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Alberta Budget 2019: What’s in it for Edmonton?

WATCH ABOVE: The 2019 Alberta budget puts a halt on provincial cash for Edmonton's west LRT for at least four years. That - and more - is sparking outright frustration from Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who cancelled an overseas trip to deal with the fallout. Vinesh Pratap reports.

The United Conservatives’ first provincial budget focuses on jobs and includes an overall spending cut of 2.8 per cent over the next four years.

READ MORE: Alberta budget 2019 includes cuts to cities, civil servants, universities

Here’s a look at how Edmonton will be affected.

LRT funding delayed

While the province will honour the $3-billion funding commitment for Edmonton and Calgary LRT projects, most of the money won’t come until after 2022-23.

By then, Calgary will have received just $75 million from the province.

“The remainder of the $1.53 billion of promised provincial funding will come in the years following,” Brooklyn Elhard, press secretary for the ministry of transportation, said.

“All of Edmonton’s money will flow outside of the four-year Capital Plan.”

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That means Calgary will receive roughly five per cent of its promised funding from the province in these four years. The rest is being deferred.

These transit projects receive funding from all three levels of government so the Alberta government said it expects federal funding will keep these projects going until provincial funds kick in.

Edmonton city council has called an emergency council meeting for Friday morning.

Petrochemical, partial upgrading, lab projects cancelled

The budget removes several projects including capital grants through the Petrochemical Feedstock Infrastructure Program ($800 million), the Partial Upgrading Program ($215 million), the Edmonton Clinical Laboratory Hub ($579 million), the Alberta Community Transit Fund “and other short-term carbon-tax-funded programs,” the Provincial Operations Centre and the Alberta Community Resilience Program after 2020-21.

Child and adolescent mental health building deferred

A mental health facility for children and youth proposed for Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital has been deferred but not cancelled.

The government said the opening date was adjusted to be “more consistent with the expected growth in demand for acute care beds in the region.”

South Edmonton hospital

Funding for a new hospital in south Edmonton has been maintained but the completion date has been pushed back to 2030 from 2027.

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Health-care facilities

Funding for the Norwood Long Term Care Facility will continue.

The Alberta budget also includes funding for future projects such as the proposed Brain Centre at the University of Alberta.

READ MORE: Highlights from Alberta budget 2019

Public sector job cuts

Approximately 210,000 people work in the civil service across Alberta in departments as varied as Fish and Wildlife, education, Alberta Health Services, Justice and tourism.

Premier Kenney previously said that force would be reduced by 10 per cent. The budget outlines a 7.7-per-cent cut, which translates to about 800 full-time positions.

Public library support

The UCP government will maintain funding for public libraries across Alberta.

Funding for municipalities (MSI)

The Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) was set to conclude at the end of 2021-22. The UCP government will maintain that funding for this year (2019-20) but it will change the following year.

In 2021, it will be reduced by $94 million and in 2022, it will be reduced by $142 million.

That means this government will provide $236 million less than what the NDP promised in 2018.

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The province says it will work with local governments to develop a new fiscal framework. (See Local Government Fiscal Framework Act below).

READ MORE: Winners and losers in Alberta budget 2019

Changing City Charter

The UCP government will repeal the City Charters Fiscal Framework Act and replace it with the Local Government Fiscal Framework Act.

Previously, the city charter only applied to Edmonton and Calgary. The province wants to develop a new act that will cover all municipalities. That will come into force in 2022-23, which is also when MSI funding will be phased out.

Under the new act, Alberta municipalities will receive $860 million in 2022-23. After that, the amount will fluctuate based on the provincial government’s revenue.

The estimate is that in 2022-23, Edmonton will receive $184 million, compared to $271 million for Calgary. The remaining $405 million will be split between all other Alberta municipalities, based on a formula to be developed at a later date.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson voices concerns with Alberta budget 2019
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson voices concerns with Alberta budget 2019

READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2019: What’s in it for Calgary and Lethbridge?

Municipal property taxes on Crown land to be cut in half

A program that gives cities a bit more revenue is changing. The Grants in Place of Taxes (GiPOT) sees the province provide grants to municipalities in lieu of property taxes on Crown lands and buildings. Crown properties are tax exempt.

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The budget outlines that, to align with other provinces, GiPOT will be reduced by 25 per cent in 2019-2020 and a further 25 per cent in 2021.

That means, for the 2019-20 year, $45 million will still be paid in GiPOT to municipalities across Alberta, and $30 million will be paid in 2021.

Edmonton will be the hardest hit by this 50-per-cent reduction.

In 2021, the cut translates to $15.2 million – or 0.8 per cent of Edmonton’s total property tax revenue.

Communities where GiPOT accounts for more than five per cent of property tax revenue will be exempt from this change. There are five municipalities that qualify.

Alberta budget 2019: A look at how the UCP plans to balance the books
Alberta budget 2019: A look at how the UCP plans to balance the books

Fighting crime and supports for justice system

As promised on the election campaign, Alberta will spend $10 million on 50 new prosecutors. Some have already been hired and more will be added over the four-year period.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team, of ALERT, will receive $50 million over four years. This was also a campaign promise.

The budget also outlines $20 million for the drug treatment court, which was previously announced.
For the 2019-20 year, $2 million has been earmarked for courthouse renovations in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.

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