn on the charm when he wants to.

In January of 2016, I watched him at a meeting regarding airport noise in Marlborough. He was greeting a steady stream of residents, chatting them up, and he definitely had that one-on-one connection with those who approached him.

When things at the meeting got heated, it was Chabot who took to the stage, cracked a few dry jokes and calmed everyone down with a promise to request a new meeting with a better format.

When you call up Chabot he answers in a monotone, detached voice. It’s a tone that says, “I’m answering my phone, but don’t waste my time.”

However, ask him a fiscal question, and you’re off to the races. If there’s one thing he likes more than details, it’s numbers.

In this fragile economy that may be turning a corner, and with the NDP in power for two more years, Chabot could easily harness the growing sentiment against the left.

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Andre Chabot accuses Mayor Nenshi of spilling closed-door secret on arena project

Statement that CalgaryNEXT proposal is dead was only his opinion, says mayor


Councillor and mayoral candidate Andre Chabot said Mayor Nenshi violated terms of disclosure for an in-camera meeting when he said the plan for CalgaryNEXT was dead.

The election is still half a year away, but the gloves may have already come off in the battle for mayor between two of the leading candidates.

In a blog post on his election website, Coun. Andre Chabot accused Mayor Naheed Nenshi of violating the disclosure terms of an in-camera meeting when he said Monday the CalgaryNEXT proposal is dead.

“He unilaterally came out with a statement based on a project that was considered to be one of two options (…) which hadn’t been concluded and no decision had been made by council – at least not publicly,” said Chabot.

When asked if the cat has now been let out of the bag about a decision made in-camera, Chabot said he really can’t say.

“All I can say is, he made a comment that wasn’t even an opinion. It was an arbitrary, definitive statement about a project," said Chabot. "There was no direction from council to publicly make a comment to that effect.”

Metro contacted the mayor’s office for a response. Staff said he was unavailable for comment, but Nenshi did join the fray on twitter, saying it was his opinion and that he has been stating that same opinion for months now. 



March 2017 in Review...

There is a lot to talk about from City Hall this month.

From bingo, to Haiti, to premature death - of the CalgaryNEXT proposal, that is.

Let’s start with CalgaryNEXT.

The misunderstanding between the current Mayor and Ken King, CEO of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment (Corp.), is unfortunate, and it was entirely preventable.  The current Mayor violated disclosure terms of an in-camera meeting.  Regarding the arena project, I have a hard time reconciling significant amounts of public money unless a project demonstrates major public good.  I am sympathetic to the argument that a new arena complex will bring big economic benefits, as it has to Edmonton, and that is good for the city.

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