Iveson uncertain how Alberta's 'spending problem' will affect Edmonton
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2019 6:35PM MDT
A report that recommends the province review how much funding it gives municipalities creates uncertainty for Edmonton and other cities, says Mayor Don Iveson.
The Blue Ribbon Panel report, released on Tuesday, suggests the province prioritize the projects it funds by greatest need, adjust funding and grants to align with provincial goals, and make better use of federal funding.
"The province needs to beyond merely cutting spending to transforming the way services and programs are delivered," panel chair Janice MacKinnon said.
Iveson said he's not yet concerned about a reversal of provincial cash, but that the report does create uncertainty for Edmonton and other municipalities.
"All of our other neighbours still don't have an infrastructure deal," Iveson said, referring to Edmonton and Calgary's signing of Bill 32, or the City Charter Fiscal Framework Act.
"That's an impediment to our collaboration and our planning and their long-term infrastructure-planning arrangements," Iveson said.
The agreement will replace the Municipal Sustainability Initiative when it expires in 2021-22, and tie the cities’ infrastructure dollars to the provincial economy in a legislated revenue-sharing agreement.
When it was announced in November, officials said an arrangement was only made with the cities, and not other municipalities, because Edmonton and Calgary took an MSI reduction in Budget 2018 in anticipation of the program being implemented.
"We understand the province is in difficult shape. That's why we took a 42 per cent cut to our infrastructure grant last year when we signed the charter deal, which the government recognized in its campaign platform and said it was going to continue to honour," Iveson said.
"We've received no heads up or warning from the province that our charter deal is at risk."
However, he added the "language of downloading is a little bit concerning because that can lead to accumulating infrastructure deficit or higher property taxes and municipal debt."
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association said it was still reviewing the Blue Ribbon Panel's report, but that it would remain focused on negotiating a new funding framework.