Home Regular Contributors John Liston Building Our Cities Together

Building Our Cities Together

John Liston.

As we head into November with a federal election and now municipal elections behind us, where does that leave the businesses of Edmonton and Alberta?

The primary revenue source in the city of Edmonton comes in the form of taxes. Those taxes are residential and non-residential property taxes. The split in Edmonton is approximately 52 per cent residential to 48 per cent non-residential. What is interesting is that businesses don’t have a vote in an election.

Private businesses of less than 100 employees make up 68.8 per cent of the non-public sector employment in Canada; 10.7 per cent are employed by companies up to 500 workers, and the balance are the larger companies employing over 500 people. Businesses matter!

What businesses do provide is jobs and those jobs allow people to own homes, pay taxes and enjoy the services provided by the city. As we all know the debate begins when city administration tries to find the balance between spending only what revenue they receive, and meeting the infrastructure and service demands of an evolving city. The pull from both viewpoints can be extremely demanding.

Businesses exist to spend their time solving problems and meeting an unmet need. It is why they were formed, and it is what their purpose is. (Their objective is to try and do it profitably to allow growth.)  If they can spend the majority of their time fulfilling their purpose, they will generate the jobs that will drive the economy and provide the tax revenue that the city needs. As revenues increase it becomes easier for the city to find the balance between spending only what they have, and meeting the community demands for services. The city in turn will have the resources to move from an ‘either or’ on so many issues to an ‘and’ mindset.

From the viewpoint of businesses, it would seem to be in the city administration’s best interest to do whatever they can to help businesses spend their time working, and less time trying to get approvals and meet regulatory burden. We believe that the purpose and incentive for city administration should be (without sacrificing any regulations) to approve and expedite projects, not to find a way to say no. In the mind of businesspeople, the perfect scenario would be to have administrative compensation tied to the number of approvals and speed of approvals. This would align all of the following: the unmet need being met by the business as quickly as possible, generating as many jobs as possible, generating as much tax as possible, addressing as much infrastructure and service needs as possible and compensating administration in alignment with the purpose of a city government.

The constant complaint from businesses is the challenge of getting through the red tape. If they all have the same problem, would it not make sense to create a guiding system, a concierge service if you will, to move a business problem through the system most efficiently and effectively? We hear that on some of the larger projects in the city this is beginning to happen, but with the growing complexity of large government, if the motivation, the accountability, and the systems are not working in alignment, the frustration is a friction that steals energy from us as a city and province. Let’s all work as partners in building the cities together!

Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) is the advocacy voice of business owners and leaders in Alberta.