Cuts to Calgary Fire Department, police service, transit as council approves $60M budget reduction

Click to play video: 'City of Calgary’s $60M budget cuts panned by some Calgarians'
City of Calgary’s $60M budget cuts panned by some Calgarians
WATCH: The City of Calgary has finalized its plan to cut $60 million out of the budget. Tomasia DaSilva explains why some aren’t happy with the choices made – Jul 24, 2019

Calgary city council has finalized $60 million in budget cuts following a marathon meeting on Tuesday that went late into the night.

The budget cuts are being made to help offset a decision by council members in June to help local businesses by rolling back property taxes by 10 per cent.

In the end, council voted 13-1 in favour of the cuts proposed by city administrators – with only Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell voting against.

The cuts include:

  • Four medical response units and a rescue unit from the Calgary Fire Department
  • 80,000 hours of service from Calgary Transit
  • $7 million from the Calgary Police Service
  • 115 jobs at the City of Calgary
  • 52 affordable housing homes (a 13 per cent reduction in homes supported annually)
  • Community programming (completely eliminated) and the reduction of operating and customer service hours at some local recreation facilities

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LISTEN: Jyoti Gondek joins Gord Gillies to discuss city council’s decision on the $60-million in cuts

“I do take no joy in this,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “Council had many, many options to deal with this small business tax shift. Many of those options would have helped the businesses to a very similar extent that we are helping them without requiring mid-year tax cuts.”

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What do the cuts to the Calgary Fire Department mean?

When asked if cuts to the Calgary Fire Department would be noticeable to those who call on them for help, Nenshi said they will “see a different vehicle.”

WATCH: The Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Police Service and Calgary Transit are among the services impacted by $60 million in budget cuts approved by councillors on Tuesday. Doug Vaessen has details.

Click to play video: 'Calgary city councillors approve $60M in budget cuts'
Calgary city councillors approve $60M in budget cuts
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“If you called 911 because you were having a medical emergency for the last few years, you might have seen a Chevy suburban show up at your door that said ‘Calgary Fire’ on it with two trained firefighters in it who could help with emergency life-saving work. Now you’ll see a fire truck,” Nenshi said.

“We had a pilot project to run an emergency medical response with firefighters using different kinds of vehicles, and we will be ending that program.”

What do cuts to Calgary Transit mean?

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday evening, Nenshi said the majority of the cuts to Calgary Transit are in management and that he doesn’t believe any routes will be changed or removed, but he says trains and busses will be less frequent “particularly in off-peak hours.”

“To put that into context, we increased the service in 2019 by more than that,” Nenshi explained. “However, people will see a real impact because we have to absorb this in only one quarter of a year.”

Job losses at the City of Calgary

The budget reduction agreed upon by council members will lead to dozens of staff who work for the city facing layoffs.

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“There are some 230 positions,” Nenshi explained. “We can move things around in terms of vacancies, in terms of pending retirements and so on… but you are still going to see some hundred persons lose their positions.”

Are more cuts still coming?

In a Tuesday news release, the City of Calgary chief financial officer Carla Male said the city is continually looking for opportunities to “streamline costs” and “improve the value and affordability of services provided to Calgarians.”

LISTEN: Jeromy Farkas tells Rob Breakenridge the $60 million is “a good start”

“In addition to realizing the $60 million and the savings we committed to last November, we will continue to work with council to determine what further reductions are needed for 2020 and beyond to continue to support Calgary’s economic recovery,” Male said.

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– With files from Kaylen Small and Doug Vaessen

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