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MORGAN: Small businesses pay the price for Calgary city hall’s density dreams

“Farrell thinks she knows what’s best for the Shim family, informed no doubt by her years of successful private sector business experience.”

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Perhaps the exposure of just how ideological Calgary’s city planning department has gotten is a good thing. It is an election year after all. What better time could there be for Calgarians to realize just what kind of damage is being wrought upon the city’s struggling business community by an uncompromising city administration obsessed with pursuing urban density at any cost?

This is cold comfort at best however for the Shim family. These small business owners are at risk of losing their life savings due to intransigent city planners who have refused to let them rebuild their business after it was destroyed in a 2019 fire.

For those outside of Calgary, this is a story of a Dairy Queen restaurant that operated profitably on Center Street and 18th Avenue, north of the city center for 50 years. The family-run restaurant was an active and valued part of the community. In 2013, the Shim family took over the franchise outlet. The Shims were recent immigrants from Korea and they put everything they had into the business. Then tragedy struck in 2019 when an electrical fire destroyed the building.

The path to recovery appeared to be straightforward enough. The business was insured and they could simply rebuild while taking into account some upgrades due to different franchise requirements and traffic issues. The drive-thru entrance would have to come from 18th Ave. rather than Center Street, and the layout of the building had slight changes. Otherwise, the plan was to replace the original freestanding business. This triggered the need for a development permit which would typically be an open-and-shut process.

But with the encouragement of Ward 7 Councilor Druh Farrell, the city planning department refused the permit to rebuild. It is a catastrophe for the Shim family.

The City of Calgary, under the guidance of Naheed Nenshi and with the support of councillors like Druh Farrell, has some big-planning dreams. They envision something of a hipster’s paradise where everybody lives in multi-level, high-density condos and everyone bikes to work. They feel that the entire city can be turned into a walkable paradise if only the city could pressure citizens and businesses hard enough into conforming with their vision. Unfortunately for these city planning dreamers, investors and citizens stubbornly refuse to take part in this grand scheme. To force compliance, the city planning department uses a hammer.

The City of Calgary wants the owners of the Dairy Queen lot to develop the space into a multi-level building with no parking, residential spaces above, and commercial spaces below. They kindly have said that a walk-in Dairy Queen outlet could occupy one of those ground-level spaces. It has become clear that the City intends to refuse a development permit for anything less than their plan, which does not resemble that they had before the 2019 fire.. The problem is that the owner of the property has neither the will nor the money to construct such a building. In the meantime, the business operators remain unemployed and are facing personal insolvency.

If this standoff continues, the Shim family will likely have to resign themselves to going broke and find a new way to make a living in their later years of life. The property owner will have to try and find a buyer for this lot devalued due to the restrictions placed upon it.

With so much empty commercial and residential space throughout the city, why on earth would an investor pump the funds into building a multilevel, mixed-use complex on that location? If anyone is willing to develop it, they will likely only do so if they obtain it for a devalued, artificially low price.

Most likely, the lot will sit empty and undeveloped for years while a hardworking family finds itself pushed out of business over what is essentially a point of principle on the part of the city.

Could you imagine if your home burned down and you were told by the city that you had to replace it with an apartment building? Keep in mind, your insurance is only covering the replacement of the original home. You may have neither the money to do so, nor the desire to replace your house with a an apartment block.

Would Calgary’s inner city have been able to rebuild after the 2013 floods if the damaged businesses and homes had to completely redesign themselves in order to fit in with some urban density dream?

This story highlights the truly ignorant and anti-business attitude that some on city council hold.

“We are sympathetic to the owner and the franchisee, but this situation actually represents an opportunity for them to build something so much better on the site than what is proposed,” wrote Farrell as she recommended that the city planning department refuse the development permit, “Such a project could even include a new Dairy Queen, but of course without a drive-thru. This is a tremendous opportunity for the owner to extract significantly more financial value out of the site than with what is proposed.”

Farrell thinks she knows what’s best for the Shim family, informed no doubt by her years of successful private sector business experience.

Imagine if Peter’s Drive-In burned down and wanted to rebuild. It is in the same area, thus the lot would fall under the same planning vision as the Shim’s Dairy Queen had. Would Farrell oppose the reconstruction and tell the owners about what a great opportunity they would have in building an apartment building with a small fast food joint with no parking or drive-thru on the ground floor? Would that model work with Peter’s? Would it remain profitable? Of course not. Nor would the Dairy Queen in such circumstances.

Calgary is in the midst of an economic crisis. Between the pandemic restrictions, low energy prices and a decade of anti-business policies from city hall, the outlook for enterprise in Calgary is bleak. We will be lucky if half of the restaurants that were in the city a year ago are still in operation a year from now. One can’t drive more than a few blocks without seeing a boarded-up restaurant and almost every commercial building in the city has a for lease sign gracing it right now. It is unimaginable that the city would hinder a successful business from rebuilding right now.

City density has become an obsession for the city administration in the last decade. It has fostered a tunnel-vision among regulators and planners, and it leads to situations like this. Calgarians have an opportunity this fall to change the narrative as a municipal election approaches. Voters need to come out and they need to flush out the establishment.

The only silver lining from this travesty with the Shim family is that it may finally wake up Calgarians up to what their council has been doing behind their backs.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and the Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    May 2, 2021 at 11:07 am

    This insanity by the City is right out of the UN Agenda 21 . . . now Agenda 2030 playbook.

    No thinking person believe the Corrupt UN, made up of about 190 countries, most of them run by Despots & Diktators has the well-being of the City of Calgary in mind.
    The UN just put Iran on the “Womens’ Rights” council . . . next to China the UN is one of the most dangerous groups on the Planet.

  2. Tony

    May 1, 2021 at 11:52 am

    What our local politicians are doing to this poor family is a microcosm of what has been inflicted on our city during the past decade. Arrogant central-planner types who hold a pretense of knowledge about what is best for us are eroding the foundations of what makes our community properous. Thank you WS for writing about this matter.

  3. Rob Taylor

    May 1, 2021 at 9:49 am

    . you have become quite a good writer, Cory Morgan . cheers .

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Opinion

MORGAN: Big labour wants big government in Calgary’s civic election

“Calgary’s Future used to be called “Calgarians for a Progressive Future” and the Canadian Union for Public Employees pumped nearly $1.4 million into the group in 2019 alone.”

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Alberta’s civic election fundraising laws used to be pretty ‘wild west’. There were no contribution limits for candidates. Disclosure requirements on contributors were loose and candidates could spend contributions on whatever they pleased.

Just think about how ridiculous that was. A person, company, or union could give tens of thousands of dollars to a candidate and we were supposed to pretend that it wouldn’t impact how they govern. There was no formal campaign period, so fundraising could happen during the entire term of the councillor. The official didn’t have to actually spend the funds on their campaign. They could and did build surpluses in their campaign accounts. It was a perfect system for (soft) bribery and money laundering, and let’s not pretend that it never happened.

Campaign accounts could be used as retirement funds for city councillors. Upon leaving office, whatever surplus funds were in the campaign account could go to the councillor as a tax-free gift.

Ward 11 councilor Barry Erskine was so flagrant in his abuse of the system, he can at least be credited for helping spur the reform of it. In 2004, Erskine claimed $67,000 in election expenses while he was acclaimed. How do you spend so much on a campaign against nobody? In 2007, Erskine pretended an intent to run right up until a couple of days before the deadline. He then dropped out of the race, pocketed whatever campaign funds were in his account, and rode off into the sunset. While the act was grossly unprincipled, it was entirely legal.

Multiple campaign finance reform bills have been passed since the unregulated days of 2007. Unions and corporations can no longer donate to candidates and the maximum that anybody can donate to a campaign is $5,000 per year.

Campaign finance reforms have not stopped the influence of well-heeled groups, however. Rather than donating directly to candidates as they used to, organizations have formed a myriad of Third-Party Advertiser (TPA) groups and have been funneling a lot of money into them. Most of these groups have modest funding. A TPA called “Calgary’s Future” is an exception and is sitting on a $1.7 million campaign war chest.

While contributions to TPAs are capped at $30,000 now, there was no limit on contributions to them prior to 2021. Calgary’s Future used to be called “Calgarians for a Progressive Future” and the Canadian Union for Public Employees pumped nearly $1.4 million into the group in 2019 alone.

Calgary’s Future may have dropped the term “progressive” from their name, but their leftward slant isn’t hard to see on their website. Every candidate that they have endorsed is running on a progressive platform. The group gives an impression of transparency but no organizers or principles behind the organization are disclosed beyond first names. It is hardly a secret that they are a creation of government unions.

We can try to cork the bottle when it comes to campaign funding, but big money will always find another way to influence candidates. Having nearly $2 million in union dues directed towards promoting a specific set of candidates is surely going to impact the election. There is no TPA with a budget even close to Calgary’s Future. No other TPA has the paycheques of thousands of union members to tap for funding either.

If any of the candidates being backed by Calgary’s Future do get elected, they will have more than a little bias in favour of labour unions when contract negotiations with civil service unions are done. We are in a period of fiscal crisis and need councilors who will stand up to organized labour as opposed to being beholden to it.

We clearly needed to fix our unregulated campaign funding system; but have we now created a monster worse than what we had to begin with? Things are less transparent than ever and the dollars are bigger. Interest groups with multi-million dollar budgets will be supporting campaigns while the average voter doesn’t even realize it. It is more difficult to tie a candidate to who their backers may actually be. The money is still there, but now it is indirect.

It is too late to change the campaign funding system for 2021, but we should work to expose it. Organized labour is funding a large campaign for a small number of candidates. Calgary needs councilors who are working for the interest of the city as a whole rather than the labour unions for city employees. If Calgarians want the city to return to fiscal responsibility, they need to look at the list of candidates being endorsed by Calgary’s Future and choose not to vote for them.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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Opinion

Allison: Official bilingualism creates a regional power imbalance

Westerners must join the elite minority of bilinguals by learning a second language or be left behind when it comes to rising the ranks of Canada’s federal institutions.

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Bilinguals make up only 18% of our population, yet they dominate our federal institutions.

The reason for this is no secret. Canada’s official bilingualism, legally enshrined in the Official Languages Act (1969), gives a distinct advantage to one class of Canadians; bilinguals, over all others. The Act requires that federal institutions provide services in both French and English. The result is that 40% of federal public service jobs are “designated bilingual.” This means that some 300,000 jobs which make up our federal bureaucracies are available only to 18% of Canadians and closed to the other 82%

What does this mean for regional representation in our federal institutions? It means overrepresentation from Quebec and underrepresentation from the West. About 45% of Quebecers are bilingual whereas only 7% of those in the prairie provinces are bilingual. Thus, the pool of qualified candidates for federal public service jobs is going to be overwhelmingly filled with Quebecers while having scarcely any Westerners. As spokesman for Canadians for Language Fairness, Gordon Miller, writes: “The Official Languages Act has allowed this group [the “Laurentian elite”] to dominate the federal government bureaucracy and further entrench the dominance of the Eastern provinces in federal affairs.”

The Laurentian elite does dominate the federal public service. A total of 67% of the federal public service is made up of Quebecers and Ontarians and only 11% are from the prairie provinces. Of course, official bilingualism is not the only cause that has explanatory power in the case of this discrepancy. The federal capital being located on the border between the two most populous provinces also plays a significant role in determining the regional makeup of the federal public service (a separate and distinct advantage that the Laurentians have over Westerners in controlling federal institutions). In fact, 42% of federal public service employees live in the National Capital Region in Ottawa-Gatineau.

But, when it comes to those who rise the ranks in Canada’s federal bureaucracy, official bilingualism provides an explanation for its overwhelmingly Quebecer makeup. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal Marc Noël, the Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson for the National Film Board of Canada Claude Joli-Coeur, the Director and CEO of the Canada Council of the Arts Simon Brault, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Stéphane Perrault, and the Director of CSIS David Vigneault are all Quebecers. The board of directors for the CBC, is also made up of 33% Quebecers with only one member hailing from the prairie provinces — Jennifer Moore Rattray from Manitoba. As Washington Post columnist, J.J. McCullough, suggests: “It is really hard to argue that by some massive coincidence the most qualified people for all of these jobs just happen to be Quebecers.”

Indeed, it is no coincidence. Since all federal institutions must provide services in both French and English, it is likely to have a bilingual in charge of these federal bureaucracies in order to ensure that these institutions run smoothly. As a result, Quebecers with their disproportionate number of bilinguals, have come to dominate the highest ranks of these bureaucracies.

Official bilingualism lays the groundwork for these regional disparities in Canada’s federal bureaucracies. Quebecers are overwhelmingly more likely to be bilingual than Westerners. As such, Westerners must join the elite minority of bilinguals by learning a second language or be left behind when it comes to rising the ranks of Canada’s federal institutions.

Andrew Allison is a PhD philosophy student at the University of Calgary
andrew.allison@ucalgary.ca

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Doug Ford’s daughter could teach her father a thing or two about freedom

Daughter champions freedoms, daddy seizes them. Some who despise Premier Dad’s authoritarian decrees say the wrong family member heads Ontario.

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Krista Ford Haynes, daughter of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, is going to make for some interesting Thanksgiving Dinner family conversation.

On Tuesday, Krista issued another dire warning against governments forcing vaccine passports, urging people to “collectively wake up” and not be obedient and unquestioning.

The following day, her father, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, launched COVID-19 vaccine passports, forcing people to choose between taking the jab, or losing many of their most basic freedoms. He claimed the passports are temporary.

Sure, they are. And 14 days would flatten the curve. No government relinquishes control it grabs. When COVID eventually passes, the newly established government powers will be turned elsewhere.

Daughter champions freedoms, daddy seizes them. Some who despise Premier Dad’s authoritarian decrees say the wrong family member heads Ontario.

Ford family get-togethers can’t be fun. Hopefully, they’re amicable. That’s not always the case.

Polarizing COVID-19 views about forced-masking, lockdowns, vaccines, and mandatory vaccine passports are dividing and destroying families and friendships.

Screaming matches and brawls over masks and social distancing aren’t confined to the aisles of Walmart among strangers.

Loved ones nearly, or maybe do, come to blows at dinner tables before the soup gets cold. That only happens when the government permits them to visit in between intermittent lockdowns.

Everyone’s ready to fall on their swords, convinced that their side — whichever it is — is solely righteous and right.

Haynes, 30, is an anti-vax crusader. Insults are hurled at her. The indignant demand she is reported. She’s been called “ignorant.” She makes people’s “blood boil.”

The feisty Haynes won’t back down from views some declare extreme.

Haynes, with thousands of followers, delivered her latest message in a video posted to Instagram after the federal election.

“Good morning, everyone. Happy Tuesday. As we could have all expected, the Liberal government won last night with a minority government,” said Haynes.

The Liberals will carry on “stripping our freedoms away one day at a time,” she said.

Haynes has long warned that forced masking was a steppingstone to vaccine passports. She was mocked. Few are laughing now.

The passports are here. Alberta succumbed, despite Premier Jason Kenney’s solemn vow to gallantly fight the feds if they forced them. Then he did a 180 and imposed them with a vengeance.

Now Haynes warns vaccine passports are a steppingstone to more controls and lost freedoms.

“When I posted in May or June of last year about the upcoming mask mandates and not to comply, this is why I wanted people, urged people, not to comply,” she said.

“We found out right away that masks weren’t very effective at all based on how people were wearing and revising them, and it actually could have made things a lot worse for some people and are making things a lot worse for certain age groups today.”

“That was one, but we complied, we complied. We could have put our foot down collectively, and we didn’t.”

So, the worst of it has arrived?

“You think it’s just going to be movie theatres, restaurants, gyms. That’s the first step. The first step. They’re going to take it all. They’re going to take it all and we’ve allowed it.”

Australians wore their masks and obeyed ‘temporary’ lockdown orders. The former penal colony turned into one of the freest countries, has become an effective police state. Citizens face the most extreme lockdowns globally. Wednesday, police fired rubber bullets into a crowd of 400 unarmed and peaceful protestors against severe lockdowns and vaccine passports.

Chaos erupts around the world. People fear pandemic “mandates” have morphed into a sinister grab for complete control over their lives to advance ever-greater government control.

Many are losing their jobs for no good reason.

Citizens are enraged their children suffer abuse, being forced to wear masks with little proof they effectively prevent transmission of COVID.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s booster (third) shot six months after full immunization for the elderly and high-risk. It rejected an application to approve booster shots for all Americans 16 and older. They’ll circle back to that.

Haynes urged people to ask questions, discuss, research. She, like others who advocate this, are ridiculed, attacked, discredited, even fired.

Their critics just want everyone to comply with the latest orders and shut up.

Fear, anger and distrust over this curse called COVID-19 prevail. There’s little common ground.

Doctors who question the official doctrine are dismissed, shamed, and now, being fired in some cases.

Asking questions is a good thing. Blindly complying isn’t.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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