Calgary

Councillor wants to know if Enmax can give city more money

A city councillor wants to know why Edmonton is getting significantly more money from its city-owned utility than Calgary is getting from Enmax.

Farkas wants to maximize benefits from all city assets

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said council needs to determine whether it is getting the maximum value possible from all of its assets. (CBC)

A city councillor wants to know why Edmonton is getting significantly more money from its city-owned utility than Calgary is getting from Enmax.

Between budget cuts and tax increases, Coun. Jeromy Farkas said it's incumbent on council to ensure it is getting the maximum value from all of its assets.

"Calgarians have been asking us whether we're getting enough value out of Enmax," said Farkas.

Over the past decade, the city-owned utility has returned an average dividend of $55 million a year to the city. 

During that time, the dividend has ranged from a low of $47 million to a high of $67.5 million a year.

Farkas has submitted an administrative inquiry to the city clerk, asking for a briefing for city council.

Compare utilities

He wants to know how the dividend policies at Enmax and Edmonton-owned Epcor compare, information about earnings at the utilities, information about their operating models and details of their governance practices.

"I'm trying to get a compare and contrast there, to get a sense of what it is that Epcor is doing that is generating higher dividend and if there's lessons there that can be applied to Enmax," said Farkas.

"At this point, I don't think that it's an apples to apples comparison but it's worth at least getting the ball rolling and starting to ask the questions."

Epcor's annual dividend to the City of Edmonton has topped $120 million annually since 2005.

However, Epcor is more than just an electrical utility. It also offers water and wastewater services to 85 communities and industrial sites.

Farkas said a larger dividend from Enmax could mean that city council wouldn't need to raise as much money through taxation.

Bigger dividend could help reduce taxes

For Farkas, it's about deriving more value from the city's biggest asset.

"I think we need to be taking a look at absolutely everything we have in terms of the options and making sure that we're not needlessly increasing people's taxes," said Farkas.

The Ward 11 councillor said he's already received some information directly from Enmax, but he's not sure when a full briefing note will be ready for council.

When asked if he thought selling Enmax should be considered, Farkas said all options should be considered but he's reluctant to go that route.

"I don't want a windfall that council can spend on various pet projects."

In 2001, city council voted in favour of privatizing some or all of Enmax. But that idea was later rejected following a public backlash against a sale.

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