With more COVID-19 vaccine jabs going in arms in Calgary, some summer event mainstays could also be coming back, in a modified manner.
Last year, the Calgary Stampede was marked with socially-distanced fireworks, drive through pancake breakfasts and a food truck rally.
The mayor, who sits on the Stampede board, said he expects there will be more this year.
“I assume it will look a little more like a normal Stampede,” Naheed Nenshi said Monday. “But all of this depends on the spread of the variants, on our thoughts about safety — outdoors versus indoors — and what is possible to do so.”
The Calgary Folk Music Festival said it has been conducting ongoing conversations with the city and province about the “ever-changing COVID-19 situation.”
“We remain cautiously optimistic and adaptable, so are in the process of planning ways to safely bring live music back, in a very modified way, to Prince’s Island Park this summer,” festival artistic director Kerry Clark said in a statement to Global News. “We’ll share updates as we have them.”
Nenshi said he wished he could say more about the plans for Stampede that are still in development.
“I know that we’ll have an opportunity to celebrate something, but the Stampede board and I are very concerned about doing so in the safest possible way and that will always be our primary consideration.”
Some temporary patios throughout the city have already opened, following the public health order to close all indoor dining Friday past.
More patios could be opening with the City of Calgary extending fee relief for some city permits following a council decision on Monday.
A table showing which permit fees have been waived by the City of Calgary.handout / City of Calgary
Most of the permits would allow businesses to operate in a COVID-safe manner, including outdoor cafe development permits, building permits for patio extensions or inner partitions. Other permits include change of use development permits and pre-applications to the city’s Corporate Planning Applications Group.
Added to the latest tranche of waived fees are special function tents, like those found throughout the core during Stampede.
The fee relief for the remainder of this year will cost the city $1 million and $12 million in fees will be deferred, Randel Madell, the city’s manager of service performance in planning and development, told city council Monday morning.
That brings the total waived fees since May 2020 to an estimated $3.5 million and $24 million in deferred fees.
“Administration has monitored fee relief usage and adjusted to ensure the needs of customers and businesses are being met,” Madell said. “Tracking and analyzing the usage of various relief measures and based on feedback from stakeholders, we’ve identified areas where extending support can be most impactful.”
Council voted unanimously to extend the fee relief through the end of 2021.
Stuart Dalgliesh, general manager of planning and development, said the permits are directly related to “the types of business activities that are important during the course of the pandemic and our best assessment of the customers to which we can provide relief within the scope of the work that we do.”
Outdoor cafe permits exploded by 262 per cent in 10 months of relief compared to the previous year.
Nenshi said extending the fee relief was “the right thing to do.”
A temporary patio along Calgary’s Stephen Avenue, pictured on April 12, 2021.Devon Simmons / Global News
“We’ve been burning through our savings pretty quickly in trying to help people through COVID, but thank goodness we have the savings,” Nenshi said. “I always say that we are the rare government that is the ant in the tail of the ant and the grasshopper — we set aside money when things were good so we’d have the ability to use it when things are bad.”
Ward 1 Councillor. Ward Sutherland mentioned that Calgary is getting national attention with the fee relief.
“We are actually becoming the gold standard for other cities across Canada, of the steps we’re taking as a council to do fee relief for small businesses, etc., that no other city is doing in Canada,” Sutherland told council. “We need to continue this.
“As we said, our goal is to do business better. This is just another example of taking every single step we can as a council to help all businesses possible.”
Tuesday, council is expected to discuss methods to assist people and businesses who won’t be able to pay their property taxes by June 30, 2021. In 2020, council approved an extension of the deadline to the end of September and halved the seven per cent late fee that was due on October 1.