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Mayor Amarjeet Sohi calls Alberta budget’s lack of Edmonton funding a ‘slap in the face’

Click to play video: 'Edmonton mayor slams Alberta budget’s lack of funding for city projects' Edmonton mayor slams Alberta budget’s lack of funding for city projects
WATCH: Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi slammed the Alberta government's 2022 budget, saying the city submitted four urgent requests and got next to nothing in return. Sarah Komadina reports – Feb 24, 2022

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi expressed deep disappointment over the provincial budget, saying the city asked for four things but “received next to nothing in return.”

“We asked for support for housing and support services, for public transit, for downtown’s economic recovery and a commitment to support Edmonton’s bid for the 2026 World Cup,” Sohi said Thursday after the 2022 budget was tabled in the Alberta legislature.

“We got nothing — or little to nothing. And that is completely unacceptable. I have worked hard to ensure that this government understands that we are here as their partners.

“In return, they gave us a slap in the face. I’m deeply disappointed for that.”

Read more: Alberta budget 2022: What’s in it for Edmonton?

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Sohi said the city’s wish list originally contained 12 items, but Premier Jason Kenney asked the city to narrow it down further to what was submitted: “Those were the four bare minimum needs for our city that we need support immediately.”

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton disappointed in provincial budget' City of Edmonton disappointed in provincial budget
City of Edmonton disappointed in provincial budget – Feb 25, 2022

The City of Edmonton asked for $49.7 million in capital spending for supportive housing, plus $24.5 million in wraparound services for supportive housing.

The budget did not fund the city’s affordable housing requests. Sohi said existing supportive housing projects need money in order to begin operating.

“We immediately needed close to $9 million to provide wraparound services for those housing units once they come on board. I don’t know where we’re going to get the money from,” Sohi said, adding the city will be scrambling or tragically and will have to leave the units vacant while people remain homeless on the streets.

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“(The) federal government and city is stepping up. But our province is missing (in) action, and that is so disappointing.”

The city also asked the province for $41 million to help cover a transit operations shortfall, but that was not funded. The budget did, however, contain funds for construction of Calgary and Edmonton’s LRT system.

Together with money from the province and the federal government, Alberta’s two largest cities will receive $2.766 billion over the next three years, starting with $707 million in 2022-23 before ramping up to $1.042 billion in 2024-25.

In 2022-23, the federal government will provide over $656 million in funding for the two cities’ while Alberta will provide $50 million.

The fourth item in the city’s wish list was money for the FIFA World Cup bid, however Finance Minister Travis Toews said no final decision has been made on that yet.

Click to play video: 'Why Edmonton’s bid to host 2026 FIFA World Cup games is on shaky grass' Why Edmonton’s bid to host 2026 FIFA World Cup games is on shaky grass
Why Edmonton’s bid to host 2026 FIFA World Cup games is on shaky grass – Feb 10, 2022

In the budget, the province promised $5 million each to both Calgary and Edmonton — $4 million to the cities themselves and $1 million to their respective downtown business associations — for downtown recovery programs.

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Sohi said city staff think that downtown funding was added to the budget at the last minute, “Just to maybe say that they’re doing something for Edmonton.”

Read more: Alberta budget 2022 forecasts rosy economic future using ‘credible but cautious’ energy projections

The mayor cited several challenges the city is facing: downtown, Chinatown and business districts are all struggling and the city’s homeless population doubled during the pandemic. The drug overdose crisis only worsened during that time, he said.

“These are real issues that matter to Edmontonians. These issues are hurting other people, and we cannot tackle them without the support of the province.

“I don’t know what the next year is going to look like. I truly don’t.”

Sohi said Edmonton residents make huge contributions to the prosperity of Alberta and the city was not fairly represented in the budget.

“I’m so disheartened and disappointed that our provincial government did not deliver for us,” Sohi said.

“Edmontonians deserved better from this government. When Edmonton succeeds, Alberta succeeds, and this government failed to recognize that.”

Click to play video: '‘A slap in the face’ : Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says UCP budget lacks Edmonton funding' ‘A slap in the face’ : Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says UCP budget lacks Edmonton funding
‘A slap in the face’ : Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says UCP budget lacks Edmonton funding – Feb 25, 2022

City staff will be releasing the city’s wish list to the media, Sohi said.

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“You will see a stark difference, how Edmonton is treated and how badly Edmonton is treated and how much money Calgary got.”

Sohi said he doesn’t know why more capital projects were funded in Calgary.

“I can only assume the decisions are being made based on where the UCP MLAs are. That politics is driving… not good governance, driving decisions. And that is concerning.”

Read more: Highlights from Alberta budget 2022

Sohi said he has worked hard since being elected to build brides with the province and find ways to collaborate, meeting with ministers, the premier’s staff and Kenney himself.

The mayor said he isn’t sure what else he could do, adding, “It seems like (Kenney’s) government is not interested in working with us.”

“I hope that they will get the message that neglecting Edmonton means neglecting the needs of one million people, and neglecting Edmonton means neglecting the prosperity of Alberta.”

Sohi said in the coming weeks he will speak with council colleagues and Edmontonians, vowing he will not give up in his fight to get a better deal for the city.

“They need to start treating us like the rest of the province. This second-class treatment is unacceptable.”

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Click to play video: '2022 Alberta budget eyes health-care system sustainability' 2022 Alberta budget eyes health-care system sustainability
2022 Alberta budget eyes health-care system sustainability – Feb 24, 2022

Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for reaction to Mayor Sohi’s comments.

In a statement, acting chief of staff Greg Smith said the budget allocated a total of $2.8 billion to LRT projects in Edmonton and Calgary, $371 million for a new south Edmonton Edmonton hospital, $142 million for the Gene Zwozdesky Centre at Norwood, $46 million for the Misericordia and $50 million for the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit at the U of A.

“The City of Edmonton has also received $95.3 million in municipal sustainability initiative (MSI) capital funding and $15.8 million in grants in place of taxes (GIPOT)”

Smith also cited the downtown revitalization funds both cities received.

“Claiming that budget 2022 neglected the needs of Edmontonians is simply not true,” Smith said.

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Alberta finance minister discusses 2022 budget and lack of immediate gas & power bill relief – Feb 25, 2022

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