Council asked to consider building rec centres, fund sports programs and transit

EDMONTON –

City council heard from dozens of community advocates and groups Monday to inform its budget deliberations for next year’s operating and capital budgets.

Edmontonians taxes are set to go up in 2022, but that’s only if council makes no changes to the fall supplemental budget adjustment. While the city budgets are planned on a four-year cycle, there are opportunities for budget adjustment for new projects, priorities, or necessary items every fall.

Administration is recommending a tax increase of 1.8 per cent. On Monday, Edmontonians pleaded their case to councillors to try and convince them to pay for recreation centres, grant programs, and transit change — all items not budgeted within the proposed property tax hike.

CORONATION AND LEWIS FARMS REC CENTRES

One of the most significant asks is a budget increase for the proposed Coronation Recreation Centre and Velodrome. The project needs an extra $41.1 million on top of the approved $112 million budget.

If council declines, the project could be shelved indefinitely.

“Many of us have been working on this project for more than 10 years, and over the past decade, literally thousands of community volunteer hours and dollars have gone into the project to build this vision for Edmonton,” said Stephen Bourdeau, representing the World Triathlon Series Edmonton.

Steve Hogle, representing Hockey Edmonton, said he would like council to construct the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre as there is a lack of ice availability for youth, especially with Callingwood closed this season for renovations.

ACCESS TO SPORT FUNDING

Most of the speakers who addressed councillors on Monday wanted the city to continue funding the Community Investment Operating Grant (CIOG) program, providing $3.8 million to support non-profit groups increasing access to sport and recreation.

The program was saved in 2021 after a one-time budget adjustment reduced Edmonton Police Service funding.

Various sporting organizations, recreation clubs, and multicultural groups all rallied together to tell council that the funding helps connect marginalized people with meaningful recreation opportunities.

James Rosnau, chairperson of the Edmonton Sport Council (ESC), said that funding to support opportunities for sport for all is even more critical in light of the pandemic, adding that a generation of young people could be “lost to organized sport.”

“There is no greater time in history than (now) to support health and wellness in the community,” Rosnau said.

“To understand the significance of the CIOG program is to understand the profound impact that access to sport and physical activity opportunities can have on communities,” said Shannon Pynn, ESC board member.

MORE BUSES AND PEACE OFFICERS 

The head of the transit union told council that Edmonton needs more buses on the road and more peace officers to help keep the system safe.

Steve Bradshaw, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 president, said the last time the city-funded extra bus service hours was six years ago, despite an ever-growing population.

“There are no new service hours in this budget,” Bradshaw said. “Some will argue with the reduced ridership we are experiencing, there is no need for more service.”

“Not funding expanded and improved transit service is crippling Edmonton,” Bradshaw said, adding that addressing rider concerns with the bus network redesign will require higher service levels.

In terms of transit security, Bradshaw said more peace officers to the system would help as the contracted security can only observe incidents and report. Additionally, Bradshaw said the city should look to expanding peace officer authorities to help handle more incidents.

Council is expected to continue budget talks Tuesday and settle on a decision for any changes to the 2022 fiscal plan by mid-December. 

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