Edmonton Council Highlights And Lowlights 2017-2021
Tomorrow is election day, and - don't worry - we'll have voting information in your inbox in the morning!
But on this final day of the 2017-2021 Edmonton Council term, we thought we'd take a moment to present to you, our readers, the top three highlights and lowlights of the outgoing Council.
1) First Zero Percent Tax Increase Since 1997
We’ve got to hand it to the outgoing bunch of councillors on this issue. To their credit, they recognized times were extremely tough here in Alberta with COVID and (briefly) $0 oil. Keeping the 2021 tax increase to zero was the right move and they found some savings to do it. This was the lowest “increase” since 1997. The right move at the right time. Now we just need a few more of these!
2) Groat Road Construction
The Groat Road bridge is actually fixed, mostly on time and mostly on budget, which given the delays at other major City projects is a worthy accomplishment. Of course, we aren’t saying there weren’t hiccups, such as a crane wheel derailing at one point, however overall the project proceeded with minimal delays, and this piece of infrastructure was definitely in need of major rehabilitation. Now if only we could get the City's LRT projects on track in the same way.
3) The New Business Bylaw
Earlier in the year, we took aim at the City's broken fee system, where 62 different categories of businesses pay 13 different fee amounts. At long last, even Edmonton City Council admitted that enough was enough and enacted a new bylaw which simplified and reduced fees for certain types of businesses. Of course, given the program generates only $5.5 million in fees total, and costs $2 million to run, we'd prefer to just get rid of business licenses entirely, but that may be asking too much!
1) Fiscal Mismanagement
The C.D. Howe Institute ranked 31 Canadian cities on their budgeting process and how accessible the budget is to ordinary people who aren’t municipal budget geeks. Edmonton finished dead last, receiving an "F" for a budget that was “confusing and late”. The City Financial Condition Review also pointed out that the City is relying increasingly on more and more transfers from other levels of government. This is bad because, when unexpected things happen (like say, COVID-19) and other levels of governments unexpectedly reduce transfers (as the Province of Alberta did) the City has to pay for the rest. We deserve better!
2) LRT Woes
Why does every LRT project the City touches (or even imagines) seem to turn into
crap an over-budget, late, boondoggle? The new Southeast Line is - of course - over budget, and over a year behind schedule. Proposed future lines seem to keep ballooning in cost every day. Even existing lines seem to be falling apart, with rails cracking in very cold weather causing delays, and the old signalling system taking about 7 years to fix. We need more accountability, transparency, and oversight on how LRT projects are managed, and we should really chase Thales to get our money back for that signalling system!
3) The E-Bike Rebate
Remember back when the City threatened to shut down the entire bus and LRT network for the whole of 2020 thanks to COVID? Although COVID-19 has created an unprecedented disruption to normal activities, this measure seemed very extreme. Low-income Edmontonians, seniors and students and many others rely on transit to go to their jobs and school. It was an astounding proposition that left many confused. Even more amazingly, though, it later emerged that while the City was considering shutting down transit, they were going ahead with plans to offer E-Bike Rebates. Using taxes paid by the poor, to subsidize expensive bikes for the rich? That's just not common sense.
What do you think? Do you agree with our list? Anything you think we missed? Let us know!
Thank you all for your support this term, remember to go and vote, and good luck to all the candidates!