Alberta government matches federal funding for municipal aid
EDMONTON -- The Alberta government is matching about $300 million in federal funding for infrastructure projects and transit systems in municipalities across the province.
The dollars are meant to support cities through and recoup the costs of a low oil price environment and global pandemic.
Altogether, the provincial and federal aid was billed as a $1.1 billion investment consisting of:
- $500 million from the provincial government for building projects, previously committed as part of Alberta's recovery strategy;
- $233 million from each Alberta and Ottawa, under Canada's Safe Restart Agreement, as relief for municipal operating costs during COVID-19; and
- $70 million from each Alberta and Ottawa, also under Canada's Safe Restart Agreement, in support of municipal transit systems.
Noting the provincial deficit is expected to exceed $20 billion at the end of the year, Kenney said, "If we don’t get people back to work, if we don’t restore investor confidence and get our economy growing again, the fiscal challenge will become insurmountable.
"So jobs and the economy must come first. And the best way to help pay for all of this and to get back on top of the deficit will be to get our economy growing again.”
According to the premier, the $500-million municipal stimulus program is a 30 per cent boost to his government's $1.85 billion municipal infrastructure budget, and will create 2,500 jobs between 2020 and 2021.
Edmonton faces an estimated $172 million in lost revenue.
In total, the capital city will receive $116 million – which may be used retroactively – to recoup lost revenues and $60 million to help cover transit costs moving forward.
As ETS prepares to relaunch nearly full transit service Aug. 30, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said ridership remains less than half of normal levels for the season.
Speaking also as Big City Mayors' Caucus, Iveson said Alberta's largest transit systems had suffered most significantly.
"The success and health of our transit system is key to our economic recovery, key to keeping the workforce healthy, key to keeping Edmontonians healthy in our city, so that they can get to their workplaces, get to their medical appointments, get to family obligations," Iveson commented.
"This announcement is a validation of what mayors have been saying for months: that economic recovery is at risk in our communities without financial support for municipalities."
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who's city has seen about 15 per cent of its staff laid off during the pandemic, estimated the municipal deficit could reach $400 million before year's end.
He called Tuesday one of “very few great days in the last five months.”
However, his city won't yet see any cash from the Alberta government for its Green Line LRT, a proposal for which was approved almost unanimously earlier in the month.
Kenney said the government owed its taxpayers a review of the proposal before writing a cheque for the project.
Nenshi echoed the sentiment: "It’s a very big investment on the part of the provincial government and it makes total sense for the provincial government to do its due diligence."
Organizations representing rural and urban municipalities also expressed gratitude at Alberta's matching of the federal funding, with Alberta Urban Municipalities Association vice president Tanya Thorn saying a full recovery was not possible without "strong municipalities."