Skip to main content

'Where are the bold moves?': Why green initiatives may get squeezed out of Edmonton's budget


As Edmonton city councillors and staff work to limit an upcoming property tax hike to four per cent, some are concerned that projects aimed at creating a cleaner environment will be shelved.

"Where are the bold moves? We’re about to do the same thing that all the climate conferences in the past have done: talk but not act," said Jacob Komar at a recent public hearing.

Komar chairs Edmonton's Energy Transition Climate Resilience Committee, which was created in 2015 to promote and advise council on green initiatives.

Juan Vargas echoed those thoughts, even bringing a large stack of letters to chambers from people pushing for things like expanding the city’s bike network.

"We have a council that was elected on a mandate to act on climate," the Paths for People representative said.

"What we need to see is an actual result. We need to see them actually saying that what you said is true, and we’re going to act on climate, we’re going to make the city more liveable, and we’re going to vote to fund this type of action."

There are several climate-related projects listed in the proposed budget, but city staff are advising against funding most of them this time around, in order to limit tax increases.

Unfunded projects that may be paused include energy retrofits in city buildings, improvements to transit and active transportation options, and flood protection along the North Saskatchewan River.

"We certainly are not on track. My point today was, I heard a lot in the last week that says we’re doing nothing and that is not true either," said City Manager Andre Corbould.

He pointed to ongoing initiatives that will make a climate impact, including hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing LRT expansion, new net-zero buildings and electric buses.

While justifying why Edmonton isn’t going further right now, he said, "I didn’t sense we had the normalization of people coming to talk about climate change."

"What I think we need to do is hear, like, a million Edmontonians talk about climate change. And we’re just not there yet, I just don’t think we’re there."

Corbould later apologized in a statement sent to CTV News Edmonton Monday evening.

"My remarks to city council were not as clear as they ought to have been. As a result it may have sounded like I was diminishing the climate crisis and the people who spoke about it. I was not, and I apologize for creating that impression. The reality is that a high percentage of Edmontonians are concerned about climate change," he stated.

The city manager went to list climate-related actions Edmonton is taking, including purchasing green energy, buying solar panels and building a net-zero firehouse in Windermere. He also acknowledged that despite that, Edmonton isn't meeting its climate-change-mitigation targets.

Battling climate change is "absolutely a priority of Edmontonians," believes Ward Metis Coun. Ashley Salvador.

"Ultimately this is one of the most important tasks that council is going to do over our term, ensuring that our priorities are actually embedded in the budget so that we can see the real outcomes that Edmontonians expect," she told CTV News Edmonton.

Salvador suggested the trade-off could come at the expense of major projects like the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre.

Budget talks resume at city hall on Wednesday.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Sean Amato Top Stories

Stay Connected