Edmonton councillors launch participatory budgeting project

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WATCH ABOVE: Two Edmonton city councillors are teaming up to launch a first-of-its-kind project in the city. As Nicole Stillger explains, it will give residents in their wards the chance to decide how to spend part of the public budget – Apr 17, 2022

Two Edmonton councillors have teamed up to launch the city’s first participatory budgeting project.

Residents in Ward Nakota Isga and Ward Karhiio will have the opportunity to decide where some of Edmonton’s tax dollars go.

“Help us allocate some of our existing ward budgets and putting that to things that are going to help make the community better,” Ward Nakota Isga councillor Andrew Knack said.

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The money will come out of existing ward budgets.

Every year, each councillor gets just under $200,000, typically spent on staffing. But surpluses can be used to fund small-scale projects, like the participatory budget.

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“Help people accomplish some of the things that maybe they’ve been wanting to do for a while, but didn’t have the resources to do,” Ward Karhiio councillor Keren Tang said.

“There’s been quite a bit of interest and excitement. People have talked about a street food festival or a Mill Woods dining week, very much like a downtown or Chinatown dining week.”

“The whole point of this is that we know that not every idea requires this giant budget — requires millions of dollars,” Knack said.

“Sometimes a few hundred dollars could go a long way into activating the community in a way that hadn’t been done before.”

More than just community betterment, it’s about engagement too.

“Build maybe new relationships and maybe seek those voices out who don’t normally get involved in civic conversations,” Tang said.

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It’s a sentiment Knack shares, adding the decisions made at city hall have the most direct impact on people’s lives, yet municipal elections see the lowest voter turnout of the three levels of government.

“It’s important to just try every different way possible to get people active in what we do at the local level,” Knack said.

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The two councillors will host a virtual information session April 19. Ideas will be gathered and the communities will ultimately decide how the money is spent.

“This is something that can really start being deployed quite quickly,” Knack explained.

“Our hope is that we’ll have actually completed this whole process, including the evaluation, by sort of October and that will help set us up for our next budget conversation later this year.”

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