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City of Calgary concerned with Alberta’s ‘Fair Deal Panel’

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks after receiving an award from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Public Policy Testimonial Dinner in Toronto on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks after receiving an award from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Public Policy Testimonial Dinner in Toronto on Thursday, April 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

If the UCP government follows through on some of the issues being studied by the province’s “Fair Deal Panel,” it could wind up costing Calgarians hundreds of millions of dollars.

That’s according to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, as city hall’s intergovernmental affairs (IGA) committee approved sending a submission to the panel by the end of the month.

READ MORE: ‘Fair Deal Panel’ town hall scheduled for Airdrie cancelled due to panellist’s death

On Thursday, a report to the IGA committee said the city is concerned about a proposal emulating Quebec’s legal requirement that municipalities need to get provincial approval before entering agreements with the federal government.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars — probably billions — will be stuck in Edmonton, subject to the largesse or the political whims of the provincial government. Or most likely would never get spent,” Nenshi said.

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The mayor said a recent initiative for affordable housing the city signed with the Liberal government would not have happened under the proposal.

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READ MORE: Alberta’s ‘Fair Deal Panel’ holds town hall in Calgary

He questions the motives of the “Fair Deal Panel.”

“This entire thing is a distraction from real work that we need to get done in this province. I’m interested in helping make people’s lives get better, not political posturing.”

Premier Jason Kenney set up the panel to look at nearly a dozen initiatives, including an Alberta pension plan, provincial police force and tax collection agency.

READ MORE: Cost of a fair deal: experts break down Alberta government panel’s mandate

Nenshi said the city would face extra costs if those ideas go forward.

“For example, if there’s a separate pension plan or a separate revenue generation agency, that means the City of Calgary is going to have redo our systems, hire people in order to fill out two sets of tax forms, two sets of pension contribution forms and so on.”

He said the increase red tape and create an extra layer of bureaucracy.

READ MORE: Jason Kenney says staff were not directed to delete dissenting comments on livestream

Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell agrees with the committee recommendation that the city submit a presentation to the provincial panel, but questions the motivation for the creation of the body.

“My concern is this discussion around a fair deal is a distraction from what’s actually happening within the province.”

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Farrell said the province should always be looking to get a better arrangement with the federal government, as should the city seek fairness in decision-making within the province.

READ MORE: Premier Jason Kenney announces ‘Fair Deal Panel’ to advance Alberta’s interests, like pipelines

“But, I wonder if this is just a distraction. We can’t live on anger. We need solutions, we need to move Calgary forward, we need to move Alberta forward.”

The City of Calgary’s submission to the fair deal panel will be in by the end of the month.