July 21, 2019 4:57 pm
Updated: July 21, 2019 8:19 pm

‘We are in this mess because leadership is lacking’: Calgary councillor attacks mayor over looming $60M in cuts

WATCH: Details of the $60 million budget cuts at Calgary city council are expected to be released on Monday. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, a battle is brewing between one city councilor and the mayor over just how council found itself in this position in the first place.

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Calgarians will soon know how they will be affected by $60 million in budget cuts.

READ MORE: Proposal for new Calgary arena heats up, heads to council on Monday

Details are expected online on Monday and city council will be asked to approve the cuts at a meeting on Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the mayor.

The mid-year budget-slashing was approved by council in June to help pay for $130.9 million in property tax relief for businesses — but now one city councillor is expressing her frustration with the fact council is facing the looming cuts.

Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek said council wouldn’t be having the conversation if there had been leadership earlier in the game.

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In a Facebook post on the weekend, Gondek expressed her irritation with comments from Mayor Naheed Nenshi earlier in the week, saying we have “a leader who will not collaborate.”

“If in 2014 and 2015, previous councils had the leadership that would’ve made the tax shift possible, we wouldn’t be in this place. As a matter of fact, in April of this year when we proposed a solution that would’ve had a more permanent fix and a rebate to residential taxpayers, we would not be in this situation,” Gondek said.

READ MORE: Calgary administration finds $60M in proposed cuts to the budget

She said one of the things most concerning to her is the amount of “fear-mongering” that is going on with the $60 million in cuts.

“We are talking about cutting essential services,” Gondek said.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that when we could’ve made a solid decision that wouldn’t have required these cuts, we didn’t do it simply because the mayor wanted to have a small business grant program. And it was that fight to get his way that has gotten us here today.”

Calgary pictured on July 21, 2019.

Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Nenshi said council has considered many ideas on how to help the small businesses impacted by the downtown tax shift and has rejected them all.

“One of the ideas, brought forward by Councillor Gondek, was to significantly increase residential taxes and use the money we had set aside to help businesses to provide a one-time rebate to homeowners — instead of businesses — to make the tax increase more palatable. This idea, like others, failed to get the support of council and ultimately failed on a 12-3 vote. No single member of council, including the mayor, had the power to change that,” Nenshi said in a statement on Sunday.

He said to blame that failure somehow on the procedure is a stretch at best.

“It’s unfortunate that there are some members of council trying to create a narrative that they somehow don’t share the responsibility for where we’re at. Ultimately, council was unable to decide on an approach after considering many ideas — some good, some bad. What’s before us on Tuesday is not the best option, but it will achieve the goal of protecting small businesses while minimizing harm to citizens as much as possible,” Nenshi said.

The cuts are expected to be made across 48 different municipal services, with some of the largest cuts coming from police at $7 million and fire and emergency services at $7.6 million. Transit is facing a substantial trim of $6.8 million.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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