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Edmonton-area mayors ask Alberta government to lobby feds for COVID-19 recovery funds

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau concerned about challenges facing Canada’s municipalities, but will respect province’s jurisdictions' Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau concerned about challenges facing Canada’s municipalities, but will respect province’s jurisdictions
WATCH ABOVE: Speaking outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Saturday, May 16 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is concerned about the challenges facing Canada's municipalities as a result of COVID-19, but also respects the jurisdiction of the respective provincial and territorial governments in this matter – May 16, 2020

A group of Edmonton-area leaders is asking the provincial government for help in securing federal funding due to financial instability amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The letter was sent to Premier Jason Kenney’s office on Friday, May 15 and was signed by the mayors of Edmonton, Beaumont, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Leduc County, Morinville, Parkland County, Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Strathcona County and Sturgeon County.

Copies were also sent to Alberta’s ministers of municipal affairs and finance.

READ MORE: Edmonton mayor says funding situation for cities has become ‘more dire’

“As we look ahead to the reopening and relaunch phases, now is the time to ensure municipalities are not grappling with financial uncertainty,” the letter said.

“Municipalities across the country have been appealing to the federal government for emergency operating funding but there is a need for the government of Alberta to immediately join these efforts seeking substantive discussions with the federal government to take action to alleviate the financial difficulties Alberta’s municipalities are facing.

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“For the residents and businesses in our region who continue to rely on municipal services, inaction is simply not an option.”

On April 23, 22 leaders from Canada’s largest cities had asked the federal government for up to $15 billion in funding to help maintain services.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Mayors looking for up to $15B from federal government

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson chairs that group: the big city mayors’ caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Edmonton’s ask to the feds is an overall request of $217 million.

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READ MORE: Ontario mayors ask province, feds to help municipalities with post-pandemic recovery plan

In Friday’s letter, the 13 Edmonton-area municipalities said that federal funding could help address “significant non-recoverable losses” due to COVID-19, which include costs related to transit, waste, permits, emergency protection and enforcement as well as deferred payments of property taxes.

“The combination of covering our immediate operating shortfalls plus an infrastructure stimulus package would meet our mutual goals of creating jobs and ensuring municipalities are able to continue to provide essential services to our businesses and residents,” the letter said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that he had spoken to Canada’s premiers Thursday during a First Ministers’ Meeting about the issues facing municipalities, but ultimately, cities are under provincial jurisdiction.

“Canada’s big cities and indeed municipalities of all sizes across the country are facing significant challenges,” Trudeau said.

“[Municipalities] continue to deliver services in difficult situations for their citizens while at the same time seeing massive drops in revenue. We respect [that], of course, and we know that cities are the responsibility of the provinces but I highlighted that the federal government is eager to hear from the provinces how we can support cities.
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“We’re continuing to look to do so but recognize the provincial jurisdiction in this,” Trudeau said.

READ MORE: Kenney slams China’s handling of COVID-19, calls for ‘great reckoning’ for country’s role

 

The office for the municipal affairs minister said Sunday it had also not received an official copy of the letter but hoped to discuss the issue with local leaders soon.

“We will be hosting our weekly town hall with every municipality in the province next Wednesday,” said a statement from Timothy Gerwing, press secretary to Minister Kaycee Madu. “This issue will likely come up in that forum. We understand municipalities, like the province, are facing many challenges right now.” 

“We will have more to say about how we’re helping municipalities meet the financial challenges of COVID-19 in the near future,” Gerwing said.

–With files from The Canadian Press and Scott Johnston, 630 CHED

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