City council has formally approved the spending on a whole bunch of long-talked-about construction projects.
The series of votes taken Tuesday on several bylaws total more than half-a-billion dollars, and Councillor Mike Nickel suspects at some point the province will come in and pull some funding to send a message to rein in spending.
“I think I’ve got a bunch of what I call ‘economic crisis deniers’ going right now,” Nickel told reporters after the meeting.
“Right now, you know what, we can’t afford any new spending. And on top of this, we have a provincial budget that’s coming down the pipe and I don’t think they’re in any mood to give us any more money.”
Bylaws to trigger spending over the next four years included the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre and Library, a fleet of electric buses, an upgrade to the Stadium LRT Station, to start work on building the Terwillegar Expressway, some Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) projects downtown, improvements to an eastern portion of Jasper Avenue and neighbourhood rehab work along Alberta (118) Avenue, Central McDougall, Highlands, Inglewood and Royal Gardens.
Nickel split his vote, saying yes to the “got to have” list of neighbourhood projects but saying no to the “nice to haves.”
“I didn’t support the rec centre. I don’t support the west line LRT. We just got to wait. We can have them but just not today.”
Before it was over, council voted to approve borrowing authority by half a billion dollars. They didn’t approve the money Tuesday, just the first reading of the bylaw. Aaron Paquette and Jon Dziadyk joined Nickel in voting against going deeper in debt. Mayor Don Iveson was out of the city and did not participate in the vote.
Watch below: Final design for Lewis Farms recreation centre revealed (November 2018)
Council asked administration if they had heard anything concrete from the province on transit money, which is due to come from the Alberta Community Transit fund or ACT.
“It’s business as usual in a municipality as ours, knowing full well that something may come down that affects us,” city manager Linda Cochrane said. “It’s your decision, but I don’t think we know more than you do in this regard.”
“In terms of, ‘What does the crystal ball look like?’ I would echo Ms. Cochrane’s comments that we don’t know,” deputy city manager Adam Laughlin chimed in. “I would suggest that the ones that are at more risk from a provincial contribution perspective are the ACT projects.”
The provincial budget is due to be tabled near the end of October, after the federal election on Oct. 21.
“I have no reason to doubt why they wouldn’t continue to honour their commitments,” Councillor Andrew Knack told reporters.
“I’d like to take the premier at his word. I believe that he’s good at his word, based off what they said during the campaign.”
Nickel isn’t so sure, after seeing a strong message given to Edmonton’s neighbours to the south. He thinks the problem is worse here because business can take its holdings to our neighbouring counties.
“They’re surrounded. There’s not too many places you can jump,” Nickel said of the situation in Calgary.
“Here in Edmonton, every time you raise taxes, user fees or red tape people just jump the jurisdiction. We’re just bleeding commercial and industrial users at an alarming rate. There’s a reason why the Amazon warehouse is built in Leduc County — a million square feet — not the City of Edmonton. We’ve got to get our costs under control.”