Provincial Budget puts lives and jobs at risk
Mayor Don Iveson offered the following statement on the 2021 Provincial Budget:
“For a budget focused on health, recovery, and finding savings, I am confounded and disappointed the Province is still not prepared to work with Edmonton on supportive housing. Supportive housing not only ensures individuals with complex needs get off the street and into a safe home. In fact, we have evidence that housing reduces costs to health, justice and law enforcement budgets — right when the Province needs to find these efficiencies the most.
“The government of Alberta’s failure to work with Edmonton on supportive housing for vulnerable people, a failure to follow evidence showing the substantial savings in areas of provincial jurisdiction like healthcare, is truly frustrating for the people experiencing homelessness during a pandemic. More shelters are not the solution, and will not get the healthcare cost savings associated with proper housing.
“The call to action to address homelessness head-on is being driven by community: both end-homelessness advocates and our businesses community are overwhelmingly in support of our proposal. Yesterday, we released two dozen letters that were sent to Premier Kenney from Edmonton businesses in recent weeks on this very issue.
“Our ask of $5.9 million in 2021 to operate the supportive housing units that the City and Government of Canada are already building through the Rapid Housing Initiative will more than pay for itself in reduced interactions with the criminal justice and health care systems. And, in the context of today’s budget, a $5.9 million investment will yield millions more in projected savings for the Alberta government.
“Jobs and a strong economic recovery out of this pandemic remain top of mind for Edmontonians. That is why I am also very concerned about cuts to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program — a program which supports job creation and ensures we’re building and maintaining the infrastructure that is essential to recovery and a thriving economy.
“This minimum 25% cut to MSI, spread out over the next three years, offsets the stimulus funding the Province provided municipalities with last summer. This could ultimately result in net job losses across the province and in our city during the most fragile part of recovery in the coming years, against a backdrop of unemployment numbers already among the country’s highest.
“I’ll be asking City administration to report to Council which Edmonton projects are now at risk as a result of these deep cuts. Though it’s already clear that this cut further injures the City of Edmonton’s jobs and fiscal situation.
“We understand the need for fiscal restraint. Which is why we have worked to flatten taxes, and why we have come to terms with several previous cuts to municipal funding. The Province’s budget decision to further cut our infrastructure funding, which has already been whittled away, further impacts Edmonton’s momentum and will slow Edmonton and Alberta’s economic recovery.
“I appreciate direct confirmation from Minister McIver that promised support for projects like 50th street rail crossing, the West Valley Line and dollars earmarked for the South Capital Line LRT extension, have been maintained. I appreciate the continued recognition that these projects are important city-building initiatives that will generate significant economic benefits for our city and Alberta while also ensuring we’re working towards Edmontonians’ economic recovery, climate goals, health and quality of life.”