More bad news about the City’s budget last week. Council was told that to maintain current levels of service we need an 8.7% tax increase this year (in the fall we were told 6.6%) as well as tax increases of 7% and 6.4% in the next two years. This is very, very difficult to swallow.

The question in my mind, the question I have been asking myself repeatedly is “How is it that we are delivering inadequate services and pulverizing people with these kinds of increases, and there is simply nothing to be done?” 

It has been presented to me as a Councillor that we can either cut service levels or cut capital projects if we want to get taxes under control. These are the only options.

Well I just don’t buy that. 

I keep thinking over and over that we must be spending money on some of the wrong things and we need to figure out what those are and stop it. 

And just like that we got two items last week that demonstrate the problem.

Last Monday we talked about all the social service agencies operating in the neighborhoods on the north edge of downtown. Tens of millions in city taxes support these agencies - but there are no metrics on whether or not we are making it better. Lots of data about the number of people served. But no data on how many people are recovering and healing. Nothing that indicates systemic improvements.

Last Wednesday it was all about the Night Time Economy. I would really encourage you to read it all yourself here (please click on item 7.1 and select attachment number 1). You can feel the full force of the bureaucratic inertia wash over you in real time. But for those of you who want the TLDR, here it is:

The City has been working hard for years on a Night time Economy Strategy (NTES). It has spent who knows how much (but it’s never a small number) to hire a firm from the UK called NTES to really look into this. I mean really get in there.

Here is the a quote that says so much:

“NTES held a week-long in-person audit of Edmonton’s nighttime economy February 15-22, 2023. This audit was an immersive experience where the consultants physically visited Edmonton, allowing them to engage with and observe the nighttime scene directly. During this audit, the consultants utilized various modes of transportation, including walking, rideshare and public transit, to ensure an authentic experience.” 

So some folks from the UK “physically visited Edmonton” (“Hey Everybody! Pub Crawl in Edmonton!”) and as far as I can tell, walked and Ubered around to some bars. Not a bad week!

Here are the blinding insights stemming from this work:

  • “Establish and implement a framework for a Nighttime Economy Lead and accompanying Nighttime Economy Alliance. 
  • Create a nighttime inventory. 
  • Create a citywide culture and creativity action plan. 
  • Create a robust engagement strategy for sustainable access to the Nighttime Economy and information sharing with new initiatives. 
  • Develop a public realm master plan for Edmonton. 
  • Develop a night safety and welfare strategy. 
  • Develop a transportation improvement strategy and activation plan.”

I’m not even sure what half of that means.  

But here is the big takeaway. If the City wants to spend another $250,000 annually it can hire one person to implement a strategy to have a bunch of meetings and write this bunch of reports to help the bars in Edmonton tell people in Edmonton about the bars in Edmonton.

I don’t have as many nights out as I once did, but I know the value of the evening economy. It’s a critical part of any city. 

But the idea that we need City Hall to figure out how the young people are going to have fun is absurd. No twenty-two year old on earth ever wondered what the Mayor thought the bars should be like. They are more than capable of figuring that out for themselves, just like we were.

I just don’t see for the life of me why Edmonton’s property taxpayers should fund this study.  Or this new position. 

But on and on it goes.

I am only highlighting these reports because they were on our agenda last week and they are top of mind. Fact is, Council gets reports like this most weeks. Well-meaning people coming up with nice ideas to work on while our roads are a mess, transit is unreliable, service is declining and taxes are skyrocketing.

This is the way we get to an 8.7% tax increase without doing anything any better. The belief that the government is the answer to every problem. 

If we can break City Hall’s habit of poking its nose into every little thing, of trying to be the answer to every question, perhaps we can get these tax increases under control. What other choice do we have?

Timothy Cartmell


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