Mayor Don Iveson submits wish list for Edmonton ahead of provincial, federal budgets

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson  is seen in a file photo taken in May 2017.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is seen in a file photo taken in May 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Shortly after federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau revealed the Liberal government will unveil its latest budget at the end of the month, Edmonton’s mayor announced he has submitted city council’s list of wants to both Morneau and Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci.

In his letter to Morneau, Don Iveson called for continued federal money for municipal infrastructure projects — including green infrastructure ventures — in order to support local jobs and the economy.

He also requested a “regular forum for municipal input” on the Liberal government’s infrastructure spending plan.

“The Investing in Canada Plan’s potential to fund large-scale and transformative projects, such as the full buildout of LRT, development of cultural spaces and the creation of more affordable housing, will position Edmonton to be globally competitive and attractive to new residents,” Iveson’s letter to Morneau reads.

READ MORE: Liberals’ two-year infrastructure repair plan could take five years: documents

Watch below: During question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the next federal budget will be introduced on February 27.

Federal budget will be tabled February 27: Bill Morneau
Federal budget will be tabled February 27: Bill Morneau

Iveson also called for Ottawa to consider equitable revenue sharing from the legalization of recreational marijuana, which is expected to occur in the summer. According to Iveson, preliminary estimates suggest adapting to cannabis legalization could cost the city between $3.7 million and $4.1 million in additional staff and administrative costs for the first couple of years.

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He said that doesn’t even include the financial impact legalization will have on the Edmonton Police Service, which could see costs increase by $5 million to $7 million annually, at least during the initial adjustment to legal cannabis.

READ MORE: Policing legal pot in Edmonton will cost upwards of $7M: chief

In his letter, Iveson acknowledged those additional costs are likely to subside after a few years but still reiterated “the need for a municipal share of federal-provincial cannabis taxation revenues.”

The mayor’s letter also applauded the federal government for releasing its National Housing Strategy, however, emphasized the need to accelerate the follow-through on its funding commitments to help people living in poverty.

While the Alberta government has yet to announce what day it will release its latest budget, Premier Rachel Notley and her cabinet discussed the upcoming budget at a mountain retreat last month and budget day is widely expected to take place in the next few weeks.

READ MORE: Rachel Notley and her cabinet to talk budget, spending at Banff retreat

In his letter to Ceci, Iveson emphasized the importance of finalizing the City Charter’s “fiscal framework with Edmonton.”

The City Charter is a series of proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act which would provide Alberta’s two largest cities with more autonomy in decision-making and in the delivery of services to citizens.

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“The framework is essential to deliver infrastructure, programs and services that citizens expect – from the building of roads, to the delivery of social programs, to the development of important arts and cultural events and spaces that enhance citizens’ quality of life,” the mayor’s office said in a news release on Tuesday. “Predictable, sustainable financing allows for greater certainty in planning projects especially as Edmonton enters its next three-year capital budget cycle in 2019. Of particular concern to the mayor is the fact that there is still no new plan in place yet to replace the Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant which has accounted for 20 per cent of Edmonton’s Capital Plan for 2015-18.”

READ MORE: No new tax powers in new city charters for Calgary, Edmonton

Watch below: In August 2017, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about Alberta’s two biggest cities soon getting more power courtesy of the province.

What could city charters mean for taxpayers?
What could city charters mean for taxpayers?

Iveson also asked Ceci for continued support to fund Edmonton’s LRT network expansion, and asked for, “at minimum,” the equivalent of the NDP government’s commitment of up to $1.5 billion for Calgary’s Green Line LRT. Iveson also wants more financial support for City of Edmonton climate change programs and to help the city transition to more renewable energy sources.

Edmonton’s mayor is also seeking revenue sharing from the province’s share of cannabis taxes and money to support regional collaboration initiatives to bring about new opportunities like shared transit initiatives with other municipalities near Alberta’s capital.

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