Calgary's former Mayor Dave Bronconnier began his third consecutive term in November 2007

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Calgary's former Mayor Dave Bronconnier
guided city through rapid growth

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

12 July 2010: Dave Bronconnier has been mayor of Calgary, Alberta, Canada since October 2001. He secured 62 per cent of the votes when he was re-elected in October 2007 for a third term. He has led the city through a decade of dramatic growth which has been only slightly checked by the global downturn. Dave Bronconnier has been short listed for the 2010 World Mayor Prize.

Update October 2010: In election held on 18 October, Naheed Nenshi has been elected mayor of Calgary. Dave Bronconnier did not contest.

During his third term, which will be his final one, Mr Bronconnier has guided the city towards a more secure and sustainable future. Densification of the central city is underway in the East and West Village major re-development projects, the light rail system will have doubled in size in this decade and the first District Energy Centre in Western Canada was opened in June 2010.

Mayor Bronconnier is active in the Big City Mayors Caucus which was largely responsible for securing some financial re-balancing between tiers of governance in Canada in recent years.

Dave Bronconnier has committed to the Code of Ethics for Mayors.
Throughout his decade in office he has sought to secure the best possible financial base for the city in order for it to be able to manage its growth wisely and sustainably whilst recognizing that a legacy of under-investment in infrastructure had to be addressed.

 In 2007, the last year before the recessionary trend, the population of Calgary increased by 28,000 people. Despite the downturn the population is still projected to increase by another 200,000 people between 2008-2017.

Their focus on value for money led Bronconnier and the council members to decide in late 2009 to pull out of a bid to host the 2017 World Expo whilst continuing with a major brown-field proposal -West Village- which would have been the legacy element. Both decisions were praised by commentators and taxpayer lobbyists.

Mayor Bronconnier said that the level of finance for Expo promised by the federal and provincial administrations was inadequate. “We could not expose Calgarians to a projected billion dollar deficit on Expo. You had to look at the project and say l don’t believe that, from a Calgary perspective, its responsible to continue.”.

The current plans for the West Village envisage a 20-year re-development across 45 hectares. The Council will finance the infrastructure and pump priming elements through borrowing to be paid off by a special tax levy on future investors and occupiers. Calgary was the first city in Canada to use Tax Increment Financing earlier in the decade for another major brown-field area close to the city centre, East Village. The successful formula will now be repeated for West Village.

The West Village scheme includes a continuous 5 kms of riverbank green-space. The River Bow has been inaccessible because of industry and roads for several decades. The major road will be moved as part of the scheme which will provide housing for a population of 12,000 and commerce, recreation and institutional uses.

Much of Calgary’s wealth and growth is associated with the controversial Oil Sands extraction nearby. Mayor Bronconnier has sought to balance this by taking an active role internationally in energy efficiency and management activity.

He spearheaded the discussions, which led to the Calgary Accord in 2009 which was signed by the World Energy Cities Partnership. These are urban centres which are all closely associated with energy production activities and they pledged to be leaders amongst cities world-wide in cutting their own greenhouse gas emissions and called for universal reductions in emissions from city operations and for joint strategic collaboration, target setting and delivery. They set themselves a 2050 target of 80 per cent carbon emissions reduction from a baseline of 2005.

In 2009 Calgary hosted the World Skills Contest following the mayor’s visit to the 2007 event in Shizuoka, Japan, to which he led a predominantly private sector delegation. He has addressed several global urban gatherings including the World Leadership Forum in London in 2006.

Opening the District Energy Centre Mayor Bronconnier said” District Energy demonstrates Calgary’s commitment to long-term infrastructure investment. It is integral to future development in East Village and supports municipal sustainable development by providing the basis for integrated energy planning.”

The scheme is being jointly financed by the city and the provincial and federal governments.

Dave Bronconnier has raised the level of participation by residents in local governance. He led an innovative participatory visioning process in his second term. Imagine Calgary invited citizens to look ahead 100 years and involved 18,000 people. It reflected his view that a city could only succeed through the creativity and contributions of all of its population.

A success in the financial negotiations came in 2007 within Alberta when the provincial government announced the $CAN 11 billion ten year Municipal Sustainability Fund.

Subsequently Alberta announced the $CAN 2 billion Green Transit Investment Program in 2008. The agreement, which provides $CAN 800 million for the Calgary city region municipalities from this pot, was signed in June 2010. The money is for capital schemes to improve regional and local public transportation and forms part of the economic stimulus package.

Calgary has used $CAN 136 million from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative towards the cost of the purchase of another 38 light rail vehicles and boost most of its services to four car sets to meet growing demand. When deliveries are completed in February 2011 Calgary’s LRT vehicle fleet will have doubled in size since 2001. By 2012, when the new West line is due for completion, the total system length of LRT in Calgary will be 59 kms. It was 30 kms when the mayor took office. All the existing lines have been extended on his watch.

It is the only North American city in its population category to have a metro/light rail system which compares well to best European practice.

Dave Bronconnier is a third generation Calgarian. After leaving the University of Calgary without completing a degree he worked for the City of Calgary Electric System and then for Alberta Government Services

Moving to the private sector he co-founded First General Services Calgary in 1987. Before becoming mayor he served on the city council for nine years.

His campaign slogan in 2001 was ‘Moving Calgary Forward.’ His first key decision was to keep the energy supplier ENMAX in city ownership. Since 2001 its annual dividend has contributed $CAN 43 million to city budgets. Part of this provides an assured funding stream for construction and maintenance of parks in the city.

In July 2008 he became the first recipient of the Canada Green Building Award for government leadership. Calgary is committed to securing LEED Green Building rating gold standard for all its new buildings and silver standard for all renovations.

The City Council Water House completed in 2008 was the first building in Alberta to achieve a LEED Canada Gold Standard as built. “The City’s Sustainable Building Policy contributes to our pursuit of a sustainable urban form in Calgary,” says Bronconnier.

By 2012 the Council expects to become the first in North America to use 100 per cent clean energy in its operations.

Mayor Bronconnier has also met with some criticism from environmentalists. Although this is perhaps inevitable for any mayor of the city so associated with the oil sands businesses it is also because the infrastructure investment which has been the feature of his decade leading Calgary has included very significant quantities of road building.

In his final annual state of the city address in February 2010 Mayor Bronconnier said “in the last nine years we have secured over $CAN 5 billion from other tiers of government for investment in infrastructure in Calgary. The scale of investment was necessary because many schemes were long overdue. We have also introduced a three year budget cycle which is not popular with everyone but which l think makes much more business sense than annual cycles”

Dave Bronconnier has urged business leaders to get involved in the campaign to choose his successor. He told a business lunch in May 2010 that “running a government is not so different from running a business. Success is based on establishing a strong vision, setting goals, developing strategies and implementing them.”
The mayor will step down in November 2010 and is thought likely to return to the private sector.

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