October 11, 2017 7:00 am

2017 Calgary mayoral candidates Q&A: What are your priorities on property and business taxes?

WATCH: Mayoral candidates Andre Chabot, Naheed Nenshi and Bill Smith answer the question: What are your priorities on property and business taxes – and why?

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Global News asked our Calgary viewers and readers to tell us which issues matter most ahead of the municipal election on Oct. 16.

Property and business taxes were among the top concerns.

We asked all 10 mayoral candidates to answer your questions below, keeping answers to six sentences per issue. Their answers are reprinted here, edited only to meet our Global News editorial standards.

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FULL COVERAGE: 2017 Calgary municipal election

Questions:

Small business has suffered due to taxes and of course the economy. Many that have been a part of our city for years have closed their doors. What are your plans to grow small business in Calgary? What incentives, if any, would you implement to make small business an attractive investment? Would you consider freezing municipal taxes? How would you ensure tax dollars don’t go towards frivolous items during a recession?  

Answer from Jason (Jason GoGo) Achtymichuk:

“Small businesses are the driver of our economy. Recently, they have faced costly changes to provincial and federal policies such as minimum wage and corporate tax hikes. My platform includes meaningful corporate tax cuts to throw a lifeline to small businesses. A tax cut may reduce revenue, but will maintain jobs. We must also cut red tape in the city’s approval process. These processes can involve several city departments, can be lengthy and costly, and add significantly to the capital required to potential job-creating investments.”

Answer from Andre Chabot:

“We used to rely on big companies, especially the oil and gas sector to shoulder a large part of our non-residential property tax. With the economic downturn, that revenue can no longer be relied upon, pushing more of the non‐residential tax burden to small business.

We need to create specific categories for different types of businesses (i.e. restaurants, small and large businesses) to minimize the shift in taxes from one sector to another.

What this means to small business owners is that during tough economic times, their incremental tax burden would be lessened regardless of what occurs in non‐residential sectors. They would not see a huge increase year-over-year, which they are currently experiencing.

In the interim, we could look at setting up a tax deferral system to reduce the year-over-year increases and we could reduce our expenditure by revising our capital plan to be reflective of our current economic climate.”

Answer from Brent Chisholm:

No response by publication time.

Answer from Emile Gabriel:

“I am proposing tax freeze and tax reform, which can be achieved through my two-fold plan: A) cutting waste, duplication, unwise spending and postponing non-urgent and ill-conceived projects in order to be able to save money and freeze tax for a period of time without cutting services; B) along with reforming taxes, city’s regulations, policies and bylaws will be modernized in order to attract new business and capital to be able to launch an economic growth and generate new revenues.”

Answer from Larry Heather:

“Not only will I freeze taxes, I will roll them back significantly. The cost of parking and the strategies of deliberate traffic congestion has starved the economy of scale vital to the businesses in the core and must be reduced. The City must pull back from being in business which competes with the private sector and stick to its core mandates of planning and administration. Excessive regulation and interference in the marketplace with abusive CRLs and bonus density slush funds must be curtailed. The City does not, nor should be “growing” business. It should get out of the way of enforcing equality of results and back to providing a level field for equality of opportunity.”

Answer from David Lapp:

“Taxes are the single-most important issue that Calgarians demand action on. High taxes strangle the economic growth of our city and make it highly unaffordable for many. We need to have deep long-term tax cuts for small businesses and families. We can do this; it’s possible. If the mayor and city council would commit to a new disciplined fiscal regimen, including major efficiencies, then we would have the room to make this tax cut. I am committing long-term to the guiding principle of keeping our tax rate in line with the rate of inflation.”

Answer from Naheed Nenshi:

“Continuing to invest in community infrastructure like needed recreation and cultural amenities, and in critical transportation infrastructure, like new interchanges and the Green Line, are some of the most effective incentives the City can offer to attract people and businesses to Calgary.

In response to the economic downturn, council did freeze taxes for residences and business in 2017. However, changes in the commercial real estate market due to the downtown vacancy rate meant that some businesses outside the downtown core saw big shifts in the assessed market value of their property and massive potential increases. At my urging, the City used our 2015 surplus and some money from reserves to set up a $45-million fund to cap changes to taxes based on these assessments at five per cent, so many businesses saw huge decreases in their taxes and no one paid more than an additional five per cent. If re-elected, I will ask council to extend this program.

We’ve already generated $50 million in recurring annual savings through the zero-based review efficiency finding and process improvement program I instituted and to help ensure we get the best value for tax dollars, we will continue zero-based reviews to generate additional savings and reduce City operating costs.”

Answer from Curtis Olson:

“In my comprehensive CPlan I have called for a five per cent cut to the entire City of Calgary operating budget (that’s approximately $200 million) with an allocation of one per cent to create an open government environment, one per cent to be returned to Calgarians as a residential tax rebate and one per cent towards modernizing the Calgary Housing Company. You can visit my website for updates as they pertain to small business. City business units must utilize factual data to make evidence-based decisions rather than making decisions based on ego/personal agendas/special interests so as to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.”

Answer from Bill Smith:

“I run a law shop in downtown Calgary. My business taxes have gone up 70 per cent over the last seven years. I get why people are saying, ‘We’ve had enough.’ There was a time when Calgary was the place to do business. That’s not the case anymore. Let’s make Calgary Canada’s most business-friendly city again through fairer taxation and efficient regulation that helps us grow and diversify.”

Answer from Stan (the Man) Waciak:

[RE: Plans to grow small business in Calgary] “Growth of a city depends on what it has to offer. If the city has nothing to offer, businesses will leave and go to greener pastures but businesses have to have something to offer to attract business, not expect people to buy your product. Landlords may have to drop their rents.”

[RE: Incentives] “The city can only create places to do business; it’s up to the landlords to make it viable for small businesses.”

[RE: Freezing taxes] “No I would lower them to attract more people to the business game but any lowering of anything, landlords grab it.”

[RE: How to ensure tax dollars don’t go towards frivolous items] “It’s knowing what’s right and being on it.”

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