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The three things that have nothing to do with Calgary's future

People are bringing up the same distractions as we debate civic matters

On every debate from CalgaryNEXT, pictured above, to the SW BRT, residents keep bringing up how charitable they are. It doesn't matter.


On every debate from CalgaryNEXT, pictured above, to the SW BRT, residents keep bringing up how charitable they are. It doesn't matter.

When we talk about Calgary’s future, whether it’s transit routes, secondary suites or a new hockey arena, we should focus on the subject at hand.

Unfortunately, as a city, we’re a little shaky on this. Our civic debates have a tendency to get clouded by divisive distractions. We saw it again last week, at a marathon city council committee meeting on the contentious southwest bus rapid transit (BRT).

Eighty speakers from the public had their say, and while most focused on the issue on the table, there were some diversions, too.

This isn’t a problem limited to this one issue. It’s a pattern found elsewhere.

So here, as a public service, is a list of things three that are not relevant or particularly helpful when talking about city planning matters such as transit, housing and redevelopment.

Number 1: How much property tax you personally pay. This became a refrain at last week’s BRT meeting: I’ve paid taxes. I’ve paid a LOT of taxes. Okay, but that’s just part of owning a home. A big tax bill doesn’t entitle anyone to more say and influence than those who pay less property tax, or don’t pay any because they happen to rent.

Your importance as a citizen is not tied to the size of your tax bill or lack thereof.

There’s a place for robust discussion of property taxes, but a debate on a planning issue is not that place.

Number 2: Charitable involvement. This is a peculiar one. It’s been invoked by everyone from boosters of a new Calgary Flames arena (after all the Flames have done for our community, we’re obliged to give them what they want!) to citizens opposed to projects in their neighbourhoods (I’m a good person, really!).

However, there’s no need to bring up charitable involvement in the context of a planning discussion. It’s simply not relevant—unless, perhaps, you’re seeking to extend your philanthropy by supporting things like transit equity and housing choice, which create more opportunities for more people.

Number 3: Length of residence. This comes up repeatedly: I’ve lived here for X number of years, and bought my home expecting my neighbourhood to stay the same. Therefore, it should stay the way I like it.

In reality, newcomers have the same rights and say as lifelong Calgarians.

Longtime residents have local knowledge that, used constructively, can guide planning decisions for the better. But when years of experience in a neighbourhood are used to keep others out and away, as is all too common in Calgary of late, something’s awry.

It’s a misuse of experience that could make the city better for all.

Besides, anyone who’s lived here for decades should be well-steeped in the old-fashioned western hospitality everyone likes to talk about. Who better to demonstrate this famed generosity and warmth than longtime Calgarians?

A little more of that, please.

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