In my previous blog, I said that we need to take the City’s budget and organizational structure and tear it down to the studs. Taking a 20 year old budget and tweaking it here and there with the expectation that we will get meaningful results is folly.

The same can be said for City Council’s relationship with the Provincial government.  

The City declares a Climate Emergency. The Province says City Council doesn’t support Alberta’s economy. 

The City talks about Housing First. The Province counters with the Recovery Model (these are almost exactly the same thing). 

The Province sees an encampment crisis and sets up their Navigation Centre (and it has some success). City Council declares a Housing Emergency the same day (which has resulted in exactly zero urgent actions four months later). 

City Council raises taxes (in part because of reduced provincial grants). The Province says Council will now report to Cabinet.

No one wants governance and intergovernmental relationships to work like this. This is chaos. 

There is a lot in Bill 20 I don’t like. As far as I am concerned, my obligation is to the people that vote for me, and I have a direct relationship with those persons right now. I am directly responsible to the voters for my actions at Council. 

Add political parties and Cabinet recall of Councillors and the ability to overturn City bylaws, and now my obligations include the party whip, Cabinet, the Premier’s office and Treasury Board.

Reintroducing union and corporate donations feeds the cynicism. A better move would be to make donations at the municipal level tax deductible like they are at the provincial and federal levels.

And for those that like the idea of more provincial oversight, let me offer you this. Should the NDP win the next provincial election, they inherit the same powers the UCP is giving itself right now. If you want your Council reporting to Premier Smith, will you be as comfortable when it reports to Premier Nenshi?

I don’t see how any of this makes for better representation.

At the same time though, there is clearly a need for the model of municipal governance to evolve. Ward elections with 10-15 relatively unknown candidates can be a crap shoot. And if you have real apprehension with recent Council decisions, identifying the candidate that might offer an alternative approach can be difficult. If we don’t find a way to modernize how Councillors are selected and how the City of Edmonton is governed, if we don’t grow up and start acting like a city of 1.5 million people, then we are doomed to continue this slide into dysfunction.

So how do we start to fix it? 

By stopping with all the dumb performative declarations and having some adult conversations.

The first thing City Council can do is stop declaring an emergency or writing a letter to the Premier every time the Province says or does something it does not like.

When it comes to the Province, we need them to stop treating us like opponents or roadblocks, and start treating us like partners. 

We need their investments, particularly on matters of health and housing. The level of investment that the City is making in these areas is simply unsustainable. 

So let’s talk about grants that flow down from the province - and the education taxes that flow up from the cities.

If that means we need to adopt the Province’s vernacular regarding a Recovery Model, what is the harm in that? It's their responsibility, it's their money (or should be), it's their facilities. If the Province is going to provide vulnerable persons shelter, care, addictions support and mental health counselling, - isn’t that what we are asking for them to do?  Why are we so stuck on language?

If the Province wants to invite people to live in Alberta, and they see the need for housing, but they don’t support relaxation of exclusionary zoning, then let's get together and talk about pros and cons.

If the Province does not want the cities to divert trash from landfill, then let's have a conversation about alternative strategies.

If new hospitals have become exceedingly cost prohibitive, then let's have a conversation about a different health care model. While health is a Provincial Ministry, land use planning and transportation networks and transit service are all municipal responsibilities. When we plan an LRT line to a hospital and the hospital disappears, that's a problem.

And when I say conversations and discussions, I don’t mean exchanging barbs on social media or passing laws intended to do nothing more than make life more difficult for another level of government. That’s childish and ineffective, and it falls far short of what our shared constituents expect.

Call it a relationship framework. Call it an accord. Call it an Intergovernmental Relationship Table.

Call it whatever you want. Just stop all the performance politics and start acting like a group of adults elected to solve problems.

Timothy Cartmell


Honoured to be the City Councillor in Edmonton's Ward pihêsiwin. #yegcc #Wardpihêsiwin