Dear Minister Shandro:
RE: Community Safety and Well-Being Strategy and Safety Plan
The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce is supportive of the City of Edmonton’s proposed Community Safety and Well-being Strategy as well as Edmonton’s Downtown Core and Transit System Safety Plan. Edmonton will be one of the first jurisdictions to take a system-wide approach – we recognize the new and comprehensive nature of these strategies and what it represents to many community partners. The Edmonton Chamber will continue working together in creative and collaborative ways and will continue to look for ways for the business community to participate.
While the City of Edmonton and community stakeholders continue to address what is seemingly an escalating crisis in homelessness and social disorder, it is critical that the provincial government meet its commitments to ensure that the City of Edmonton remains a safe and inclusive community. As we stated in our February budget submission, significant investments in addictions and mental health services are urgently needed. Services must be delivered in a coordinated way by federal, provincial, and municipal governments as well as other service organizations.1
Concerns around safety severely limit our economic recovery potential. It is an urgent priority of the business community to improve the safety of Edmonton’s public spaces across the city including in our transit system. Just as businesses have begun to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, they are now facing extreme safety and security challenges. Recently released Edmonton Police Service figures showed the number of violent crimes downtown grew by 12 per cent in 2021.2
Many of our members report that their employees are facing a significant increase in crime and disorder on Edmonton’s transit and in other public spaces. Many businesses are experiencing harassment of staff and customers and increased theft and vandalism. While the Edmonton Chamber strongly supports the implementation of long-term strategies that will result in lower demand for policing, businesses need help now.
The Edmonton Chamber is again calling for governments at all levels to support inclusive economic growth, promoting a business environment of inclusion and expanding economic opportunity for marginalized and under-represented groups. The Government of Alberta has taken significant steps, in partnership with the Government of Canada, to provide affordable, accessible, and high-quality early childhood learning and care. However, much more needs to be done for more supportive and affordable housing and increased supports for addictions and mental health challenges that are delivered in a coordinated and compassionate way.
The recent City of Edmonton Downtown Core and Transit System Safety Plan identifies needed investments by the provincial government to address some of the challenges the city is facing.
Supportive Investments by the Government of Alberta3
- Increase and index the allocation of the Municipal Policing Grant to reflect population growth and inflation.
- Remove the cap on the Police Officer Grant to account for the higher cost per officer.
- Increased provincial support for existing partnerships like the Bridge Healing Centre and the Police and Crisis Response Team.
- Increase the availability of treatment and recovery facilities throughout Edmonton with ongoing support.
- Increase funding to shelter providers to expand capacity and support the implementation of the City’s Minimum Emergency Shelter Standards.
- Increase the permanent funding of emergency shelter spaces to the same level of support as Calgary.
- Fund supportive and permanent housing in Edmonton by immediately increasing annual funding to Homeward Trust by $8.9M this year to an estimated $24.1M by 2026 and ensure that Edmonton receives equitable funding to that of Calgary.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback. The Edmonton Chamber is eager to be part of this broad and ongoing conversation on community safety and well-being. While we undertake this work, it is critical the province meet its obligations to Edmontonian to provide core services we need when we need them.
Edmonton Chamber of Commerce
President & CEO