Sohi calls out province on lack of funding; McIver says mayor may need 'a memory lesson'

Edmonton mayor of six months Amarjeet Sohi used his first state of the city address on Tuesday to call for the same thing from the provincial government it had demanded from Ottawa: a fair deal.

In his speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce that afternoon, Sohi said the present represents an opportunity for Alberta's capital to "reimagine the city we can be."

The new mayor coloured Edmonton as a growing city that, with investment, could be more attractive to business, diverse and innovative.

But it faces systemic challenges that were highlighted in the pandemic, he said: racism, which holds talent back and prevents it from feeling safe; homelessness, which has doubled since 2019; and underfunding, compared to Calgary, in the areas of transportation, infrastructure, education, and social services.

"Too often we are made to feel that Edmonton does not matter to the province," Sohi said.

"Edmonton deserves a fair deal. Please work with us. We are your capital city. We make outsized contributions. Please stop holding Edmonton's economy back," he continued to applause.

 

According to Edmonton's mayor, his city has received fewer transportation dollars than Calgary since 2007, saw one third of the provincial infrastructure investment Calgary did in the last budget, and does not receive the financial support or recognition it should for being a regional hub for social services.

Sohi said he'd be creating a panel of community leaders to explore how the province could help Edmonton grow its economy, and asked for the chamber's members' cooperation in building a stronger relationship with the government.

"Without our province being on our side, we will not succeed," Sohi commented.

A number of provincial ministers were in attendance, including Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, Red Tape Reduction Associate Minister Tanya Fir and Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, whom Sohi thanked, along with MLA Searle Turton, for supporting Edmonton's bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

However, when asked of Sohi's comments and the relationship between the city and province, McIver listed several projects Alberta has supported and said the mayor "maybe needs a memory lesson."

"The mayor said he wants to be friend and then proceeds to not give any recognition for the good treatment that we give every municipality in this province, including Edmonton," McIver said.

Jeffrey Sundquist, the chamber's president and CEO, said the chamber was aligned with the mayor and council on "an inclusive recovery and getting the city back to a state of vibrancy to attract and keep talent and business," but that he did not hear from Sohi a clear path to their goals.

"We were looking for, I guess, a little bit of a plan on investment attraction, the investment in getting businesses to locate, get the vibrancy back downtown and all our business districts so we can retain talent," he told reporters later.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson and Chelan Skulski