A coalition representing some 30 community, faith and ethnic groups is angry after not getting to have its say at Calgary City Council on Monday.
Hundreds of members of Keep Calgary Strong crowded into council chambers, hoping to convince councillors to make budget cuts that would not hurt Calgary’s most vulnerable residents.
“I’m really disappointed with city council,” member Mary Salvani said. “We voted them in, they should listen to us.”
Council did vote on whether to hear the group out, but ultimately decided to pass.
“I didn’t think it was fair to invite just them and not others to speak to council,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
The group filed out of council chambers chanting, “Shame on you! shame on you all!”
Outside of chambers, a spokesperson for the group, Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee, echoed the disappointment about not being able to advise on the upcoming $60 million in cuts to city services.
“One of the particularly frightening arguments was, ‘Well, we can’t talk about this because we don’t know the details,'” Greenwood-Lee said. “Well, where are the details?”
The group is particularly concerned with reductions in mental health initiatives, as well as millions of dollars in possible cuts to Calgary Transit.
“We know that they’re making about a $9-million cut to transit, and as we understand it, that includes $2.4 million in cuts to specialized transit.”
City council said no decisions have been made yet. Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison said what has been decided is the money has to come from somewhere.
“I think Calgarians have long stated to us that it’s time time to cut back on some of our operational spending,” Davison said. “And that’s what we intend to do.”
Calgary’s mayor agreed — on that part anyway.
“City council is grappling with a very, very tough decision,” Nenshi said. “And frankly, has not done a good job.”
Keep Calgary Strong said it is not prepared to let the issue go. It plans to present a petition to council on Tuesday, the day the budget plan will also be presented.
As for where it would like to see the cuts instead, Salvani was blunt.
“I’m not a political wizard and I’m not an economist,” she said. “I just want city council to vote with their hearts and with their conscience.”