The city of Calgary is broke.
Oh I know you wouldn’t know it with the way the Mayor and most of city council are acting. They continue to spend like drunken sailors and just rammed a 7.5% tax increase through on citizens a few months ago. Apparently they think that some magical money fairy is going to appear and save the city from the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and that collapse of the Alberta energy sector.
The “Green Line” is an ambitious pie-in-the-sky transit project which came into being back in the days when Calgary’s downtown was still nearly full of active businesses and city hall was still spoiled with an excess of riches due to taxing the hell out of oil company head offices. It would build a new train line from the deep reaches of North Calgary and Southeast Calgary to bring commuters in and out of downtown.
The project has been a gong show since day one. Projections and numbers bounce all over the map as plans are constantly revised. The city blew the planned budget for the line right out of the water years ago. In response to that embarrassment, they simply drastically cut the size of the proposal to a fraction of what it had been and then pretended that they had stayed within budget.
The Green Line was supposed to cost $4.5 billion for 46 kilometres of line but it was suddenly cut to a 20 kilometre route with a $4.6 billion dollar price tag.
Aside from the clearly inept planning and budgeting for this line, one has to look at the need.
Calgary’s downtown was already sitting at a 30 percent commercial vacancy rate due to the energy slump and massive tax rates from the city. With oil at record lows along with fallout from the pandemic lockdown, that vacancy will likely swell into the range of 50 percent.
Why the hell should the city spend nearly $5 billion dollars to provide increased transit service to a dead downtown????
The whole world is moving into a period of austerity due to pandemic reactions. Governments on all levels need to curb spending and prioritize where they will spend their scarce tax dollars. Spending billions on a train line to nowhere is about as dumb as it gets. Unfortunately, many on Calgary’s city council see the Green Line as a personal vanity project and don’t want to let it go no matter how unviable it clearly is.
They would rather bankrupt the next generation than curb a project that they wanted to be able to brag to their grandchildren about.
Right now the city is looking at a $250 million budget shortfall. $89 million of that is coming from city transit because they are running well below capacity. Why the hell should we be looking at spending billions to increase that capacity? I know it will be going up post pandemic but clearly the city doesn’t need to be expanding it at this time.
There are many areas where the city needs trimming from the Mayor’s twin pension plans to the giant corporate welfare slush fund that they are sitting upon. All of these areas need spending cuts and possible eliminations.
A giant white elephant in the room though is the Green Line.
The city of Calgary will barely be able to maintain police and fire services while keeping our roads operational. It is nothing less than foolhardy to carry on with such a giant and unnecessary project as the Green Line at this time.
Unfortunately, Calgary’s city council is dominated by fools at this time.