The Pulse: Sept. 19, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 14°C: Mainly cloudy with 60% chance of showers. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning. (forecast)
  • 27: The number of homicides recorded in Edmonton this year as of Sept. 18, compared with 26 at the same time last year. (details)
  • 26-24: The Edmonton Elks defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday. (details)

Gantt chart for the 2023-2026 budget timeline

Hard decisions ahead as Edmonton's 2023-2026 budget process approaches

By Mack Male

City council is just six weeks from the start of the 2023-2026 budget process. Agreeing on the next four-year budgets could be quite a challenge, given rising costs, the need to incorporate a carbon budget and accounting framework, and this council's composition, with several new members, a wide range of priorities, and time-management difficulties.

The budget process will begin on Oct. 31 and could take until Dec. 16 if council uses all the time that has been set aside for deliberations. Most regular city council and committee meetings have been cancelled for November and December.

City council must balance the budget, as municipalities in Alberta cannot run a deficit or use debt to pay for operations. Edmonton's average annual tax increase over the past five years has been about 1.8%, which the city says is among the lowest in Canada.

Earlier this year, city council heard that maintaining existing services and paying for new projects already in motion could lead to an 8.5% tax increase in 2023. But in a preliminary discussion in early May, most councillors said they wanted to keep the increase between 1% and 5%.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he doesn't expect council will approve a steep hike.

"But at the same time, we need to recognize that as the city grows, as our expectations from city government grow, we need to have additional resources to provide those services," he said. "Whether it's building more sustainable modes of transportation, all those things are what Edmontonians want us to take action on, but we will be very responsible."

According to the city, the average household in Edmonton pays about $7.61 per day in municipal property taxes. About $1.08 of that goes to police, $0.74 goes to neighbourhood renewal, $0.69 goes to public transit, $0.64 goes to fire rescue services, and $0.29 goes to road maintenance and traffic management.

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Headlines: Sept. 19, 2022

By Karen Unland

Cover art for Speaking Municipally, featuring a cartoon turnip in front of Edmonton's City Hall

Speaking Municipally urges council to step up on housing

By Karen Unland

Episode 190 of Speaking Municipally challenges city council to spend the money needed to open supportive housing units, even though it's not the city's responsibility.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has been asking the provincial government to contribute $11 million towards the operation of several supportive housing complexes, two of which are sitting vacant for lack of operational funds. Waiting for that to happen is pointless, notwithstanding the province's $13-billion surplus, co-host Troy Pavlek argued on Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

"The UCP has given us no indication they ever plan to do this, and in fact, have given us every indication that there is no plan to commit this funding," he said. "Politically, let's stop holding out our hat to say, 'Pretty please, Mr. Province, let's be kind to these people who need our support the most.' Let's just fund it. We clearly have the money because we just funded a Healthy Streets Operations Centre."

Council decided in mid-August to spend $15.2 million over two years on the Healthy Streets Operations Centre in Chinatown, with about two-thirds of the money going towards policing.

"When they approved that, the mayor himself said we know that the underlying causes around the safety and security issues in Chinatown relate to mental health and addictions and housing and homelessness — those things are provincial responsibilities," said co-host Mack Male, expanding on a point he made in a tweet. "(Sohi) said, 'I'm under no illusion that we will be able to make our communities safer until we tackle these issues.' So they funded the police with money that maybe could have gone to address some of those root issues. And the reason is, 'It's not our jurisdiction?'"

Spending money to get people into housing would pay off, said Male, citing a new research paper on Housing First from the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

Hear more about this issue on the Sept. 16 episode, in addition to their takes on council's decision to support Phase 1 of regional transit, the postponed hearing on banning some single-use items, and a plan to change the way park development is funded, as well as what voting records reveal and what they don't.

Portraits of James R. Wright and Payam Mousavi of Amii

Coming up this week: Sept. 19-23, 2022

By Debbi Serafinchon

This week offers opportunities to learn about AI applications, a video-game entrepreneur's journey, carbon capture, and a revenue-oriented accelerator, along with a couple of business-and-pleasure get-togethers.

Find even more listings in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: Amii's next AI meetup will feature James R. Wright on the use of AI to reduce the spread of disinformation on social media and Payam Mousavi on machine learning at Attabotics. (Amii)