City Budget Adjustment Comments

December 3, 2020

Today, I had the chance to address City Council on their proposed budget adjustments. Please see my comments below, share widely, and let your voice be heard.

Firstly, I would like to thank the 45,000 hard working Edmontonians who have provided me the opportunity to express their views with you today. It can be viewed by clicking HERE

While going over the documents and listening to the discourse around these recommendations one issue stuck out like a sore thumb. A 0% increase in the tax rate means no accounting for inflation and no accommodation for population growth, which really means a cut- a cut in services for Edmontonians.

I would ask all councillors to do better at communicating what we are actually talking about and what that actually means for the people of Edmonton.
What you are asking and advocating for is a cut to the things people rely on. While you pretend they’re getting a deal. Stand up and say pool closure, and even less accessible bus services, are among the price we have to pay for privatizing revenue sources and giving sweetheart deals to the richest Edmontonians for exclusive access to our river valley. While these actions alone will not see the reductions in services you are looking for they are emblematic of the lack of the willingness to lead and act in the ways we need to ensure Edmonton’s viability into the future.

It’s not a deal and it’s not cheaper. It’s just easier for you to make it look like that money is off the books, but the cost becomes hidden and it’s far higher than you ever admit or even bother to know.

I don’t need to tell you that we have a provincial government willfully reducing their own revenue to give handouts to their friends and then crying poor when they refuse to adequately fund municipalities. At the same time they control and limit our ability to increase revenue streams while simultaneously creating a narrative of municipal fiscal mismanagement. It is shocking that at this point we haven’t heard anything about expanding our revenue streams with programs like a property transfer tax or increasing the idle land speculation tax. Instead we are focusing entirely on limiting our already dwindling revenue sources through one-time gains of selling capital assets for pennies on the dollar through privatization.

We are in a crisis that requires real leadership, not the easy, beaten path of austerity that has crushing consequences that takes years, decades, even generations to try to build back from. We cannot afford that. The future is too uncertain. We need leaders that are willing to question the status quo and push for better. The issues we face require you to be thoughtful and purposeful.

The fact that it is dogmatically assumed by so many of you that privatization leads to cost savings, despite the mounting evidence across municipalities showing that, in fact, it does not is troubling to say the least. The profit motive means that corners are cut, workers are treated as disposable, city equipment is trashed, citizens pay more out of pockets for less, and on top of it public dollars feed the wallets of international shareholders instead of supporting local buying power here at home.

Instead of divesting of services and shying away from new opportunities, the city should be looking at better ways to leverage revenue tools to fund the things Edmontonians need and the things that draw people and businesses here.
There is no reason that profits need to be funneled into private hands and squirreled away into off shore bank accounts when there are city programs and services that Edmontonians rely on that need that money. Yet, this is the trajectory council and administration has led us down making this crisis all the more dangerous for Edmontonians. Expecting the private sector to voluntarily invest in Edmonton when our own government won’t is a ridiculous assumption and should be challenged outright.

Obviously, the provincial government is leaving you to do the heavy lifting on so many issues while they take away more and more of the resources that are needed for you to do it. You can’t keep sitting there taking it. You need to act. This should be the start of a discussion that should be happening right now on how cities can be more self sufficient.The re-imagine document understands this need but fails in bringing anything to the table that hasn’t already been tried and failed in other jurisdictions.

While cuts may be required for now, we need to take purposeful steps to position the city to launch an aggressive, post-pandemic strategy that provides Edmontonians with the city they deserve.

Let’s not ruin our chance to show that Edmonton can come out stronger and better as a result of this crisis instead of a mere shadow of what we once were. We need you all to do the right thing, not the easiest thing.

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