Speaking to a senior business leader recently, we both came to the conclusion that we
are in the worst economic recession of our professional lives. The wholesale departure
and destruction of our city’s economic capacity, both in regards to our business
community and the pressures on the individual ratepayer, is in my opinion, historical in
its tragedy. If you accept this premise, like me, you would be looking to our civic political
leaders to act responsibly when it comes to budgeting.
It is important to note that your property tax increases are driven by what we spend. If
we wish to lower the tax pressures on you personally and make Edmonton a more
attractive place to do business, the formula is simple: control spending! Spend on what
is absolutely needed now but push off what can wait. You and I do this every day; this is
how we stay afloat given we can’t go back to our bosses or customers to ask for more
money because we know times are tough for everyone. Everyone, that is, but City
Council. It is tragic that Council talks about the tough times but does little to
demonstrate any kind of restraint. In a span of 72 hours, Council voted to spend over $612 million on new capital, everything from a new recreation center to putting more
money into planning new streetscapes. These projects are all important but, in light of
this economy, just not today.
What shocked me most is when individuals and business leaders came to plead for
restraint, some members of Council asked them where to cut, then argued that their
suggestions were misguided. This is a prime example of political leaders listening to
respond, instead of listening to understand. To be blunt, we should not be asking the
individual ratepayer how to balance the books because it isn’t your job. You don’t sit
downtown day in day and day out and follow the nebulous budgets of our departments
– that is Council’s job, and we are paid well to do so.
The City is broken. The direction of this City is clearly wrong. The time has come to hold
our elected officials accountable and have them move beyond being Edmonton’s social
planning council to being Edmonton’s City Council. I will not be supporting this budget
and neither should you. Honestly we can do better.