Advocacy Updates: City of Calgary’s Proposed Service Plans and Budget

November 15, 2022

The GSA Advocacy team is writing to highlight an opportunity for you to offer feedback on the City of Calgary’s proposed (4 year) Service Plans and Budgets. From Nov. 21st to 25th, the City wants to hear your feedback, either written, or spoken to the council during their open meeting on the 22nd. These budgets influence the environment that we all live, study and party in. This is an opportunity to directly call upon the city to improve transit service, create more affordable housing, or take actionable steps towards anti-racist measures, by allocating the appropriate funds to the right item.

Fear not of public speaking, the group Calgary’s Future has put together this petition calling for budget actions that support affordable housing, climate action and more. Moreover, the Calgary Climate Hub is offering a Zoom advocacy training Wednesday, Nov 16th at 7pm on how to speak to council, if you’re up for the action!

From the GSA side, Andrew and I (largely Andrew; big shout outs!) have looked through the City of Calgary’s 2023-2026 Service and Budget Plans and noticed some interesting line-item spending proposals that fit with some of the concerns that have come up from the Advocacy Priorities Survey and our GRC meetings. As far as municipal issues go, we heard a clear call to respond to the rising cost of living by way of affordable housing, transit, and food security initiatives. We also heard strong support for mitigating the climate emergency, creating stronger anti-racism strategies, active Truth and Reconciliation, and accountability measures to these points. See brief notes on budget items related to these points below. 

Overall, the City is required to pass a balanced budget, and so project fundings can only come from the pools posted in this proposal. We’re not here to tell you what to suggest the City give-or-take funds from, but we have learned the following facts:

  • The Total Operating Budget for 2023 is estimated at $4.7 billion. Of that,
  • Police Services (pg.205-212) receive $453 million (9.6% of the budget). This is an increase of $19.5 million from the 2022 budget, and the single largest item under Public Safety and Bylaws (by more than a factor of two). Meanwhile,
  • Fire and Emergency Response (EMS, etc; pg. 183-189) receive $248 million.
  • Public Transit (pg. 259-265) receives $281 million (6.0% of the budget).
  • Affordable Housing (pg. 215-220) is marked for $17 million, (0.4% of the budget). We’ll note that Calgary has a low non-market housing supply relative to other cities.
  • Climate and Environment Measures (pg. 295-301) receive $16.0 million (0.3% of the budget), but this is projected to grow 153% from 2022, to $26.1 million by 2026.

For context, by 2026, the total operating budget for the city is expected to grow 1.7% to $4.9 billion, where: 

  • Police Services are projected to grow 7.8% to $467.6 million (9.5% of the budget). 
  • Total social programs and services spending’s budget will be static at about $103 million between 2023 to 2026 (2.1%), which is down from the ~2.3% of total city funding that it currently comprises. 
  • Social programs, in particular, are seeing a 65.5% decrease in funding from 2022 to 2026. That’s likely due to COVID relief being cut back, but given that income and wealth inequality in Calgary is 3rd highest of major cities in Canada, that extra funding that’s being cut might be needed.
  • The city is proposing a total capital investment of $239 million in social programs and services, though, mostly through a 2025 investment of $121.3 million in affordable housing.
  • All the various fire services combined total $256.4 million in 2023 and $284.2 million in 2026 (though, again, with a much higher capital investment). 
  • Public transit is seeing a 7.9% increase in funding, over the four years, from $265.6 million in 2022 (5.6% of the budget) to $286.5 million in 2026 (5.8% of the budget).
  • Climate and Environment Measures is marked for $26.1 million in 2026 (0.5% of the budget).
  • All the while, only 70% of Calgarians think the police treat all identity groups fairly in 2022, which is down year over year since 2019. 

As residents of the city, your voice matters here! The feedback window is Nov 21st to 25th, Calgary Climate Hub is offering a zoom advocacy training Wednesday, Nov 16th at 7pm on how to speak to council, and the city wants to hear your feedback!