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Edmonton mayor asks Premier Danielle Smith to restore municipal funding

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi outlines nine ways Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's government could help the city financially in a letter released publicly on Tuesday. (Manuel Carrillos Avalos/Radio Canada and Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi outlines nine ways Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's government could help the city financially in a letter released publicly on Tuesday. (Manuel Carrillos Avalos/Radio Canada and Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has taken Premier Danielle Smith up on her offer to provide help with the city's finances by asking her to restore millions of dollars in municipal funding cuts the province has made over the past five years.

In a letter sent to Smith and released publicly on Tuesday, Sohi outlines nine ways her government could help.

They include restoring the full grant in place of taxes program to where it was before the UCP government under Jason Kenney cut the funding in half.

Edmonton estimates it has lost $14 million annually since the cuts were fully implemented in 2020. The grants replace property taxes owed on provincial buildings so the cut disproportionately hurts Edmonton as Alberta's capital city.

Sohi called on the province to pay back the grants it hasn't paid over the last four years.

"If they do that, we can reduce property taxes and we can eliminate our entire $60-million deficit," he said.

Other asks in the letter include:

  • Fully funding EMS in Edmonton, which Sohi says costs the city $28 million a year.

  • Restoring the municipal proportion of automated enforcement fine revenue to 73.3 per cent. The province reduced the portion to 60 per cent since 2019. The cost to the city is $7 to $8 million a year.

  • Restoring funding for the DNA testing program. The province starting billing Edmonton up to $5 million a year in 2020.

  • Revisit the money allocated to the new Local Government Fiscal Framework. Edmonton is getting $150 million, which is $36 million less than what it would have received under the old MSI funding framework.

Sohi reminded Smith that the city is following the legislation when it comes to setting its budget. He said the problems faced by Edmonton are shared by all Alberta municipalities and caused by a lack of support from other levels of government.

At a news conference last week, Smith said she was concerned about Edmonton's finances and the departures of six senior managers. She said the province was happy to help if the city reached out.

At an unrelated media scrum on Tuesday, Smith said she asked Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver to pull together a team to work with Edmonton.

"If there's a holistic approach that we can take that would help more municipalities that's obviously what what we would prefer to do," she said.

"So I'll listen to any of the recommendations and we'll proceed with a measure of goodwill to try to figure out if we can find some long term lasting solutions for them."

Sherwood Park MLA Kyle Kasawski, the NDP Opposition critic for Municipal Affairs, said Smith overstepped her authority by suggesting the province could get involved in Edmonton's financial troubles.

He thinks Sohi was right to call out the Alberta government for its cuts and clawbacks.

"If the premier was sincerely interested in in helping people of Edmonton, she'd be focused on the needs of Edmonton that the mayor outlined in his letter instead of trying to interfere in city business," Kasawski said. "And there has been a lot of cuts to municipal funding transfers from the provincial government since about 2020."