Edmonton city council approves 3-year funding formula for police

Edmonton police will function on a funding formula for the next three years after city council approved a revised model at a meeting Wednesday. But not without plenty of debate and concerns. 

Council votes 9-4 in favour of a formula that police say brings stability

Edmonton city council hears from police and police commission on Wednesday during discussion on budgeting.
Edmonton city council hears from police and police commission on Wednesday during discussion on budgeting. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

Edmonton police will function on a funding formula for the next three years after city council approved a revised model at a Wednesday meeting, but not without much debate and concern. 

City administration, police and the police commission agree the model, now approved for three years, provides stable and consistent funding.

"The longer-term formula also benefits us in administration and, by extension, council by helping in multi-year budget development and stability in the city's largest operating expense," city manager Andre Corbould told council.

In a 9-4 vote, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi agreed with the move. 

"What I was looking for out of this, was a very strong commitment from EPS that having this predictability will allow them to deploy all the tools necessary to make our community safe," Sohi said after the vote. 

Councillors Michael Janz, Ashley Salvador, Anne Stevenson and Erin Rutherford voted against the motion to approve the formula.

The formula starts with a base budget annually and is adjusted according to inflation and population growth. 

The formula is also capped at 30 per cent of the total of what other departments spend. 

Stacey Padbury, the city's chief financial officer, presented council with a breakdown of how the formula works by providing a funding scenario for 2024. 

With a base budget of $422.9 million, the city added $9.2 million in growth, $1.2 million in inflation and $3.8 million added for salary settlements in a recently ratified collective agreement, for a total of $437.4 million.

Erick Ambtman, chair of the Edmonton police commission, said the formula allows them to adjust service levels as the population increases. 

"The funding formula provides certainty and predictability in police funding to allow for long-term planning of resources within the Edmonton Police Service to improve safety across the city," Ambtman said in a news release. 

Sohi made it clear that he wants police to address the persistent and sometimes random violence in Edmonton. 

"What I hear from communities, from business leaders, everywhere I go, that we are lacking boots on the ground," he said. "People want to see more police presence in their community." 

Police aim to hire 150 officers this year and increase recruiting classes according to Justin Krikler, chief administrative officer with EPS.

Biggest budget

Last fall, council directed city administration to re-evaluate the formula and increases to the police funding. 

Policing takes up the biggest portion of the city's operating budget at nearly 15 per cent; the subsequent highest expenditure is transit at 13 per cent. 

Councillors had many concerns with a model that doesn't require police to list their budgets line by line, like other city departments, each year. 

Rutherford said she agreed with the principles of the funding formula in creating consistency and certainty but was struggling to justify the yearly budget increases. 

"Where's the accountability for improvements?" she asked during the meeting. 

"I can think of several high-profile incidents in the ward that I represent that have not been mitigated by more police funding."

Not covered by the formula 

The formula doesn't cover significant urban growth from annexation or major capital projects initiated by the city that might increase the demand for policing.

The approved formula also leaves room for police to return to council to ask for more money if events arise.

Police can ask council for more money if extraordinary events happen — like an emergency, a huge sporting event like FIFA World Cup, or dignitary visits from someone like the Pope. 

Ashley Salvador, Ward Métis councillor, sought examples of capital projects that might not be accounted for, such as transit initiatives. 

Matthew Barker, executive director of the police commission, said the service and commission would have to analyze the situation before asking for operating funding to cover those.

Barker said he was uncertain how subsequent growth might impact the police budget. 

"Those are factors associated with a growing city, as our population increases, it's a reasonable expectation to see increases in transit service, growth of communities," Salvador said, raising concerns that overall city growth is not factored into the formula. 

Corbould said requests for more money aren't automatically approved as they'd be up to council's discretion.

He said, for example, the Yellowhead Trail freeway conversion and the Valley Line Southeast LRT, which still need to be finished, are already being factored into service levels. 


Natasha Riebe


Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.