News / Calgary

Nenshi explains that revenue sharing doesn’t mean taxation powers

Mayor wants a cut of the province’s revenues for better or worse

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is clarifying what revenue sharing would mean for the city. It's a request he and other big city mayors made in December.

Metro File

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is clarifying what revenue sharing would mean for the city. It's a request he and other big city mayors made in December.

Revenue sharing, to a Calgary academic it may be a dirty word, but for Mayor Naheed Nenshi he sees it as the city’s best bet to getting predictable funding from the province.

In December, Nenshi’s name appeared on a letter along with the country’s big city mayors, all demanding more freedoms and autonomy when it comes to revenue generation (some may read as taxing).

That week, the mayor clarified he wasn’t after taxing powers, he was looking for more of a piggyback.

After consulting with a University of Calgary professor, Metro found that his “revenue sharing” idea wasn’t recommended. But Nenshi still stands by it.

“Right now we have to go cap in hand to the feds and to the provincial government it’s very episodic, it's very ad hoc,” said Nenshi. Case in point: the Green Line.

“We need long term stable predictable funding especially for capital because we cannot build stuff like the Green Line with year by year funding... I actually need to have multi-year commitments,” said Nenshi. “And to me one of the realities of doing that is to actually say, look, this percentage of the province’s revenues flow to the cities every year, no matter what. It seems to me that that is a lot more predictable than what we've got now.”

But if we take a cut of the province’s earnings, that means Calgary could have to be with the province through good and bad times – in sickness and health, as it were.

“That is the real challenge,” said Nenshi. “We get dependant on provincial government revenue on the operating side because unlike the federal and provincial governments, we don't run a deficit ever.”

And the mayor isn’t suggesting we change our model to be able to run deficits either. He thinks that gives the city a leg-up in responsible spending.

“So I don't want that power,” said Nenshi. “But we have to figure out how if we're going to ride the ups and downs with the province we can do that without massive dislocation in bad times.”

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