With the recent drop in Alberta’s economy, along with announcements of a 5.7% tax increase, and a recent City Council pay raise many Edmontonians are becoming frustrated. When we look to the recently speculated 23,000 job losses in 2015, this frustration is understandable. Dare I say the bust may be closing in?
The implications on your household budget and our overall municipal budget has increased in status from serious to alarming. Adding to everyone’s anxiety is the seemingly provincial and federal political instability, lack of clarity with priorities, and unclear trails of accountability—which are often over shadowed in economic good times, have now become increasingly apparent as the economy takes a downward turn.
Having been through 4-5 recessions and 1 depression, it is my humble opinion that we all need to realize these wonderful City Building projects dropped on this council from previous councils might not come to pass as we had expected—if they come to pass at all. There are many projects that are currently at risk, including the NAIT and South LRT lines, Flood Mitigation, and the Rogers’ Place Financial Viability. Yet with City Council having raised taxes over 60% in the past ten years, I have heard loud and clear from many constituents that they have reached their absolute limits, and this is without including user fees and utility rate increases.
We are in dire need of action. It is becoming necessary for us to keep taxes and user fees from rising while maintaining our present service levels and keeping our financial commitments. If there was ever a time to prioritize, organize, and execute a plan that time is now. To do any different is a breach of Council responsibility to protect the civic equality we have built up over the last decade.
As the philosopher Santayana once said: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. I started a business and lived through the 1990’s. Having already experienced this, it is almost certain that dropping oil prices will lead to oil patch layoffs; oil patch layoffs will be followed by cancelled orders, causing suppliers, to extend receivables. This will be followed by more layoffs, etc. This leads to a place no one in this city wants to go. The damage was great then, but now is the time for retrospection to see what we did wrong in the 1990’s so we do not repeat the situation. In any case the auction houses and receivers will have a good time of it for a while.
Although these are unpleasant scenarios, not facing the elephant in the room head on is likely to get you crushed by the very animal you are trying to avoid. It is clearly now the time to rethink our priorities, no later.
Over the Christmas break I had some time to do a lot of thinking on various topics. I am not a man who is naturally gifted with the written or spoken word. All too often throughout my political career I have failed to make points in an accessible manner. I often felt my arguments became skewed when taken out of context or went on unacknowledged. This is my failing and I wish to correct this.
What is unfolding in Edmonton today is not new but part of a cycle of events beyond our control—a destiny set out by others but our own to live out.
My commitment to you for 2015 is simple: I am going to explain not only how I see our problems but try and make you understand that fixing them cannot be left alone to a handful of politicians or bureaucrats—but instead must involve you. No more fancy rhetoric, no more flowery speeches— just some plain talk. It will take a few blogs, tweets, letters, and e-mails to explain how we got here and even more of the same to tell you where we are going and why. It will be yours to read and yours to judge. In the beginning I do not expect many to listen, but that is not surprising as your messenger has been a poor one. Given a bit of time and some help I know we can all do a better job of not only keeping what we’ve already built as a City but to grow it beyond our wildest imagination. The future is always unwritten some say, and others say destiny is inescapable. Yet in the end the truth can only be what you believe it to be. I believe the truth is that we can do better, but let me work to prove that to you.
 Geoffery Morgan, Financial Post; January 22, 2015.