The City of Edmonton’s leadership issues

The City of Edmonton/Leduc County annexation could potentially have a huge effect on county taxpayers.

The City of Edmonton/Leduc County annexation could potentially have a huge effect on county taxpayers. The loss of existing tax revenue is one issue, and the loss of future tax revenue is another; the questionable reasons for Edmonton’s expansion still loom like a gargantuan highway off ramp stuffed with traffic. Maybe that’s just part of life when you live in the shadow of a giant.

But many Leduc County residents must be watching City of Edmonton debacles with concern. Which debacles? Two recent debacles that call into question the giant’s track record with leadership, planning, reliability, responsibility and transparency.

The City of Edmonton’s disastrous Metro LRT line resulted in the “letting go” in the fall of 2015 of city manager Simon Farbrother. The constant delays and questions surrounding the direction of the project came to a head. At the time former city councilor Kim Krushell was quoted in the media as saying the Metro LRT line was but one of a number of municipal projects that appeared to be “coming off the rails.”

It’s often not entirely fair to blame one person for a languishing project, but the Metro LRT line, by August of 2015, was already 16 months overdue and an internal investigation stated “poor communication and mismanagement” were involved. The Metro line, at that time, was said to be a half billion dollar project and you’d think a project of that value would demand better than “poor communication and mismanagement.”

Recently, it came to light that an ongoing sanding program the City of Edmonton was touting wasn’t as a great an idea as first thought. The project, which was supposed to recycle sand used to keep icy winter streets safe while saving taxpayers a bundle, was overpaying for material. “We found that the city did not receive value for money from the current winter street sand recycling and mixing program,” a report later stated. The program has cost Edmonton taxpayers about $74 million since 2005 and was supposed to save roughly $2.5 million per year but an auditor later found no evidence that those savings were claimed. But don’t get too steamed at City of Edmonton employees. It was a former employee who blew the whistle on this debacle.

All this calls into question the processes in place in the City of Edmonton, and the culture that must exist to foster results like these. This can’t make Leduc County taxpayers very comfortable when the City of Edmonton reassures them the annexation of rural land is for the correct reasons or that the annexation was conceived in the first place for the correct reasons.

It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for those watching these debacles from the outside. Debacles like these also rightfully cause uneasiness when a large municipality like Edmonton continually reassures others that their policies and processes are sound and followed in a professional manner while evidence continually comes to light to the contrary.