Iveson wants to work with Notley to settle outstanding infrastructure deal

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

A clearly frustrated Mayor Don Iveson wants to move infrastructure discussions with the province from the administrative level to a political one.

Edmonton City Council has launched its deliberations on the next four-year capital budget, but a replacement program from Alberta to cover off the fourth year has yet to materialize from the legislature.

“At this point, I would like to sit down with the premier directly to resolve this issue,” Iveson told reporters at city hall Wednesday,

“The back and forth between the officials is no longer productive and this requires a political solution.”

When council began its budget discussions Tuesday, they were told that city staff estimated potential fourth-year grants to roughly match the level the city had been getting through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) over the last decade. But it’s not a sure thing.

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Iveson is tired of the guessing game.

“This is part of my frustration,” he said. “That we agree with the new Municipal Government Act, which requires all municipalities to do multi-year budgets. We agree with it so strongly that we’ve been doing it for several years.”

The province however has well-known money troubles.

“We are taking the time we need to get this right,” said Lauren Arscott, press secretary to municipal affairs minister Shay Andrews, in a written statement to Global News.

“As the current MSI program does not expire until 2021-2022, we have ample time to work on the details of the system.”

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Finance Minister Joe Ceci, in his budget speech on March 22, said: “the government will aim to make legislative changes this year to have a new system operational by the time MSI is set to expire.”

Iveson has been hoping the legislative changes will come in the fall sitting, which begins next week.

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“Our goal is to have a new system legislated,” Arscott wrote in an email, “and that is what we are currently working toward.”

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Iveson also complained that there has been some negotiations in public, breaking cabinet confidentiality. Now that it is out in the open, Iveson admitted, “a number of proposals were put back and forth clearly. Things were put on the table, frankly, that we liked, that then came back off the table.”

“But I don’t want to get into the negotiations in public. I simply want to get a resolution to this,” he said.

Notley wants to keep the lines of communication open.

“I’m hopeful that ultimately through respectful conversations we’ll be able to find a consensus that meets the needs of municipalities but also does so in the context of understanding the fiscal position that the government of Alberta is in,” Notley told reporters.