Residents want city to reconsider its plans to find savings, increase revenue

More than 15 speakers shared their thoughts on the city's Reimagine Services review Wednesday morning during a special executive council meeting, with most opposed overall to the city's strategy for long-term cost-savings. 

Many speakers were concerned about the plan's impact on front-line workers

Edmonton city hall.
More than 15 speakers shared their concerns about the city's plan aimed to reduce costs in some departments. (David Bajer/CBC)

When Colleen Switzer was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer seven years ago, she needed to find a less stressful career.

She gave up her sales job and became a city bus cleaner.

But now she and others in the city's fleet management cleaning department are at risk of losing their jobs under the city's Reimagine Services plan to reduce costs in some departments, she said.

"I've seen and heard firsthand ... the fear and worry this possible decision has placed in them. I'm here today in hopes that you will reconsider the option to privatize," Switzer told a special executive committee meeting Wednesday.

"Not only are we employees, we are a community. As a community, we should consider the affect it would have on its members, no matter how big or small."

Colleen Switzer, a city bus cleaner, spoke against the city's plan at Wednesday's special executive committee meeting. (CBC)

The plan is to help the city cut costs and find revenue areas to make up for the losses accrued during the pandemic.

The city is looking at reducing, cutting or privatizing services — public transit, mowing sports fields, fire services and collecting garbage.

More than 15 speakers shared their thoughts on the plan Wednesday morning, with most opposed overall to the city's strategy for long-term cost savings. 

Several speakers mentioned the limited opportunities for community members to share their thoughts on the plan.

"We want the city to involve us and not just inform us," said Steve Hogle, general manager of Hockey Edmonton. 

Many speakers also wanted further details of some of the changes provided in consulting firm KPMG's report. 

After the meeting, city manager Andre Corbould said the city will release the consultant's analysis.

"I appreciate and want to acknowledge their perspectives, especially as we continue the difficult task of working towards a balanced budget under tough financial constraints," Corbould wrote in an emailed statement.

Details of the plan

The city's Reimagine report covers a range of city departments.

City administration recommended cutting back in five of the largest service areas:

  • Fire rescue services
  • Facility management and maintenance
  • Fleet management and maintenance
  • Parks and open space access
  • Recreation and sport facilities access and recreation and culture programming 
Greg Rehman, president of the Edmonton Fire Fighters’ Union, spoke out against city plans to pilot two three-person medical teams in smaller vehicles downtown instead of using two pumper trucks when responding to medical calls. (CBC)

City officials wanted to move ahead with 18 measures in those departments. The total estimated potential cost savings in those departments between 2022 and 2027 could be upwards of $16 million.

Among the suggestions is to introduce paid parking next year at city parks like Emily Murphy and Fort Edmonton and attractions like the Muttart Conservatory and TELUS World of Science.

The city is also scheduled next year to gauge interest in a third party running Riverside, Victoria and Rundle Park golf courses. 

Many of the union presidents at Wednesday's meeting were concerned about the impact of the plan on front-line workers.

Greg Rehman, president of the Edmonton Fire Fighters' Union, is concerned with the city's plan to pilot two three-person medical teams in smaller vehicles downtown instead of using two pumper trucks when responding to medical calls. 

"It will potentially pose an increased risk to firefighters and the public," Rehman said. 

Corbould said no decisions have been made. Council will discuss the planned parking fees and parts of the plan at a meeting on July 5.