Mayoral frontrunners all promising property tax freeze, except Sohi

Amarjeet Sohi is the only top-polling mayoral candidate who says Edmonton may have to raise taxes under his watch.

The others -- Mike Nickel, Kim Krushell, Michael Oshry and Cheryll Watson -- all want taxes frozen or even cut.

“That would be fantastic, but we cannot do that at the cost of reducing services,” Sohi said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton.

Sohi believes tax freezes and cuts in the 1990s hurt Edmonton long term.

“That led to deteriorating infrastructure, that led to reduction in programs and services, and we’ve struggled to recover from those deep budget cuts,” he argued.

Sohi is promising to keep any increases below the rate of inflation.

But Oshry thinks Edmontonians can’t afford to pay any more right now because of pandemic layoffs and a struggling economy.

“My tax plan is to have a zero per cent property tax increase in year one, negative decrease one to two per cent in year two, and then followed by two more zeros,” he promised.

Watson agrees there should be no increase, and she's urging the city to focus on the basics.

“Roads, sidewalks, transit, and really start there, and then everything else that is not our job should be below the line,” she said.

Krushell worries a tax raise could mean the end for some local companies. So she won’t support one if elected.

“These taxes are going to be creating a situation where we’re going to have a lot of boarded-up businesses because of COVID compounding everything,” she said.

Nickel is promising to save millions of dollars a year by cutting back on consultants and creating an independent office that reviews major projects for savings.

“These are not my ideas. These are coming from the labour community, and these are coming from the business community, and so at the end of the day we are easily on track to save $100 (million) to $110 million a year,” he argued.

Edmontonians saw in 2020 a property tax freeze for the first time in more than 20 years.

The outgoing council set the 2021 increase at 1.6 per cent, but that will be reviewed after the election.

Diana Steele, Brian “Breezy” Gregg, Augustine Marah and Vanessa Denman are also running for mayor. Rick Comrie and Abdul Malik Chukwudi have both dropped out of the race.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson