Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pay to Go Politics in YYC

So, yesterday there was an "all candidates forum" sponsored by The Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Urban Development Institute - Calgary and The Canadian Homebuilders Association - Calgary Region.

I did not attend this forum - for several reasons.  We already know that the developer community (or at least notable cabal within that group) have a "bone to pick" with the incumbent city council, and would dearly like to make things more "developer friendly" in the future.  They are entitled to that opinion and to advocate for it.  I have enormous problems with the obvious attempt to sponsor a slate of candidates trained by the right-wing Manning Centre - but that is because I object on general principals to the obvious play of partisan politics that smacks of.

However, there is a little nugget about last night's forum that I want to bring to your attention:

That's right - they are charging $25+GST / head ($26.25) for people to hear what candidates have to say.  If there is one thing that makes me angry, it is this notion that during an election, voters should have to fork out money to hear what the Candidates running to represent them have to say.

I'm sure that the sponsors would all wring their hands and talk about "cost recovery" and so on.  I have news for you - what you did by making that a "pay to attend" event is you immediately placed a price on information during an election.  Screw you.

The manufactured outrage that you have been fostering in this election campaign is revolting, and it is clear that you are only interested in talking to those willing to let you influence them with your propaganda.  Ever since the 2010 election, the right wing in this city has been on an anger-fest over Mayor Nenshi.  Big money lost that election, and they are trying to manufacture outrage to overturn Nenshi - or at least get enough of "their people" on council to make Nenshi's life hell for the next four years.

The UDI put out the following in a brochure at the start of the election:

UDI - Calgary calls on all 2013 municipal candidates to:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE the ongoing need for a strategic, innovative, and collaborative approach to managing growth in Calgary.
2. RECOGNIZE Calgary for what it is, as well as for what it was designed for - a UniCity with room for growth within City boundaries.
3. DEMONSTRATE leadership in putting Calgarians first when working to balance municipal fiscal capacity and control with business certainty and consumer demand. 
What this boils down to is that the developers in this city want to keep their business model as it is.  Why?  Simply because it is easy for them.  They know they can make money developing this way.  The rest of us have to live with the results.

If I were running any of those firms, I would be looking at changing the business model to adapt to the inevitable changes that are coming.  Calgary cannot be allowed to sprawl indefinitely for the next fifty years.  Doing so is unsustainable on so many levels it isn't funny.

We saw that when the initial builds for Douglasdale, Mackenzie, Mackenzie Towne caused traffic lights to be installed on Deerfoot Trail.  Possibly the dumbest decision ever made, but one made out of expediency.  Deerfoot is already running over capacity, even with all the lights removed, after a decade of construction projects to replace controlled intersections with interchanges.  ... and that is just the infrastructure that we can see.  The miles of water, wastewater, gas and electrical infrastructure that have to be installed in subdivisions is huge, and that means upgrades to sewage treatment facilities, the pipelines that feed them, new reservoirs for water (anybody else notice that Calgary is fairly arid most of the time?), generation capacity for electricity and so on.  We can't seem to keep up with the infrastructure problems we have now (there are roads in my home community that are crumbling and should have been replaced years ago)  Public transit in Calgary is a bad joke.  If you live east of the Deerfoot in south Calgary, it's even worse.

Calgary is growing.  There can be no mistake about that.  We need to find ways to grow that are more practical than simply spreading out indefinitely.  I may live in a suburb today, but I have long since recognized that the psychology of the suburb is rapidly becoming non-viable.  We need to change how we build this city.  Continuing to do what we are doing today will simply exacerbate the problems that are already brewing.

The developers are trying to protect their business model - and they don't give a damn about the long term problems that they are creating.  As a Calgarian, I want something better than that for the generations to come.  More of the same isn't it.

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