Heritage Park could face partial shutdown after ‘perfect storm’ of financial pressures, Calgary council hears

Click to play video: 'Calgary non-profit organizations feeling the pinch as economy continues to recover'
Calgary non-profit organizations feeling the pinch as economy continues to recover
WATCH: AAs Alberta’s economy continues to recover, organizations in Calgary are seeing signs this week the province is far from out of the woods. As Lisa MacGregor reports, some attractions are facing tough decisions. – Sep 18, 2018

As the city of Calgary continues the preparation of a four-year budget, so-called civic partners made their pitch to city council’s priorities and finance committee Monday with a dire warning from Heritage Park.

Described by Councillor Jeromy Farkas as a perfect storm, the historical park is having to deal with government policies that have increased costs and construction that has impacted revenues.

Work on the Glenmore Dam, which has lowered the water in the reservoir, has meant the S.S. Moyie has not sailed this season and that has left more than a $600,000 dollar hit on revenues. Construction along 14 Street S.W. also hasn’t made it easy for visitors to get to the Park. The provincial government has added to the woes with the carbon levy and minimum wage hikes.

CEO Alida Visbach told councillors that, since 2015, those government policies have added $1.8 million in costs for Heritage Park. Visbach said there aren’t many employees making minimum wage but there is a cumulative ripple effect.

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“That when a 15 year old is hired as a seasonal position to sell popcorn in the plaza that we have to pay them $15 means that the line cook who has that much more skill, experience and responsibility now has to be paid $23.”

LISTEN: Heritage Park CEO Alida Visbach joins The Morning News to explain the dire financial situation facing the Park

Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas says he will seek additional funding for Heritage Park.

“When you consider the economy and the impact of construction in south west Calgary, it’s just a perfect storm. It’s really disappointing and deeply saddens me that Heritage Park, for the first time in its history, is considering a partial shutdown.”

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The city hall committee was told that Heritage Park may consider the closure of some exhibits.

A number of other groups made presentations to the city committee with the financial challenges they face, prompting Councillor Druh Farrell to question city priorities.

“We have so many fundamental organizations that provide incredible quality of life for Calgary and we’re talking of cutting them, and at the same time we’re talking about the Olympics,” Farrell said. “I’m really struggling rationalizing this austerity budget or the Olympics.”

The week-long debate and deliberations on the 2019 to 2022 budget will begin November 26 at city council.

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