As a Calgarian and local business owner, I’ve become increasingly concerned with the role that business interests are playing in our upcoming municipal election.
I am proud to operate a national business with its head office in Calgary. I acknowledge the importance of a thriving business community. I am very concerned that special interest groups, including some members of the business community, believe we should make political decisions for their benefit to the detriment of the public good. This must be recognized and prevented.
The classic conservative argument of incentivizing business activity to provide employment and facilitate economic activity is one I fully support.
For decades, Alberta has stood as one of the most business friendly jurisdictions in Canada, and Calgary has reaped the benefits, housing the second most corporate head offices in the country. This has attracted some of the best and brightest to Calgary and changed our city from a humble Cowtown to a cosmopolitan metropolitan centre. Many of us have benefitted greatly from the business friendly nature of this province and this city – myself included. However, we cannot move from business friendly to business fixated.
Business activity benefits our city, drives employment and contributes tax income. But it can also cost our city when it runs unchecked by the public interest. For example, take the issue of urban sprawl. While home builders employ hundreds of tradespeople and buy thousands of dollars of materials, the city is left continually having to build new infrastructure to service new communities as well as extend essential services such as policing and fire protection.
As Calgary continues to stretch outwards, the economic benefits slowly become outstripped by the added cost upon city expenditures. The city has wisely looked to contain sprawl and focus more on the densification of the inner city, better leveraging existing infrastructure while still providing new homes and amenities for Calgarians.
Our municipal government’s job is to protect the interest of the city and its citizens – not those of special interests and business. When we start to believe that the financial interests of business come ahead of the interests of the community, we are diminishing our values and choosing corporate profit over people.
Yes, Calgary has a strong business community and we are an entrepreneurial city. We should not undermine the greater common good for the sake of appeasing the business community.
The vast majority of the Calgary business community understands that their businesses thrive when their city thrives – not just economically, but socially and culturally. They see community assets like our New Central Library or the growth of the East Village as key pieces of a vibrant community that attracts incredible people to our city to seek employment and raise their family.
They understand that this is an incredible place to do business because of what we are, rather than how many dollars they can squeeze from the government in property tax relief or corporate handouts. They understand that they are part of this city and, as much as they benefit from being here, they are also ready to do their part.
The notion that the current mayor and council is not business friendly is simply incorrect. The responsibility of our politicians is to ensure that advocacy by special interest groups does not adversely impact the public good. The current mayor and council have done an admirable job of protecting the common good and ensuring that special interest groups do not overtake the public agenda.
When Calgarians head to the polls next week, I hope that they remember what we have built together over the last several years – Calgarians (both those who own businesses and those who don’t) and government. We have seen our city grow, evolve and become one of the greatest cities in Canada through smart planning, progressive thinking and, most of all, putting the needs of our people first. That, after all, is what a democracy is all about.
Read the Calgary Herald article here.