Members of Calgary’s construction industry heard from the three most voted mayoral candidates and their vision for building the city on Tuesday.
The Calgary Construction Association, which includes business developers, BILD Calgary home construction association, NAIOP commercial real estate development association and Crew Calgary, a networking organization for women in commercial real estate, co-hosted the online roundtable with advisers Jeff Davison, Jeromy Farkas and Jyoti Gondek.
CCA president and chief operating officer Bill Black said the candidates’ perspectives showed their experience with construction projects beyond voting for them on the board.
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âThe variety is quite interesting because these are conversations about building the city, and I think we’ve heard slightly different perspectives from the three that will really inform the way our members think on voting day,â he said. he declared.
Host organizations selected questions posed by moderator Lori Williams, with topics such as collaborative leadership and advocacy, transparency and accountability, working with industry to build the city, and shaping big projects. allowing local offers.
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Farkas accuses administration of “skimming”
While outlining his commitment to reducing closed-door meetings in an effort to improve transparency, Farkas said the city had “skimmed” the money from off-site levies – amounts paid by developers to the city to compensate investment costs of infrastructure such as roads and utilities. .
âBecause of this secrecy, the establishment of the town hall – the administration – including the planning services of which Councilor Gondek is chairman of the committee, essentially got away with crushing money: millions upon millions of dollars that the industry has poured into these fees and reallocated that interest income to other priorities without actually showing the revenue to the industry, âFarkas said.
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At the end of 2020, the municipal administration noted an accounting error for the withdrawals. The city then repaid more than $ 56 million in investment income accrued from general income to developer-linked accounts.
Gondek disagreed with the characterization of “skimming”.
“If this is how you are going to build a relationship as mayor of the city with your administration, I find it hard to see how we can ever achieve anything,” she said.
Davison demanded an apology from Farkas, which did not come during the debate.
âThe argument that they were skipping the summit has criminal implications, and I think none of that was happening, and he owes them an apology,â Davison said.
Obtain industry input
Asked how the city can partner with industry experts to work on issues such as climate change, Gondek cited examples, including her pre-council work with the Haskayne School of Business connecting MBA students with experts, allowing them to work on efforts like the real one in town. Estates Working Group and Financial Working Group.
“There are all kinds of ways to create better, by engaging with associations and professionals in the private sector to strengthen our government, and we have seen evidence of how these things work,” she said.
Data from the Conference Board of Canada showed that the construction industry is the fifth largest in the city, accounting for 5.5 percent of the city’s GDP in 2020. The finance, insurance and construction industry real estate is the second largest with 20 percent of GDP.
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Davison said the construction industry needs certainty about which projects the council has already approved, whether or not they’ve voted for or against the projects.
âCouncilor Farkas told People’s Chambers that the event center would die on day one if elected,â Davison said.
“No, that’s …” Farkas interjected during Davison’s time.
âYou went before Willow Park,â Davison retorted. âI had a friend there. He heard you say it himself.
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Davison said the projects he had been a strong promoter of – the expansion of the BMO Center, the transformation of Arts Commons and the event center – have all been structured to limit risk to the city.
âIt’s possible to make our money work for us, and it’s not a this or that situation, it’s this and that,â he said. âThis is how we can defend downtown Calgary. This is how we are going to revive our economy.
Farkas said he was determined to complete the projects initiated by the city council.
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âI might not have been okay with doing it all simultaneously, given that our city CFO’s advice was to only bite what we could chew,â Farkas said.
âBut since the board has agreed to these things, the contracts are in place. It’s the mayor’s job and it’s the council’s job to see it through.
But Farkas hasn’t offered much beyond having a good relationship with the province to try to revert the Green Line’s supply structure to the multi-phase structure initially approved by the council.
Phase 1 was to be built from Shepard to Ramsay, Phase 2A was to cross downtown to Eau Claire and Phase 2B from Eau Claire to 16 Avenue N.
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Provincial government approval was conditional on the megaproject being split into a phase from Shepard to Eau Claire and another north of the Bow River.
Davison said he would “fight to get this back (previous phase)”. He and Gondek both highlighted working with other advisers to craft 17 recommendations that would mitigate risk while maximizing opportunity.
âThe reason we came up with the Green Line the way we did is to keep as much business as possible for the construction industry in Calgary,â she said.
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The sheer size of which drove out many local general contractors from bidding.
“If the project is halted along the lines the city was following before the province meddled, there was an opportunity for a local (general contractor) to participate,” Black told Global News.
He said a company unrelated to Calgary would likely win the contract because of its size.
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âWhat worries us is that if a project like (the Green Line) really goes off the rails – no pun intended – you can see potential massive overruns that could bankrupt the city,â Black said.
âYou could also see terrible fallout for business contractors, suppliers and others who may not be paid for the full value of the work they have done. “
It was a concern shared by Gondek and Davison.
Black was impressed with the detail and intelligence of the future mayors’ trip responses just days before Calgarians went to the polls.
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“I wouldn’t say it’s the easier choice for us, but at least we have people with some experience and some passion who are willing to share what they stand for,” he said. .
âSo no matter how we vote, we have a pretty good idea of ââwhat lies ahead. “
Calgarians will go to the polls on October 18.
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