EDMONTON - In a December 6th meeting with Walter Paszkowski, Minister of Municipal Affairs, a labour delegation led by AFL President Audrey Cormack, Canadian Labour Congress Alberta Representative Mike Desautels, Edmonton & District Labour Council President Alex Grimaldi, and Don Mitchell, spokesperson for the Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions, made a strong pitch for greater provincial financial support for Alberta municipalities.
"We pointed out to the government that Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat have some of the lowest municipal tax rates in Canada," said Cormack. "That is a good thing for citizens and businesses located in our cities," she added, "but the restraint on city taxes is going to have negative consequences soon if other forms of civic revenue are not found."
Speaking for Edmonton civic unions, Don Mitchell pointed out that Edmonton's revenues have only increased by 13% since 1992 - compared to revenue increases of 27% for the federal government and a whopping 69% for the provincial government.
"At the same time," said Mitchell, "unconditional provincial grants to the City have been cut by a quarter of a billion dollars since 1993."
With all costs, particularly in the construction areas continuing to rise, and with a steadily growing population base, this has left Edmonton and other Alberta cities in an increasingly precarious position.
EDLC President Alex Grimaldi and the other civic union leaders present at the meeting voiced their concerns about the future consequences of Edmonton's fiscal dilemma. "No one wants to see a tax increase," said Grimaldi, "but we will all be looking at cuts to badly needed municipal services and cuts in vital municipal employment if things continue as they have been."
"Labour wants both senior levels of government to reinvest in our cities," observed Cormack. "The Alberta government in particular, with its billions of dollars in surpluses, must construct a new fiscal partnership with our municipalities."
"I believe that this use of the surplus would yield a huge dividend in the overall quality of life for Albertans," said Cormack.
The labour group is planning to engage in a long term lobbying effort - involving unions from every Alberta city - to convince the provincial government of that fact.
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, President, AFL @ (780) 499-6530 (cell) / (780) 483-3021 (wk)
Alex Grimaldi, President EDLC @ (780) 474-4747 (wk)