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Edmonton compiles $2B COVID-19 stimulus proposal for province

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton predicts $140-260M revenue hit due to COVID-19'
City of Edmonton predicts $140-260M revenue hit due to COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Don Iveson said the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City of Edmonton's bottom line could be anywhere from $140 million by September to $260 by December, adding costs may have to be reduced via more layoffs and delayed infrastructure projects. – Apr 15, 2020

Edmonton wants the province to invest more than $2 billion in stimulus spending to create up to nearly 10,500 construction jobs this summer and next. The list calls for spending on road work, rec centres and flood mitigation.

“One of the things that senior governments can do is open the taps on infrastructure,” Mayor Don Iveson said in an interview Tuesday with Global News.

“Just as in 2008 in the financial crisis, cities were able to spring into action and deploy stimulus quickly and create job support and demand in the economy. We’re prepared to do that.”

Iveson said the list is based on the City Plan and its goals of creating a more efficient Edmonton. It includes residential and commercial infill development, renewal of alleys and open spaces, asphalt resurfacing and other road work, as well as resurrecting plans to build the Lewis Farms Rec Centre that was shelved by city council in December.

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“We’d love to be able to restart Lewis Farms Rec Centre as a stimulus initiative. It’s more or less shovel-ready. It was a shame to have to put it on pause but a major construction project like that would inject a lot of confidence even though it’s built over several years.”

“It might make the difference for a few construction companies and a lot of households,” Iveson continued. “So we put a number of projects on that would not only create those economic benefits in the short term, but align with the city’s long-term objectives for developing the community, and the economy and protecting the environment.”

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton compiles $2B stimulus proposal for Alberta government'
City of Edmonton compiles $2B stimulus proposal for Alberta government

The letter to Premier Jason Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu also proposes for 2021 four sites of affordable housing and extension of the south LRT from Century Park down to Ellerslie, where the park and ride is being built, and eventually, a new hospital.

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“Projects like flood mitigation, for example, are very easy to put in because there’s basically a lot of digging, but they do create good jobs and they also know how to reduce flood risk and insurance premiums for people over time,” Iveson said.

“We would have expected to put about $1 billion of infrastructure in the ground this year and we don’t want to scale that back to deal with our fiscal challenges. What we’d like is to actually ramp it up to support employment and, frankly, take advantage of lighter traffic conditions to do road work for example, potentially lower prices.”

The letter’s release comes one day ahead of a city council discussion on the 2020 budget. The meeting will potentially set a new lower property tax target that reduces the 2.08 per cent tax increase that was the basis for this year’s budget.

Click to play video: 'Should the 2020 property tax hike debate be re-opened in light of the fallout from COVID-19?'
Should the 2020 property tax hike debate be re-opened in light of the fallout from COVID-19?

It cites a call from local business to help the economy.

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“Business owners are telling us that our plan to delay all property tax payments for two months is welcomed relief, but may not be enough,” the letter said. “In order for the City of Edmonton to defer further or even reduce property tax payments, we require a cash flow backstop and relief for our extraordinary costs from the provincial and/or federal government.”

Iveson said talks continue at the federal level with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for financial aid. Edmonton is projecting a loss of $112 million by September due to lost revenue because of COVID-19. Two-thousand employees were given temporary layoffs on March 31.

In a statement, Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu said the government has asked all Alberta municipalities for a list of projects to receive possible funding.

“We are reviewing these lists to identify those shovel-ready projects that can quickly create needed jobs for Albertans and will have more details soon.”

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