Calgary councillors call for wage reduction at city hall amid $70M budget shortfall

Click to play video: 'Some Calgary councillors pushing for wage rollbacks for city workers and council'
Some Calgary councillors pushing for wage rollbacks for city workers and council
WATCH: Three Calgary councillors are pushing for wages to be rolled back for city workers and council. As Lisa MacGregor reports, the proposal is meeting with some resistance – Nov 4, 2019

Three Calgary councillors have joined together to push for a wage reduction at city hall in the wake of a forecasted multimillion-dollar budget shortfall.

Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas, Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu and Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca are calling for a five per cent blanket wage reduction for all city hall staffers — including their fellow councillors and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

The trio will bring forward an urgent notice of motion suggesting the wage reduction at the Tuesday priorities and finance committee meeting.

The move comes ahead of budget deliberations later this month, at which time councillors expect to be dealing with a municipal budget shortfall of at least $70 million following the release of the Jason Kenney government’s provincial budget.

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In a Monday news release, Farkas said the wage reduction would address the “crushing tax burden” that local families and their businesses are facing.

“Calgary city hall has hit the fiscal cliff, and we have a decision to make,” Farkas said.

“After years of generous wage and salary settlements, we have to do more than tap the brakes. In order to turn this mess around and deliver meaningful tax relief for Calgarians, we have to roll back the unsustainable increases in public-sector compensation.”

Farkas added that “there is no way that staff can take us seriously if we don’t lead by example​.”

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Magliocca​ said the Kenney government is opening the door, with a two- to five-per cent pay cut for provincial workers.

“The Kenney government is getting their fiscal house in order, and we at the City of Calgary need to do the same,” Magliocca said.

Chu, meanwhile, said he supports reducing spending habits and limiting “pet projects” that only benefit “a minority of Calgarians.”

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When asked if he would support the motion, Nenshi said he wasn’t sure if it was realistic but he’d be “happy to ask.”

“We should try anything we can do to help ensure that we’re able to move forward to a budget that’s fair to Calgarians,” Nenshi added. “I do want to remind people that unlike the provincial government, we’re not dealing with a deficit here.”

LISTEN: Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the proposed wage rollbacks

“Since I’ve been mayor, we have had 10 straight balanced budgets, and we will continue to do that. Our property taxes remain, for residences, the lowest in the country. For businesses, [they are] among the lowest in the country. That’s something I’m pretty proud of so I don’t want people to think that the financial challenges that the provincial government faces after years of not [balancing] their budget are the same as those the city faces.”
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The president of the Calgary and District Labour Council responded to the motion in a Monday news release, saying city council needs to explain how the proposed reductions will actually “solve the problem.”

“City council needs to show Calgarians their plan on how they will solve this problem, yet all we have is posturing from some city councillors on the issue,” Alexander Shevalier said.

D’Arcy Lanovaz, the president of CUPE 38, which represents City of Calgary employees, said the union won’t be in negotiations again until the end of 2020.

“This is about the third time that they’ve approached us since we signed the contract,” he said. “They know the answer is no. They’re simply posturing and playing politics — they’re not serious about it. If they were truly serious about fixing any of the problems, they would deal with their tax structure, their tax shift.”

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