Economic development investment fund would let Calgary pick winners and losers: taxpayer group

Office towers in downtown Calgary. Global News

A public-purse watchdog group is critical of a proposal to create a $10-million economic development investment fund.

A report going to city council says the fund is to create jobs and revitalize Calgary’s downtown core.

Since August 2015, Statistics Canada says nearly 53,000 jobs have been lost in the Calgary region. Economic development investment funds has been tried in many other North American cities as a way of dealing with an economic downturn and creating diversification.

READ MORE: Calgary council asked to create economic development fund

However, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is speaking out against the idea.

Responding to the report, the CTF says a better way to spur the economy is to leave money with the job creators.

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“Ultimately, money has to come from somewhere,” Alberta director Paige MacPherson said.

“If council is going to allocate money to any new kind of economic development slush fund, that has to come out of the pockets of people who are creating jobs today–or at least trying to–in our city. So taking that money out of the economy is not the best way to stimulate economic growth.”

The taxpayer’s group warns of the risks inherent in creating such a fund.

“Politicians or government operatives are able to pick winners and losers with this money that they’ve taken out of the pockets of people who were already creating jobs in the economy,” MacPherson said. “We don’t want to see some kind of political slush fund where politicians are making the decisions for which jobs are prioritized over others.”

Councillor Richard Pootmans was with Calgary Economic Development before getting into politics. He welcomed the fund last week.

“If we’re not making investments in our community, why should anyone else? And right now, we are seeking talent and investment for our community,” Pootmans said.

READ MORE: New Calgary arena among debate points in council’s Downtown Economic Summit report

The CTF says the best way for government to stimulate job creation and growth is to get out of the way by reducing the tax burden on businesses. MacPherson noted there have been seemingly never-ending funds in some regions of the country which have not stimulated economic growth.

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“You can’t just put an economic development fund into a situation and think that’s going to be a silver bullet for economic growth,” MacPherson said. “The conditions need to be good for businesses to actually create jobs.”

The report goes to city council Monday.

–With files from Aurelio Perri, News Talk 770

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