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Edmonton mayor, Alberta finance minister applaud 'long overdue' funding for Indigenous communities

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci say they are pleased with the new funding for Indigenous communities announced in the federal budget Tuesday, but say the money was long overdue.​

'The chiefs and the mayors have the same issues, which is decaying infrastructure in our communities'

Mayor Don Iveson reacts to how the federal budget addresses the opioid crisis, cannabis revenues and social housing. 1:01

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci say they are pleased with the new funding for Indigenous communities announced in the federal budget Tuesday, but say the money was long overdue.​

Iveson said Ottawa's $4-billion commitment to funding infrastructure, including better housing on First Nations reserves, is great news for the city, the province and the country.

"That's much-needed housing repair that is very, very urgent," Iveson said.

"If the housing situation in First Nations communities is better, that may reduce the strain on cities where so many First Nations Canadians are increasingly coming because conditions have been so bad on so many First Nations."

Iveson said the infrastructure issue goes beyond housing, adding that Alberta's municipal and Indigenous community leaders share many of the same frustrations.

"The chiefs and the mayors have the same issues, which is decaying infrastructure in our communities," Iveson said.

"This long overdue investment in First Nations communities will ease the pressure that comes when people feel forced to leave First Nations communities because they don't have clean drinking water, because the housing is unlivable. And so if this makes life better on those communities, that's good for the whole country and good for cities."

Iveson said he would've liked to see the infrastructure cash come in sooner to catch up on existing housing problems.

"When we started advocating around housing some years ago, it was because we were worried then about losing units to deterioration," he said.

"There was a missed opportunity to [do] a little bit more work there this year, but in the grand scheme of things, it's $100 million dollars across the country."

Provincial perspective

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said he was pleased to see additional funding in the budget for on-reserve child intervention services, but said there's still much more to be done.

"While these funds will go a long way towards filling that gap, we know that outcomes for Indigenous children and families continue to lag far behind," Ceci said.

Despite the infusion of funding for Indigenous communities, Ceci said the budget fell short in other areas, especially the energy sector.

"It was good to see some discussion in the budget about [oil] refining capacity and pipelines," Ceci said. "But I have to reiterate, it's not enough.

"We need to see real action that [the] Trans Mountain [pipeline] gets built," he added. "Canada can't operate with any province acting as its own private company."

Gender pay equity

Iveson said he'll look closely at the federal government's promise of more support and incentives that get more women involved in skilled labour and the sciences.

"Fundamentally, as leaders in Edmonton, [we] believe in gender equality, as well. So we share the goal and will work through it together."

The mayor said the city pays based on job classification, and that two people doing the same job "theoretically" get the same pay.

"There ought to be pay equity," he said. "However, you would find traditionally more men in certain jobs which may be professional jobs that pay more, or in certain jobs that would get more overtime, for example.

"So, there's no doubt that, even in our organization, if you broke it down, you would find inequities, and it's going to take work to bring more women into those parts of our workforce."

With files from Kim Trynacity