July 24, 2013 | Cody Stuart
$52 Million Question Remains UnansweredIt appears the $52 million question has yet to be answered.
With infrastructure damage from Calgary's recent floods projected to be two or three times the initial estimate of $256 million, the debate on what to do with the city's $52 million tax surplus continues. Having previously proposed a list of options to Calgarians on what to do with the surplus, Mayor Naheed Nenshi stated he wanted to use this year's, and next year's, surplus in anticipation the provincial and federal governments won't fully cover Calgary's flood recovery costs.
However, Nenshi's plan was met with early resistance from those in council who say the plan doesn't take into account the public consultation on the issue. Prior to the flooding, the City set up a website to gauge public opinion on how the money should be spent. Options for the money ranged from the most popular choice of returning it to city taxpayers, to transit, debt relief, neighbourhood upgrades or cutting business taxes.
Although provincial funding for the city has yet to be determined, the province has released an online Provincial Recovery Framework to guide intermediate and long-term flood recovery for affected communities.
"Our government has a plan in place to help Alberta recover from this disaster," said Premier Alison Redford. "We know this work will take years — not weeks or months — and we will be there to support communities in their renewal efforts over the long term."
The framework was prepared by the Flood Recovery Task Force, a "cross-ministry" team utilizing best practices and lessons learned in natural disaster responses from both Alberta and the rest of the world.
Regional co-ordinators in flood-affected communities will help municipalities address four key recovery elements: supporting people impacted by floods, nurturing economic growth to support rehabilitation, restoring flood damaged infrastructure and mitigating long-term environmental impacts and risks.
"This is about working together as a province with municipalities, First Nations and individuals so our communities can get back to normal as quickly as possible," said Andre Corbould, chair of the Assistant Deputy Ministers Flood Recovery Task Force. "We want to make sure that we provide the supports and the resources Albertans need in their recovery efforts."
The Provincial Recovery Framework is available at www.alberta.ca.