Your voice on council.

My name is Scott Johnston, and I am running to be your voice on council in the new riding of Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi (Ward 10). Which ward are you in?

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About Scott Johnston

I had been in the radio and media business for four decades — almost 30 years covering City Hall. Over that time I've had the chance to see what works and what doesn't. And now, I have the opportunity to share my thoughts and experience with Edmontonians. 

I’ve worked hard to gain a deep understanding of Edmonton, City Council, and what goes into a successful (or failed) policy. Municipal government has a direct impact on the everyday lives of Edmontonians and I want to share my thoughts and opinions to hopefully help to shape where our city goes. 

I'm proud to say that I've gained the respect of current and past city councillors and other community builders for my pragmatic and reasoned approach. 

I’ve volunteered with the Terwillegar Riverbend Area Council (TRAC) as well as my local community league and keep that experience and the hard work of volunteers who serve their communities in mind with what I write. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch. 


Business Oriented

COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass on the way our city treats small and medium sized business owners. It’s also made us rethink how and where we work. Whether it’s the business community, post-secondary schools or the charitable sector all these groups are job creators and Council needs to put in place policies that reduce the cost burden to run a business in our city, are more flexible and are responsive to feedback to help those who are looking for a hand up, not a hand out. 

 

Community Minded 

Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi is one of the fastest growing parts of our city. We need to be intentional about how we grow and develop our communities so they make sense for residents. Residents deserve to have an advocate for them on council that is focused on keeping their taxes low, communities safe and thoughtfully planned roads (that are also plowed on time in the winter). 

 

Experienced 

The challenges that the new council will face following a global pandemic and drop in revenue leave no time for a learning curve. I’ll be able to hit the ground running from day one and be a strong advocate for Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi through applying my three-plus decades of experience covering Edmonton City Council. I know how to effectively navigate administration and get results on the issues that matter to our city. 

News

Do you get the feeling city council says “yes” to everything?

With the month of March coming to a close, taxes that are too high seems to be a recurring theme. Maybe the T-word is top of mind because we’re all having to take part in our annual check-in with Ottawa. I’m hoping to find ways to keep more money in your bank account by keeping property taxes as low as possible. That’s by reducing spending at city hall. A way to do that is resisting the call to add programs, and increase services. A question that is not asked enough on city council, and something I hope to change, is “what’s the downside to not doing this?” A couple of items came across my desk recently that drive that point home. One shows the taxpayers’ emotion over who foots the bill. The “Nextdoor” bulletin board website saw a complaint about compounding double digit “tax increases” over the past ten years. Mention was made too about city council’s fascination with “shiny objects”. Ironically the post was removed by the moderators after reply comments became too politically charged for a website not intended for political discourse. Economic professors weigh in The other document comes from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy which warns about the dangers of rising commercial property taxes and the negative impact they have on investment. It’s a research paper co-authored by Bev Dahlby, Ergete Ferede and Mukesh Khanal from the University of Alberta, MacEwan University and the University of Calgary.  Bottom line, it validates what we’ve heard before in the previous claims of the business community that rising non-residential property taxes are harmful for both business and the City as a whole. “When considering an increase in their non-residential property tax rates, Alberta municipalities must also take into account the adverse effects such an increase will likely have on business investment in their communities. Based on data on commercial and industrial permit values for 17 Alberta cities from 1998 to 2017, this paper shows that increasing the non-residential property tax rate corresponds to a drop in businesses investment in buildings and structures. Raising the non-residential property tax rate by, for example, 10 per cent results in a seven per cent drop in business investment.” Where to go from here  Edmonton over the last couple of decades has followed a policy to do two kinds of construction: build new, and rehab what’s already in place. And it’s slowly shifted from the former to the latter. That work helps with job creation, and gives us good value for money.  Long term savings can be found, as council looks to supporting the campaign to end homelessness, as it tries to lift our vulnerable population out of poverty, while reducing the expenses in healthcare and policing. As new neighbourhoods crop up, we'll be faced with the reality that they cost more to build, compared to the tax revenue they bring in over their lifespan. It's an inescapable reality. It's been that way for decades. It's why the city plan, looking at a population of 2-million promotes infill, and 15-minute communities. But there is enough space for both building in Rossdale, the Exhibition Lands, Blatchford and along transit corridors. Just don't dismiss our inventory in Ipiikhookhanipiaohhtsi of new communities that young couples are attracted to as a first home. So sure, spend on bridge maintenance, or fixing roofs, even re-cladding buildings and upgrading HVAC systems especially when the project pays for itself in energy savings over a set period of time.  Yet is an Office of the Integrity Commissioner, coupled with an ethics advisor needed? How about re-examining how large the budget is for ad space, and air time to promote programs that people know about already? And maybe it’s time to bite the bullet on high-cost, low-return hours of operation on rec facilities, and concentrate on running programs when the bulk of the population will use them? Repurpose the single sheet ice rinks with a partner to share costs? That's something identified in the city's "reimagine plan" that I agree with. Let’s stick with the need to haves. Once we get that in order we'll have time to worry about the nice to haves later.   

EIA is a major economic driver for Ipiikhookhanipiaohtsi

Let me tell you about a visit I made this week to the Edmonton International Airport. A long planned tour of the campus provided me with an eye-opening look at what is a growing economic driver for Edmonton and Ipiikhookhanipiaohtsi. Lynn Wyton, the airport’s director of strategic business connections, who doubled as my tour guide, said the anticipation is to grow the workforce by another 10,000 to 26,000 by 2025.  While everyone is hurting because of COVID-19, EIA is weathering the storm. Across it’s 70,000 acres, economic output is $3.2 billion a year, led by steady gains made in cargo.  One thing that is keeping business humming, is Edmonton International’s geography on the Asia to North America cargo flightpath. Anchorage, Edmonton’s competition is punching above its weight, yet Edmonton is more than hanging in there. Cargo is helping diversify Edmonton’s and Alberta’s economies. A growing business is in value-added agricultural products. Not just the ones grown in Leduc County, but from all over the west. Wyton pointed out Washington State cherries as an example. Trucked in from south of the border, they’re on Edmonton’s tarmac, loaded in cargo planes and on Asian store shelves in a matter of 36 hours. The same can be said for products from all over B.C. and Alberta. Investment is being driven into EIA. A second billion dollars in infrastructure has now been invested. DHL, Purolator, FedEx and others have facilities sitting on the apron. Rosenau Trucking is a major player that wasn’t imaginable a few years ago. You know about the Premium Outlet Mall, and the Costco as the airport’s real estate portfolio continues to grow. There’s the race track, and Aurora Sky covering several acres as well. Job losses from a year ago are now on the rebound No doubt, the largest task facing Edmonton over the next several years is getting people back to work. And a lot of factors will have to go into that, including keeping costs as low as possible for business owners, while allowing them to maximize efficiency. When the Bank of Canada maintained its trendsetting policy interest rate at 0.25 percent Wednesday it also cautioned, “there is still considerable economic slack and a great deal of uncertainty about the evolution of the virus and the path of economic growth. The labour market is a long way from recovery, with employment still well below pre-COVID levels.  Edmonton city council has a key role to play with transit While the airport lies just outside of Edmonton’s boundaries, our city council needs to give it the tools it needs. Council can do this by supporting Route 747, which serves as the city’s chief public transit between EIA and Century Park. Route 747 is a vital transportation link for our region, including for many Edmontonians who work in the area. That includes young folks starting out on their careers, new Canadians establishing an economic foothold for their families, and folks who do not have access to a car or choose not to drive. For visitors coming to Edmonton from other places in Canada and around the world, the 747 bus may provide their first impression of Edmonton. It might be their best option getting into the city. Let’s make it easy for visitors to get into our city. Let’s make a good first impression, and encourage visitors and investors to come here. I’m making the commitment to ensuring the 747 not only maintains its current shared schedule with Leduc and the airport, but service grows as airport activity increases in the coming years. 

Plenty of money woes at City Hall

It was supposed to get better, but it didn’t. A recent audit pointed out how much was spent at City Hall on consulting services. The bill came in at almost $600 million over the five years from 2015 to 2019. That’s over and above what was found in 2017 by a whopping 32 percent.  Tracking the money was difficult, as entries were miscoded, the audit reports. “As a result financial reporting related to the City’s consulting expenses has been inaccurate by $245 million in total over the last five years.”  An overwhelming segment of this consulting work is for capital projects as outside engineers, architects or other technical experts are brought in, because the expertise is not “in house” among city staff.  Why it’s done this way Senior management with the city will explain this as saying the scope of a project will grow, so the contracts will be extended as an additional year or two will be added to the overall work.  The premise is also that outside consultants are overall less expensive, as they are paid on a per-project basis, and cheaper than having individuals on staff permanently.  Yet I can see problems continuing to get worse, not better. What got me wanting to put my name forward to be part of the next city council was an earlier audit this past fall that you’ve all heard about, where city auditor David Wiun was critical of the “managers managing managers” syndrome that has grown at City Hall.  A chance for a fresh start on spending priorities I’m hoping the top to bottom review of City Hall budgets, brought on because of the COVID-19 reassessment of what is priority spending and what isn’t, will reduce financial pressure and mean only those projects that are considered of utmost importance will go ahead.  We already know that a three year drop in the construction grant the province gives cities, the Municipal Sustainability Initiative [MSI] is taking a $150 million chunk out of Edmonton’s budget.  That cut is on top of the agreement that was in place between the city, and the province, but was ripped up unilaterally by the Kenney government a couple of years ago when the money woes hit under the dome. What is clear, is there is not a lot of money around to be had, so focused decisions will need to be made on spending priorities over the next four years.  It doesn’t mean saying “no” to every proposal. Each project should be judged on if it brings value. If there is a way to run buses from the new Heritage Valley transit centre and park’n’ride to the Century Park LRT more efficiently then the investment should gain council approval.  In many ways, since the money simply won’t be there council should say “yes” to the projects that make sense.   

Edmonton city council needs to help EPCOR promote emerging business opportunities

An update from Canada’s Auditor General pointed out that First Nations communities will face the prospect of not having safe drinking water for several years. Ninety-nine drinking water advisories have been lifted since 2015, however 57 remain in effect said the auditor’s report released February 25.

The Provincial Budget: The latest on the hospital, LRT and housing

The basic overall plan for the provincial budget tabled last week was, cool your jets, we don’t have any money. An $18 billion deficit will do that to grandiose ideas.  

Why I’m running for city council

Many of you have heard my name for years. “Scott Johnston, 630CHED News.” My beat working in Edmonton radio was civic politics. Some even described me as the “voice of city hall.”  Maybe you heard me on Oilers broadcasts talking to the players about wins and losses after games.  Now I want to win with you.

Audits show city’s snow and ice policy needs improvement

A round of audit reports are coming out that join previous findings by City Auditor David Wiun’s branch showing ways that both service and value for money can be found within Edmonton’s road maintenance department. Image courtesy City of Edmonton website

Now is the time to rid Edmonton businesses of tax eating red tape

So far they’ve talked a good game at City Hall, however the need to “walk the walk” is upon us to get rid of the red tape that is plaguing Edmonton’s businesses. Especially those job creating start-ups that are yet to get going.  

Very quietly homes are selling at Blatchford

What is happening at the Blatchford development might surprise you. Especially with the pandemic wreaking havoc on Edmonton’s economy. Half-million dollar homes are selling.

I've had the opportunity to work with Scott for decades in both the sports and community arenas. I have found that he understands and cares very deeply about the key issues facing our Edmonton. I look forward to Scott Johnston providing his level-headed and balanced approach to solving to key issues facing our City. When elected, Scott will be an immediate asset to Edmonton's City Council, and I strongly endorse his run to represent Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi.

Patrick La Forge - LA FORGE Management Corp

Scott Johnston is a character, in the grand tradition of newsroom characters I met during my quarter-century as a journalist. Scott worked damn hard for radio listeners. He was fair, balanced and accurate in his reporting. Thus, he built rapport and trust with even dreaded politicians, whose egos are sometimes bruised by such accurate reporting. Public service can be hard and bruising. Scott often brought his sense of humour to the fore at just the right press scrum or difficult interview. To have that deft human touch, around cranky politicians, is rare. I think it speaks particularly well of his character.

Scott McKeen - Edmonton City Councillor 

I have known Scott for almost twenty years. In his role as City Hall reporter for Corus Radio, and as a loyal son and support to his mother at our Devonshire Village retirement community; I have found him to be a good, respectful, principled, informed Edmontonian. I believe that Scott would be an effective Councilor for our City, and for Southwest Edmonton.

Greg Christenson - Christenson Developments

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Scott Johnston for Edmonton City Council