Opinion: Chamber ought to cease pushing for residential tax improve

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Calgary’s economic system has been by means of lots over the previous decade. From a recession and a pandemic to excessive inflation, each companies and households have felt the pinch financially.

With that in thoughts, it’s disappointing that Deborah Yedlin and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce are persevering with to push for households to pay extra in taxes. They proceed to do that by lobbying metropolis corridor to gather a bigger portion of its revenues from owners and a smaller portion from companies. 

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There’s a higher method.

Think about if town decreased inefficient spending as a substitute of elevating taxes. That might assist each companies and the individuals who store of their shops — on a regular basis Calgarians.

Understandably, the chamber desires to ease the tax burden its members are paying — metropolis corridor’s tax will increase have been extreme. Many readers will bear in mind how companies across the metropolis started disclosing the big tax will increase they confronted a couple of years in the past. The previous German restaurant Wurst famous on its giant outside signal that its 2014 property taxes had been “$74k” and rose to “$208k” in 2019. It has since gone out of enterprise.

At metropolis corridor, we discover a very totally different scene. Regardless of claims by town that it has tightened its belt, whole expenditures have elevated 20 per cent since 2015. Life has remained snug there whereas these outdoors of presidency circles have struggled.

Observe that in 2018, three years after Calgary’s economic system went right into a recession, town’s administration was spending almost $8 million annually on retirement bonuses for workers — bonuses that had been fully indifferent from efficiency. You possibly can actually be the worst-performing worker within the metropolis authorities however nonetheless obtain a big handout on the best way out the door.

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This anecdote is vital for 2 causes.

First, it’s council’s job to look below each stone for financial savings. Clearly, that wasn’t occurring as it took a 3rd occasion to show this drawback (I uncovered this concern whereas working for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation).

Second, council can’t depend on metropolis administration to convey ahead cheap concepts on learn how to cut back spending on compensation for metropolis employees — they face an apparent battle of curiosity.

Readers ought to take into account one other compensation concern that continues to burn quietly at metropolis corridor: pension prices.

Exterior of presidency, lower than one in 4 staff has a office pension. However on the Metropolis of Calgary, not solely do the overwhelming majority of staff obtain a pension, almost two thousand metropolis staff may also obtain a beneficiant top-up pension once they retire. In truth, greater than 200 metropolis staff will obtain three metropolis pensions once they retire. Should be good. 

SecondStreet.org analysis exhibits town spent extra on top-up pensions ($10.9 million) for its employees in 2018 than Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga, Brampton, Halifax, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Saskatoon mixed. Sure, mixed.

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The essential pension plan that the majority metropolis staff obtain, the Native Authorities Pension Plan, can be fairly beneficiant. It value town $76 million in 2009, however by 2019, the annual value for this pension had ballooned to $137 million. Why hasn’t council tackled this drawback, contemplating it has ballooned a lot? Maybe councillors are involved that doing so would draw extra consideration to their very own golden pensions?

Whereas many non-public sector staff have taken not less than one pay discount over the previous decade, metropolis knowledge exhibits there has by no means been a pay discount for its primary bargaining models over the previous 49 years

The best option to tackle these points could be for town to section in decrease, extra cheap compensation packages for brand new employees.

Hopefully, the chamber can see there are many alternatives for financial savings. The individuals who store at Calgary companies and dine in native eating places can’t afford to pay extra to metropolis corridor.

Colin Craig is the president of SecondStreet.org, a Calgary-based, Conservative-leaning think-tank.

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ChatGPT pushing the evolution of AI in enterprise in Calgary

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The long run is right here — virtually.

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Synthetic intelligence has been in improvement for years, however latest developments in generative AI, resembling ChatGPT, have hit the accelerator on the know-how.

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It indicators a serious ramp up within the efficiencies of enterprise and repair.

“Consider this as that Netscape second — for the primary time we’ve seen what’s coming,” stated Cory Janssen, co-founder and co-CEO of AltaML, an Alberta-based AI software program improvement firm. “Consider Netscape as perhaps the second or third inning of the web and the way it was going to alter the world. We’re in that very same mannequin, that is just the start. The world is now seeing what we’ve been engaged on for the previous 5 years. And so it’s an actual, actual thrilling time.”

ChatGPT is the most recent era of generative AI created by American firm OpenAI. The app has been developed to scour the web or supply materials in a matter of seconds to reply questions and produce content material. The chances of the know-how are limitless.

The potential is so large that firms resembling Google and Microsoft have introduced investments price billions of {dollars} to develop their very own generative AI apps and know-how to rival or surpass ChatGPT.

There are, nevertheless, main points in reliability that must be labored out.

Raymond Patterson, a professor of enterprise know-how administration and space chair on the Haskayne College of Enterprise on the College of Calgary, stated there stays main points over the sourcing of data by the app — whether it is fabricating info or straight up plagiarizing content material. He stated this could trigger any firm pause earlier than utilizing the know-how.

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“Proper now, generative AI is on the peak of its hype. It might get hyped even additional,” stated Patterson. “I’d simply warning anybody away from utilizing this for something the place you’re getting cash off of it, it must play out extra.”

He stated it may be checked out like a Google search, giving the consumer a big checklist of hyperlinks that will or might not be related. ChatGPT then assembles these hyperlinks right into a paragraph. What’s lacking from the equation is the expertise to make choices on content material.

“There will probably be enhancements, and it’s not the know-how that’s the issue,” stated Patterson. “It’s how do you harness it?”

A latest KPMG survey of 250 enterprise and know-how leaders confirmed 37 per cent of Canadian firms surveyed had been experimenting with ChatGPT, however this was far behind their American counterparts at 65 per cent. When it got here to all types of AI use of their operations, solely 35 per cent of Canadian firms stated they had been utilizing it, in contrast with 72 per cent of American firms.

The distinction, in accordance with the examine, comes all the way down to an absence of expert expertise and high quality information to coach AI algorithms.

These gaps ought to begin to shut over time, particularly in Calgary with report enterprise capital funding within the sector and emphasis on abilities coaching by way of the post-secondaries.

“What I’ve seen is that that’s the place you discover a good focus of companies, academia and expertise that come collectively,” stated Adam Asquini, director of data administration and information and analytics at KPMG. “So which may provide you with somewhat little bit of a leverage in these areas.”

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He stated there has already been a good quantity of AI adoption within the Calgary ecosystem. He has labored with power suppliers, monetary establishments, retail and agriculture firms on its implementation.

Asquini stated most individuals will see it first in an improved buyer expertise that’s extra personalised, constructing off of historic information and purchasing patterns. There are purposes to make employees extra productive and to create new income channels for organizations throughout the spectrum.

The potential for AI within the enterprise sector is very large.

From an HR standpoint it might assist type by way of hundreds of job purposes. It could possibly enhance an organization’s communications in making ready information  releases and content material. AI may also help troubleshoot tech points and may assist within the authorized system in sifting by way of a long time of case legislation. It’s a lift to the power sector in looking for efficiencies, decreasing carbon emissions and alerting firms to points with gear. In finance, it might assist type by way of credit score rankings, and market pressures and disruptions.

The place Janssen sees the most important impact is within the health-care sector. He says it might be a multibillion-dollar sector in well being care by 2030, and will doubtlessly take a generational leap in service and care.

“It could possibly remodel well being care like no different business,” he stated. “The world over, throughout Canada and North America, the system goes to break down beneath itself if one thing doesn’t change. We will’t simply carry on throwing cash on the drawback, nor can we get there by simply purely chopping. By utilizing information and by utilizing purposes constructed round machine studying, we’re going to have the ability to have instruments that assist clinicians that assist docs make higher choices.”

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He stated this can enhance diagnostics and therapy plans, with lots of of different potential purposes throughout the system.

Nevertheless, there are some main hurdles that must be handled earlier than this transformation can happen responsibly. Enhancing the safety of the system to stop outdoors manipulation or interference is on the forefront, however so is designing the system to take away bias in information.

“If there’s biases in society — which I believe we might all admit clearly these biases in lots of areas of society — for those who take information and prepare it primarily based on these biases, you’ll exacerbate and intensify these biases,” stated Janssen. “It’s important that after we’re constructing these purposes, we have to perceive this and the way we create and accumulate information after which use it to construct the software program.”

AltaML is headquartered in Edmonton, but in addition has places of work in Calgary, Ottawa and Waterloo.

Janssen stated a key transferring ahead is that AI and tech improvement isn’t just a spotlight in Edmonton or Calgary, however a provincewide effort.

“Let’s hold the rivalry on the ice however, in any other case, reduce by way of that relating to areas in know-how.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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Airways pushing for restructuring of Canadian air journey prices

Giant charges are conserving ultra-low-cost carriers, like these seen within the U.S. and Europe, from getting into the Canadian aviation market, executives and analysts say

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If Canadians need cheaper tickets to fly, the airline business says there must be a restructuring of the payment system.

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On Wednesday, Alexis von Hoensbroech, president and CEO of WestJet, mentioned $140 of a round-trip ticket between Calgary and Toronto goes to airport charges, safety and regulatory our bodies akin to NavCanada. That is earlier than protecting precise prices of the flight akin to crew, gasoline or aircraft upkeep.

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“Our ambition is to make aviation extra accessible for Canadians, and we expect that Canadians should have decrease ticket costs than they’re experiencing immediately,” the pinnacle of the Calgary-based airline instructed media following a luncheon with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

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And people add-on prices are about to go larger.

The federal price range denotes a 30 per cent enhance to the cost for safety, which can be added to ticket costs.

‘We’re not getting our bang for the buck’

Jeff Morrison, the president and CEO of the Nationwide Airways Council of Canada, mentioned the prices are piling up for customers.

“If we wish to be aggressive, as a Canadian sector, this sort of fixed drip, drip, drip of recent charges or elevated charges — it’s received to cease. In any other case all airways will proceed to be at a aggressive drawback,” he mentioned, whereas additionally pointing to a proposed new cost that can be tacked on to airways by the Canadian Transportation Company for each passenger declare that goes to the CTA.

The federal authorities owns the main airports in Canada which are operated by non-profit authorities, which then lease the airports from the federal government.

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Yearly, the federal authorities collects about $300 million in lease funds from the authorities, which the business says doesn’t return into the sector or towards enhancements.

Morrison pointed to air journey points at Pearson Worldwide Airport in Toronto over the vacations the place an antiquated baggage system failed and contributed to many issues.

“We’re not getting our bang for the buck,” he mentioned.

Further prices stopping ultra-low-cost airways from getting into Canadian market, aviation analyst says

Morrison famous the rise in safety charges is to going to cowl a $1.8-billion enhance within the price range for the Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority, the majority of which can be sunk into operational prices, not enhancements.

Rick Erickson, a Calgary-based aviation analyst, mentioned he makes a behavior at any time when he’s at an American airport close to the Canadian border to examine the parking zone for Canadian plates. For a lot of, it’s cheaper to drive to the U.S. to catch a flight.

This can be a main cause ultra-low-cost carriers have largely been non-existent in Canada whereas saturating the market within the U.Ok. and excelling south of the border. Calgary-based Lynx Air is making an attempt to vary that narrative, whereas Aptitude airways has skilled its personal points just lately.

“There’s in all probability a dozen fair-sized U.S. carriers . . . a lot of ultra-low-cost carriers, not one in every of them . . . involves Canada,” he mentioned. “As a result of they will’t cost $99.”

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Additionally threatening the airline business with larger prices are Air Passenger Safety laws, initially handed in 2019. This laws is meant to offer a recourse for passengers who’ve flights cancelled or delayed for no less than two hours, or their baggage is misplaced or broken.

Airways are held accountable no matter the reason for the delay, be it climate, inadequate safety on the airport to maneuver folks by customs or perhaps a breakdown in airport infrastructure.

On Wednesday, von Hoensbroech mentioned the price was “a big double-digit million determine” for WestJet this previous yr.

He mentioned these prices would doubtless be recovered by will increase to ticket costs.

Transport Canada just lately launched session taking a look at way forward for Canada’s airport system

The business is looking for a shared accountability strategy to the APPR, tying fines or reimbursement to the place the problem originated from.

“If we actually wish to enhance air journey, airways can’t do it alone,” mentioned Morrison. “For the previous yr or so, it’s just about been airways had the finger pointed at them for being those liable for all this disruption, which is just not true. There’s numerous completely different gamers.”

There isn’t any straightforward repair to those points.

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Transport Canada has just lately launched a session trying into the way forward for the Canadian airport system, and Morrison mentioned taking a look at all of the charges and repair costs should be a precedence.

Erickson mentioned radical change is required, and that the system must be privatized as it’s in Europe the place it’s way more profitable and reasonably priced.

“These persons are good sufficient to appreciate that we are able to’t gouge,” he mentioned. “We’ve a accountability to our travelling public to have this facility, however we are able to do a a lot better job of managing it, and the instruments out there to personal sector possession are fairly a bit higher than public sector possession when it comes to accessing capital.”

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Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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