The City of Edmonton generates hundreds of millions of dollars in user fees for services rendered. These fees include everything from transit fares and community recreation to licensing and permitting; one good example would be being charged a booking fee for the use of a picnic table in a park. I am not going to broach the subject of the use and nature of these fees, however I will discuss the rate in which user fees have been on the rise and whether or not I feel this Council has fully digested the gravity of the economic downturn.
Year to date Edmonton and its immediate region have lost over 30, 000 jobs and have reported a 7.7% unemployment rate as of July. Yet our taxes continue to increase, and the City of Edmonton continues to hire new employees (even though it has hundreds of unfilled vacancies on the books).
Over the last decade the City has raised more taxes and user fees than any other time in history. Property taxes have risen well over the 70% mark, user fees for community and recreation services have risen 47%, transit fares 41% and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
These costs would be fine if they were in concert with real economic and wage growth. However, they are not. Inflation over the same time frame has only risen 20% and average weekly wages in the Edmonton CMA (census metropolitan area) at best estimate was just over 30%. Add to this the incremental costs; food prices, cost of shelter and other user fees we are paying in our schools and other institutions, I only wonder when we will get some relief.
The numbers simply do not lie. The fact is that we are falling behind and no one – especially politically really likes to discuss that we are at real risk in this province. Our children may not be in a better position financially than we are today.
Is austerity the answer? YES and NO – we need to receive better value for our money. Blanket cuts without intelligent evidentiary based decisions are not the answer – City Council needs to demand that Administration demonstrate better value and opportunities to drive our transactional costs down resulting in a win for all.
 Published on: Edmonton Journal August 5, 2016 | Last Updated: August 5, 2016 6:48 PM MDT
 Austerity involves policies to reduce government spending and or higher taxes in order to try and reduce government budget deficits. (http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/6254/economics/what-is-austerity/)