Calgary’s mayor is joining the call of other Alberta municipalities for the provincial government to up funding to cities given the pressures of inflation and population growth.
The Alberta Municipalities (AM), the group that works with elected officials and administration from villages, cities and towns in the province, has put forth a resolution for their Sept. 27 to 29 conference in Edmonton that would advocate for increased cash for infrastructure.
Resolution E2 advocates for greater funding for municipalities across Alberta. In the AM resolution, it states that infrastructure funding for cities in Alberta was $420 per capita in 2011, will hit a low of $151 per person in 2023/24, with a rise expected in 2024/25 to $181 per capita.
“Alberta Municipalities advocate for the Government of Alberta to restore municipal infrastructure funding to an adequate level by setting the new Local Government Fiscal Framework Capital funding program at a starting amount of $1.75 billion when the program begins in 2024,” the resolution reads.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said this has been an ongoing conversation for years. As cash for cities slipped over the years, the calls for help grew louder.
“I think it’s just come to a head now, because the situation is getting incredibly dire. Municipalities are taking on the responsibility to deliver in on things like housing, and mental health support and public safety and those are traditionally not areas that we should be funding on our own,” the mayor said Tuesday.
“We are now putting out a plea across the country and across the province: We need some help.”
Working with the province
The AM resolution uses the province’s own population projections to help make its case. They said the population has grown by roughly 1.8 per cent annually over the past 12 years. That’s changed as a greater emphasis has been put on driving people to the province to fill jobs and bolster the economy.
Population growth between July 2022 and July 2023 was pegged at 3.5 per cent. For the full year 2023, the Government of Alberta estimated population growth at roughly 4.4 per cent.
The new Local Government Fiscal Framework capital program (LGFF) (replacing the old Municipal Sustainability Initiative, or MSI) funding formula will allocate roughly $722 million for 2024. The AM said that’s about 36 per cent below the historical funding average for cities.
When the province announced the new framework in March, they changed the LGFF Revenue Index Factor from 50 per cent to 100 per cent. That means that annual capital funding will rise or fall by the exact same percentage as provincial revenues from the three years prior.
“The 50 per cent revenue index factor was meant to provide stability in municipal funding in a resource-based economy,” said then-Minister of Municipal Affairs, Rebecca Schulz, at the time.
“However, municipalities said that they wanted full partnership – in good times and in bad – and we’ve listened. This will mean a 12.6 per cent increase in funding for the second year of the new formula.”
In 2025/26 the total fund is expected to grow to $813 million, the province said. That’s less than half of what the AM is calling for.
Mayor Gondek said that additional cash could go to a myriad of unfunded infrastructure projects in Calgary.
“There’s a lot of different things that are on our unfunded list that we could move forward with to better serve Calgarians if we had proper funding,” she said.
“Alberta municipalities is raising the red flag and saying there’s simply not enough in the pot to be shared amongst Alberta municipalities.”
The mayor said they’ve had ongoing conversations with the province and while current Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has told the city that’s the money that’s available, she believes he’s open to data-driven decisions on funding.