Each year I like to dedicate a special post, one to identify a significant factor worthy of special commemoration. This year, there was no greater factor impacting small business owner home builders than the harm caused by the various governments. Each level of government deserves specific scorn this year. 2018 will be remembered as such a colossal year of government idiocy its impact will linger on in infamy. The repercussions continue to ripple outward as collateral damage continues into the economy and future. So here we go with an evaluation of each of our levels of government.
Municipal - The City of Calgary began the year with an ambitious announcement that Killarney would be getting a desperately needed area redevelopment plan revision…until it changed its mind and decided to merge Killarney with a bunch of other communities into a much broader district level plan. This may be a better approach, but the delay isn’t. This decision should have been made much earlier as each year of delay is causing considerable harm. What has occurred is it is now way easier to rezone tiny parcels, and the building industry is doing this quickly, on only strategic locations. This means irreparable damage is done to streets destined to be rezoned as mixed use medium density redevelopment areas where land assembly will no longer be possible. It appears we are trading long term redevelopment potential for a bunch of scattered fourplex buildings on corner locations throughout the inner city. This is a massive failure of city planning that can only be blamed on the planning department.
In addition there seems to be more discussion on how to raise fees on inner city builders for everything from streetlights to underground infrastructure. There is no credit given for the massive tax increases the city permanently enjoys from redevelopment, nor any political capital to shift taxes in a way that would share the burden of suburban sprawl and congestion caused by the proliferation of new communities. The city has created a scenario where it wants to see more inner city development but it incentivizes and supports the sprawl it claims it cannot afford. The good news is there seems to be a growing awareness that you simply can’t run a city where 90% of development is sprawl, while choking off inner city development with excessive fees and regulation. It is a classic bureaucracy where the left hand is working in a way that undermines the right hand. Can this city untangle itself? It doesnt seem likely.
Finally we heard some publicity on a hushed up third level supposed ‘pension’ program for city executives where taxes are used to fully fund a gold plated scheme to enrich the retirement of already wealthy and highly paid city staff. It is totally unconscionable that taxpayers suffering in a long recession, with no hope of themselves ever getting a defined benefit pension are funding extremely rich benefits for certain staff, plus it does not appear the scheme was ever approved by any council. For these reasons, and others, the City of Calgary gets a failing grade for 2018. (C-)
Provincial - The NDP government always defaults to a nanny state anti business platform on any issue. For this reason alone it gets a failing grade. It is hard to place a lot of blame on the NDP for the pipeline failures, but it clearly hasn’t done enough with its social licence nonsense, and pandering to extreme environmentalists financially supported by those with an agenda to harm Alberta has contributed to the devastating western canadian select values. The massive financial losses caused by the discount on the bitumen product is now large enough the government wants to take the bizarre step of buying tanker cars to ship the product. The NDP gets a D, and hopefully is booted out of office this spring.
Federal - The feds earn the distinction this year of receiving the lowest possible grade, an F. Failure is the key federal strategy apparently. It created an untenable situation where no pipeline can be built anywhere, by anyone, not even itself. How can the greatest authority in the land not control the economic destiny of a country and instead allow judges, boards, and gender appeasement policy to dictate development? All of this has created a market sentiment devastating to the inner city builder that relies in part on buyer confidence to purchase major investments such as houses. In addition to the crushing blows received by the energy industry in 2018 caused by government, the policies brought in to toughen mortgage standards due to bubbles in the distant cities of Toronto and Vancouver (already 1.5 years past the peak and dropping quickly), have really piled on to the softer markets in the rest of the country. Clearly Alberta does not need the feds, and the feds have done massive harm to the business owners of Alberta this year. The liberals get an F and we hope they will be voted out of office this fall.