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.  

So for Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, there are a few questions and not many money answers. But here’s what we do know.

The southwest hospital is still on track for 2030. And the price hasn’t really moved from 2017 when it was first announced at $393 million. The update given to reporters during Thursday’s budget briefing indicated more detailed work is planned for the coming year on the cashflow for the hospital’s expenses. According to the infrastructure ministry another $160 million over the next three years is part of this year’s budget document. 

The Heritage Valley location at Ellerslie and 127 street is also where the LRT is eventually going to go. A lot of that work this year will be with the city on land use planning, including integration with LRT making it work with the approved Neighborhood Area Structure Plan.

Money for city infrastructure cut 25% over 3 years

Across the board, cities saw the grant money they get from the province cut over the next three years. Nothing really changes for Edmonton on this front. The Kenney government had staggered $660 million in LRT funding with Calgary’s Green Line ahead of what’s coming in Edmonton. 

The plan for us was no money in 2021 or 2022. That hasn’t changed. However the city is still expected to use Municipal Sustainability Initiative [MSI] to do more detailed planning work on the extension of the Capital Line from Century Park to Heritage Valley.

The big question I have for Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi is the alignment. There is a strong indication the LRT will dip under 23 ave. My main concern for Twin Brooks, because of all of the ravine land around it, is what will the train do at 12 and 9 avenues? That’s the main way in for vehicles, so paying the extra millions to elevate or bury the tracks is not a nice to have — it’s needed. The last thing anyone wants to see is a repeat of the mistake at 51 ave and 111 street where cars were blocked for upwards of 15-20 minutes at a time. 

Still no workable solution to much needed housing

The call for permanent supportive housing, which has been identified for several years now by city council remains unanswered. The Kenney government is putting money into shelter space, roughly $110 million this year, however data from the city has demonstrated it doesn’t bring the same kind of return on investment. 

The city has presented the province with what I think is compelling evidence that an investment in supportive housing will reduce health care, justice and policing costs. I wrote about it here when the city compiled the cost savings that would come with $124 million in construction costs for 900 housing units over six years. The 2019 report pegged ongoing operating costs at $24 million, through 2026.

The report cites an annual cost to the province under the current shelter system at $3.5 million a year, just for ten heavy users of the health care system among Edmonton’s homeless population.

The city has also gathered support from Edmonton’s business community, urging the province to make the long term investment. Alberta Health Services has expressed an interest in supplying health supports to the system.

City council has already committed to having supportive housing spread through out the 12 wards including Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi so no one area of the city carries the burden.

I intend to work with the not-for-profit service providers who have shown keen interest in this file to find appropriate locations in the ward. 

 


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Scott Johnston for Edmonton City Council