Fairness for Edmonton

Sharing the costs of a growing region.

I’m a believer that a strong Edmonton makes for a strong Capital Region, and vice versa. However, we need to start sharing the costs associated with our region’s growth. This way, we can all feel good about sharing the benefits. 

It's important to be realistic

Some have suggested an amalgamated region, with provincial legislation similar to the Greater Toronto Act or Metro Vancouver. This is a non-starter. The biggest difference between our region and those other examples is the provincial government. In our case we can’t jump over the pool, we need to swim across it. We can’t simply say we should amalgamate and then sit back without a plan to get there. We must act on some nearer term challenges.

Fair transit – Pay for what you use

Edmonton provides the most services in the region – be it access to post-secondary institutions, transit, non-market housing, an Edmonton owned corporation to provide clean drinking water for surrounding cities, towns and villages. Edmonton’s neighbours have benefitted greatly from their close proximity and access to our city’s infrastructure and services. For example, a handful of municipalities in the region operate transit systems and, to a great extent, each of these piggyback Edmonton’s transit system. Folks may ride into Edmonton on a bus provided by St. Albert or Strathcona County before hopping on the LRT – and that is where Edmonton’s system takes over and where Edmontonians begin subsidizing the commute of individuals who do not pay taxes here. There is something wrong with a region where transit systems begin to interconnect without operating as one.

Fix what’s broken, don’t build something new

Development that maximizes existing infrastructure makes financial sense. Encouraging infill (more development in areas of the city that are underdeveloped) and creating higher residential density is smart growth. It isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to “urban sprawl”, it actually makes fiscal sense. For example, we can dedicate more money to fixing current infrastructure, rather than creating entirely NEW infrastructure. Smart growth will make us a leader in the Capital Region, and we can minimize the region’s footprint.

The state of our roads and amenities is a symptom of a larger problem: large Canadian cities, like Edmonton, don’t have access to a lot of money. As you know, all municipalities in Alberta use property taxes for revenue. However, rural counties receive a disproportionate share of linear property taxes (think things that run in relatively straight lines for long distances) on infrastructure like railway tracks and transmission lines, which costs them little to maintain. On the other hand, cities are forced to rely more on residential property taxes. Unfortunately, neighbourhoods are relatively more expensive to maintain because they rely on city-provided services and amenities. There is an argument to be made for having a greater share of linear tax revenue flow back to the people of Alberta, rather than accumulate in the bank accounts of rural counties, whose residents mostly use larger municipalities for services.

There’s a reason why homelessness is Edmonton's issue.

Also, Edmonton provides affordable housing for low-income and homeless people from across the region. So services like affordable housing and other supports, are being absorbed largely by Edmonton. This is a very difficult issue, and has been in the news quite a lot.  In many ways, communities like St. Albert, Spruce Grove and Strathcona County (Sherwood Park) have a less obvious housing affordability challenge because the we currently respond to this issue by concentrating it within in the city of Edmonton (particularly in central Edmonton).

If elected as your council representative for Ward 10, I will collaborate with my regional counterparts on these issues and others to ensure that they share both the costs and the benefits of a growing region.

I will also continue the push for a regional transit commission. And promise to advocate for the Government of Alberta to explore a fairer system of distributing tax revenue. This will ensure that Edmonton will have more money to spend on its own infrastructure, become stronger, and in turn benefit the Capital Region as a whole.

Alternatively, the ongoing  ‘Big City Charters’ discussion between Edmonton , Calgary and the Government of Alberta represents another key opportunity to address issues of municipal sustainability and gain access to necessary financial resources. We need to move these discussions forward in a meaningful way and soon.


Updated October 18th, 2013.