Candidate for Ward 9 (pihêsiwin)
My name is Tim Cartmell and I have served the residents of Ward 9 for the past term on Council in the great city of Edmonton, Alberta. I'm excited to be running again to serve our community for the next term in pihêsiwin (Ward 9).
I was first elected to Edmonton City Council in 2017. I am a Professional Engineer and small business owner. My business is about designing and managing building projects, including past projects like the Expo Centre for Northlands and three seniors lodges for the Greater Edmonton Foundation. Prior to serving in public office, I also worked for Alberta’s Treasury Board.
Giving back to the community has always been very important to me. I have over three decades of community volunteer experience, including various community league roles, coaching minor hockey, and various roles on discipline and practice standards committees with my professional association (APEGA).
In 2013, I received the APEGA Summit Award for Community Service and in 2014 and also received the Engineers Canada Meritorious Service Award.
My wife, Cathy, and I were born and raised in Edmonton and live in South Edmonton with our three children: Matthew, Riana and Justin.
I currently serve as a Member of the Executive Committee, Member of the Inter-Municipal and Regional Development Committee, Member of the Audit Committee, Member of the Edmonton Metro Regional Board's Integrated Regional Transportation Plan Task Force, Member of the Edmonton Police Commission and on the Board of Directors for the Fort Edmonton Park Management Company.
I deeply care about our community and want to ensure the voices of Ward 9 residents are heard at City Council.
Question 1: What work experience do you have that’s relevant to the role of a Councillor and how do you feel the skills and perspective you have gained will help you in your role as a Councillor?
I have been a lifelong resident of Edmonton, as has my wife, and together we have raised our children in Ward 9 (soon to be Ward pihêsiwin). We have lived in Ward 9 for over 20 years. My professional experience includes the management and design of building projects, and I have owned and operated a consulting engineering firm for almost 25 years. Since graduating from the University of Alberta in 1988, I have served my profession and my community in a wide variety of volunteer roles. I believe each of these are strengths on their own - I have seen our City and our Ward develop and evolve over many years. I have been involved at the community level in advocating for those amenities that our community desired, including the Terwillegar Recreation Centre, the Go Centre and the community theatre at Lilian Osborne High School to name just a few. My professional experience includes a wide variety of project management assignments. For 30 years, I have been responsible for spending other people's money as if it were my own - delivering projects on time and on budget. I firmly believe that experience has application at City Council. My combination of education and experience provides the wisdom and perspective that comes from lived experience to effectively represent our community. And I believe that I demonstrated during the past Council term that I was effective in leveraging those strengths to the benefit of Ward 9, resulting in the upgrading and expansion of Terwillegar Drive, the development of a new master plan of Bryan Anderson Athletic Grounds to include an artificial turf field and new Riverbend Library Branch, and the adoption of a new prioritized budgeting approach for the City as a few examples.
Question 2: What do you think are the biggest issues affecting your ward are, and how would you approach being their local representative?
In the established neighbourhoods in south Edmonton, the biggest issue is infill and renewal. Ensuring that such projects are executed with respect for the neighbourhood is a significant issue. I want to see more consideration given to the existing residents when such projects are considered - but I don't want to create more red tape, policy and process that overly burdens those projects. In the newer neighbourhoods, the biggest concern is a lack of amenities, particularly for youth and children. I would like to pursue small-scale recreation - splash pads, skateboard parks, arenas with a fitness centre, a library, a swimming pool - in place of the "mega-recreation centre." That means balancing the commitments to other wards with the need for immediate investment in our distant suburbs. If we are going to actually build the 15-minute neighbourhoods our City Plan talks about, we need to explore ways to actually build those neighbourhoods. But our city finances will be severely challenged for the next few years. The next Council will be faced with some very difficult prioritization decisions.
Question 3: What do you think is the role of a municipal government? Do you think the City does too many things, not enough, or just the right amount?
The role of the City Government starts with what is defined in the Municipal Government Act. It starts with basic services - police service, fire rescue services, roads, transit, waste management, recreation both indoors and outdoors. It includes ensuring equitable access to amenities and services. And it includes providing safety, security and support for our most vulnerable residents, ideally in partnership with other levels of government. Currently, our City does too many things. We need to refocus on the most important things and accept that, in these next few very challenging years, we cannot do everything, so we ought to do the most important things.
Question 4: Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?
I think we need to examine the size of our government corporation that this economy can support. I am not quite sure yet how to do that, but should the size of our government corporation be one with a $3.1B annual budget? or smaller? Where are other cities at? What do they do that we don't and vice versa? Once the size of the corporation is determined, we know how much property tax we should be collecting. But regardless of the outcome of that analysis, we cannot allow a property tax increase for the next couple of years at least. We need to let our business community and our residents recover from the pandemic and find their feet, not add to their tax burden. And we need to listen to our citizens when they say they see their taxes go up and the services go down.
Question 5: Over the next four years, should the City spend less in absolute terms, increase spending but by less than the rate of inflation and population growth, increase by the rate of inflation and population growth, or increase faster than the rate of inflation and population growth?
There is enough money in the system for now. We don't need more, and I would like to strive for less. There are efficiencies to be had. But we also must recognize, the pandemic has led to higher inflation and supply chain challenges that add to the cost of delivering products and services. Not just for the City, but for all organizations, including those who partner with or deliver products and services to the City. There will be lines of service where costs will go up to maintain the same level of service, and we will have virtually no choice about that. Which again, will mean identifying those matters of lesser importance and delaying them until we can afford them. All of that means our absolute spending probably can't go down much but certainly should not go up.
Question 6: During the introduction of City Charters a few years ago there was a lot of debate about new taxation powers for the big cities. Would you support the City being given any additional taxation powers by the Province? If so, what taxation powers should the City have?
I don't think the City needs more taxation powers, I think that could get dangerous and expensive. As an example, Cities are not permitted to run a deficit - if the City spends more money this year than it takes in, that deficit must be made up the following year. Changing this would put us in the same place as the provincial and federal governments - continuous deficit spending and out-of-control accumulated debt. What we do need is some tax reforms. Right now, there is no "capacity to pay" test on property taxes. Your property taxes are directly linked to your home value. Those on fixed incomes often have higher value homes that they can no longer afford to live in and they get taxed out of their homes. A second example is education taxes. If the Province were to remove this requirement from the City, and in turn proportionally reduce grants from the Province to the City, our tax system would be more easily understood and distinct, and less political. Note that our property tax calculation methods are placed upon us by the province. Less bureaucracy, more equity, better money management, before new taxation powers.
Question 7: The City often claims that they’ve found savings in various budgets, but instead of actually cutting spending, they just put the savings into a reserve account and then spend that money on other things. If there’s money left over at the end of a financial year, do you think that money should be saved up by the City to spend in future years? Or should it be returned automatically to taxpayers the following year through some kind of rebate?
This is not entirely accurate. Budgets by their nature are inexact - they are the best guess at the beginning of the year. The only guarantee is that the actual financial results will be different than the guesses. However, given those guesses tend to balance out over the years, it does make sense to bank this year's surplus to cover next year's deficit. It is rarely "spent on other things". Those "savings" are usually unspent dollars due to unforeseen events - more or less snow clearing, a thunderstorm that floods the underpasses, etc. Further, the calculation of the rebate gets messy. Property taxes are proportional to property value, but property values change from year to year. What do we calculate the rebate on, this year or last year? And let’s think about the dollars we are talking about. A $20M surplus on $1.6B in tax revenue is 0.0125 of your tax bill. If your tax bill is $4,000, you will get $50. Then the following year, if there is a $20M deficit (if it snows 2 more times and we need to plow the roads twice more than we planned), does everyone pay an extra $50? And then we hire a bunch of people to manage $50 in this year, $50 out next year? A better approach is to budget for 1-2% reductions each year and hit those targets. Don't "find it in the budget" - make a new budget and meet it. How? by employing elements of zero-based budgeting and priority-based budgeting.
Question 8: Everyone says they support affordable housing, but what does that term mean for you? Do you think the City should be subsidizing housing for lower-income residents? Or focused on keeping the cost of all housing from getting out of control? Or perhaps some combination of the two? If so, how?
A combination of the two. Keep housing costs down by keeping property tax increases to zero or less. Don't add to the cost of new home prices by adding bureaucracy and red tape, and then adding surcharges to pay for the bureaucracy and red tape. In terms of subsidies, use financial strategies to maximize the effect of City support. An example is increasing the subsidy budget to housing organizations, which becomes equity to that housing partner that can be leveraged to build more low-income housing. Use the City's borrowing power through the province to obtain financing at better than market rates.
Question 9: The new Edmonton City Plan focuses on urban development, promoting more density, more transit, and 15-minute communities, but it also restricts new housing development in the outskirts of the City. Are you concerned that this could affect housing affordability in the long-run?
I believe in the 15-minute City. This means the attraction and development of more amenities closer to home, and more flexibility in the development of those amenities. Instead of mega-recreation centres, we need smaller-scale recreation facilities that can be developed more quickly. Those centres could include fitness, one anchor element (pool, arena) and some amount of library space. We should support and promote more in-neighbourhood daycare and local retail (convenience stores, coffee shops, dry cleaners). And we should enhance the connectivity of those amenities to homes with a more robust multi-use trail and walkway system. I would argue that the City Plan does not restrict housing development in the outskirts, but tries to ensure that development occurs progressively - reducing leapfrog development, ensuring that the next development can be supported from the previous one from a transit, recreation, park space perspective. However, we need to remember that ultimately it is the market that drives where development happens. Particularly in a post-pandemic world, we might see (we might already be seeing) more demand for single-family homes with three bedrooms and two offices, and less demand for a one-bedroom condominium in the core. What can the City do to blend the two imperatives? Take a greenfield approach to large-scale infill at Blatchford, at Exhibition Lands, at west Rossdale. Stop developing the land directly, and allow developers to build the housing that the market wants but in the places that the City wants it. Both infill and greenfield development, not either-or. And if we respect the market and work with it, we won't have to worry about inadvertently affecting affordability in the long run.
Question 10: What do you think should be the split between greenfield and established community growth for new housing? Should the City have a specific target? Should this be determined by market demand?
I think the split should be whatever the market demands. But I think that means ensuring infill and greenfield are on equal footing. There are a few high-level issues that we need to resolve. The first is basic utilities, primarily potable water and electrical services in established communities. Our established neighbourhoods have existing infrastructure that was likely designed for less density than infill development brings, and in many cases is nearing the end of its economic life. Upgrading and replacing those utilities is arguably more expensive than building new in greenfield areas. Further, there is not generally a developer involved in installing those base utilities ahead of building contractors like there is in greenfield developments, and the upgrading cost then falls to the building contractor. Who ought to take on that neighbourhood developer role? Another aspect to be considered is commercial infill. Our focus has been on residential infill, however, if we are to turn some of our established and mature neighbourhoods into those 15-minute communities our City Plan describes, we need to consider commercial infill as well. Again, we can meet our goals by working with the market as much as we can trying to control or influence it.
Question 11: Oil and gas has been a core part of Edmonton’s economy for a long time, indeed Leduc No. 1 is just a few minutes away, but Council is now actively promoting alternative energy sources. Do you think Council should be working to diversify the economy away from oil and gas and what would that look like?
I don't think we should "diversify away from oil and gas." I think we should simply diversify. The Oil and Gas market is a significant part of Edmonton's economy. While the big project design was core to Calgary's economy, actually building the plants and providing maintenance and operation services was core to Edmonton's. That oilfield service market will continue for decades - but it is a mature market that won't grow a lot. We should support it, and we should look for ways to leverage it. Part of Edmonton's Energy Transition strategy speaks to alternative, renewable energy sources. One alternative is hydrogen fuel cells. There is considerable overlap in the trade work and support services that the new energy economy will require and the existing oil and gas market. In other words, there may be opportunities to expand our economy, expand our workforce, by being open to the opportunities that alternative industries will present. I would rather those markets develop here than somewhere else. Again, this is not a binary choice. Many of the actions contained in the Energy Transition Strategy are exceedingly expensive. Particularly on the heels of the current pandemic, financial resources will be scarce. We need to be careful of adding too much cost to development as that will adversely affect affordability, which in turn will affect our ability to attract and retain the talent we will need to make Edmonton their home. I think therefore we need to find the most cost-effective strategies that will have a meaningful impact as our first steps.
Question 12: The Valley Line SE LRT has suffered multiple significant delays during its construction. What is your understanding of the reason for these delays, and what would you have done differently to avoid them?
The Valley Line SE LRT contract was signed before I was on Council. That is not an excuse - it simply means I have had virtually no opportunity to avoid delays or cost overruns. The project is in the hands of the City Administration, they are making all of the decisions at the moment - as is the case with any project Council approves. Council does not manage projects - it governs the City and tasks the City Manager with operating and delivering. My understanding of the delays lives in the private reports at Council that I am privy to but cannot comment on. Ultimately it is possible that claims might be made, and if so, those claims would have to be reconciled, and that reconciliation would have to be considered by Council.
Question 13: The City has big plans to build multiple future LRT extensions, including the Valley Line West, the Metro Line Northwest, and the Capital Line South. Do you support further LRT expansion in the City or are there better ways to support transportation in the city? If, as a Councillor, you find out that - despite all the previous assurances from the City - there has in fact been another delay or cost overrun for a future LRT line, or for some other major capital project, what would you do?
I am supportive of "rapid transit' - LRT that runs on its own alignment, that is complementary to the existing transportation system and gives our residents an alternative to move around our City quickly and easily. I support the extension of the original high floor, high-speed Capital Line further south to Heritage Valley and perhaps ultimately the airport. But I also think that with three extensions underway, we might want to pause and see how they are going before approving anymore. I do not support streetcar-style trams that will create gridlock on our streets and will result in longer trips than our considerably challenged bus service already delivers I did not support the West LRT project. I am certain that a robust Bus Rapid Transit system, extending to many different neighbourhoods - on dedicated lanes, with off-bus ticketing - would have given us the same results as the West LRT, with the added benefit of reliable, warm, consistent, dependable transit service to a number of other places as well. That said, the West LRT contract is signed and will not come back to Council unless there is a cost overrun. I believe it is my responsibility to make that project as successful as it can be, by supporting the multi-unit housing projects and other infill projects that the West LRT is supposed to spawn. If a project does experience over-runs, then I would support an examination of the options available at that time. But we need to be realistic. Suppose a project is experiencing cost overruns, and the project is 40% complete for argument’s sake. That won't mean the rails are 40% of the way to the endpoint. That would mean the whole line is 40% complete. At that point, cutting costs could mean abandoning a part of the line that is 40% installed. Would that make sense?
Question 14: What do you think is the best approach to attract businesses to Edmonton? Direct incentives to specific businesses, paid for by slightly higher taxes, or lower tax rates for all businesses?
Lower tax rates for all businesses.
Question 15: Should the City be in the business of operating golf courses, or should they privatize or sell them off? How about garbage collection - half of which is already private - or other services?
There is a place for private-public partnerships, generally where service contractors supplement and augment city services. An effective public-private partnership would be where infrastructure is built, funded, maintained and operated by a third party in a way that can complement City services. An example would be the Kinsmen arena in south Edmonton, which is owned, operated and maintained by the Kinsmen Club and which augments the City's arenas. Where P3s do not work is where there is a shared operating approach. The Valley Line South LRT project is a P3, and it will connect to the Valley line West design-build project. It will operate independently of the rest of ETS, and I think that is a recipe for disaster. If the City is not going to operate the golf courses, then they should not own them either. Golf courses are unique in their maintenance and upkeep needs. A private operator that has no skin in the game for the long-term preservation of the asset could easily allow the asset to become devalued. Either sell them or keep operating them. I think we should examine the complete privatization of waste management. There is considerable opportunity for innovative solutions, and the private sector will always be better than the government at innovation.
Question 16: Should we defund the police? If yes, what exactly does defunding the police mean to you? If not, what should the City do to address both historical and ongoing injustices?
We should not reduce the police budget, not yet. That would have serious unintended consequences that will make things worse, not better. We should consider more publicly the "Money in the System" report that shows $7.5B in supports going to the social service ecosystem. That report tells us that there are very few metrics that tell us what the money is used for - except for the Edmonton Police Service. We should continue to examine co-dispatch models that will get the best resource actually required to respond more quickly and directly to the issue at hand. We should insist that the Province take over the complaints process for all of our police services - EPS, Peace Officers, Transit Peace Officers, etc. That would help eliminate the concern that EPS fails to hold its own forces accountable. These are but a few points of discussion. There is no doubt reform and improvement of all of our front-facing services is required, that systemic racism across our society must be identified and corrected. But this is an extremely complex discussion that requires considerable discussion.
Question 17: Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?
There are a number of different contexts regarding vaccination records. First of all, as a property owner, I support the City making it mandatory to present a vaccination record to enter city-owned facilities including recreation centres, City Hall and other attractions. Creating this requirement allows these facilities to run at full capacity. As an employer, I support the requirement for anyone attending city-owned buildings to present a vaccination record or a recent negative test. This protects our employees and visitors present in our city-owned buildings. For those employees that are not vaccinated, we can explore alternative work from home arrangements where appropriate, or regular testing to gain access to city-owned buildings. I see these as temporary measures, in place only until our health system is able to operate as it did pre-Covid. And I see the possibility that we will experience subsequent waves of new Covid variants, with decreasing risk, accompanied by vaccine boosters. This is generally how viruses work and I think this is ultimately how we gain control over this one.
Question 18: Council recently dropped residential speed limits to 40km/h, do you agree with that decision, and what do you think about the proposal by some to go further and drop it to 30km/h in the future?
I didn't agree with this decision because I thought it would be completely ineffective in actually addressing actual problems in actual locations. But I do agree, we have a significant speeding problem, one that has become considerably worse during Covid. I would not support a reduction to 30kph for the same reasons. We don't need more laws. We need more actions to catch violators.
Question 19: Serving as a Councillor you are responsible to btoh your local constituents and every Edmontonian. How would you deal with a situation where you feel that the best interests of your local constituents in your ward conflict with what you feel is the best interests of the City as a whole?
In my four years as a Councillor, I cannot think of an issue where this conflict developed. Interests and opinions often split on issues, but rarely on Ward lines. However, in almost every instance, common ground exists. I would start with establishing that common ground, and search for a compromise where all parties could generally agree.
Question 20: While the concept of a secret ballot is essential, many of our supporters have told us that they’d like to know the political alignment of their candidates. So, if - and only if - you feel comfortable saying so, who are you voting for in your local ward race and why, and if you are affiliated with any provincial or federal political parties, which ones and why?