Danielle Smith’s office doesn’t really seem to have put a lot of effort into describing the Alberta premier’s meeting Tuesday with Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

Community and Social Services Minister Jeremy Nixon (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Ms. Smith was accompanied to her gab session with the mayor of Edmonton by three Calgary MLAs, the ministers of municipal affairs, community and social services, and mental health and addiction.

Rebecca Schulz, Jeremy Nixon and Nicholas Milliken were supposedly responding to Mr. Sohi’s carefully documented concerns about the short end of the stick that Alberta’s capital city gets compared to Calgary when it comes to provincial social services funding.

We can’t really fault Ms. Schulz and Messrs. Nixon and Milliken for being from Calgary, since the only United Conservative Party minister from Edmonton is the only elected MLA from the city: Kaycee Madu, MLA for Edmonton-South West, minister for skilled trades and professions, and one of Ms. Smith’s redundant deputy premiers.

This does raise an interesting question, though. Where the heck was the only minister from Edmonton when this important meeting with Edmonton’s mayor took place? 

Mr. Sohi put his concerns in a long and well documented letter to the premier making the case that, “compared to Calgary, Edmonton receives lower financial and service support, despite experiencing significantly greater social pressures and challenges.”

Edmonton’s only UCP cabinet minister, Kaycee Madu (Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“Edmontonians facing houselessness, mental health illnesses, and the drug poisoning crisis require a more immediate and robust response,” he wrote. “The effect is particularly profound for Indigenous peoples and the unhoused population who are disproportionately and severely impacted by drug poisonings and houselessness. 

“The underinvestment in tackling these issues not only have a human cost, but severely impact businesses and organizations operating in the Downtown core and other business districts impacted by the social disorder,” the mayor’s letter added, putting the responsibility for the deplorable state of the Alberta Capital’s downtown where it belongs, on the level of government that calls the shots, has the bucks, and is responsible for mental health, homelessness and the drug crisis.

This is particularly striking when we look at the United Conservative Party’s Feb. 28 budget. The province appears to be awash in cash, which is being directed in greater volume toward Calgary, the electoral battleground in the May 29 provincial election. 

Well, at least the presence of the ministerial trio, especially in the absence of Mr. Madu, is a back-handed admission of this responsibility. 

In addition to publishing a cheerful photo, sans Mr. Nixon, on the government’s website, someone from the Premier’s Office penned a 137-word collection of anodyne platitudes, plus a reflexive complaint about high city property taxes, for the website. Well, make that 171 words if you count the wordy sub-head.

UCP ally Dale McFee, Edmonton’s police chief (Photo: Edmonton Police Service).

Whether this was supposed to be a news release, a policy statement by the premier, or something else is not completely clear. It was mysteriously labelled a “readout,” whatever that means, in its headline. 

In response to Mr. Sohi’s seven specific and quite clearly defined requests for provincial funds to alleviate the triple crisis dogging Edmonton, there was nothing in the response. 

The statement from Ms. Smith’s office concluded with a homework assignment, perhaps in hopes of making Mr. Sohi stop complaining. “Premier Smith committed to working with the city of Edmonton on the issues they raised, but identified the need for detailed plans to address their specific asks.” (Emphasis added.)

This is just a mildly rude way of saying, you do our work, please, so we can put off making it obvious we’re not going to do anything for Edmonton until the election’s out of the way. 

As befits a former member of the federal Liberal cabinet, Mayor Sohi took a page from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strategy book and responded politely, calling the meeting, his first with the premier, “very positive,” and saying “I feel that we were heard and at the end of the meeting.”

Meanwhile, presumably, the province will continue to use its “Public Safety and Community Response Task Force” made up of political allies on Edmonton City Council and UCP supporters like Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee to try to undermine the mayor.

Join the Conversation


  1. “Premier Smith committed to working with the city of Edmonton … but identified the need for detailed plans to address their specific asks”

    Seems the usual ‘what’s good for the goose…’ akin to Smith’s similar response to losing Gondek’s Nov 22 similar letter.

    Equal opportunity condescension!

    It’s how the UCP keeps the rural vote – dismissive chastisement of the big cities.

  2. The UCP will never properly fund municipalities in Alberta, because these pretend conservatives and Reformers are only interested in helping their their rich friends become richer. Municipalities have to have increased municipal property taxes, to make up for the shortfall. There was also a gathering of people at a UCP event in Edmonton recently. Who was present was mainly seniors. How people are so fooled by the lies of the UCP isn’t surprising. One of their lies is that Rachel Notley put in 97 tax increases. You can’t be get any dumber, if you believe this lie. Then again, the UCP is good at telling lies. We never saw this foolishness under Peter Lougheed.

  3. It has been a strategy for Edmonton mayors for a while to try not to complain too much and try be pleasant with conservative premiers, to avoid puting them off. Mayor Sohi is naturally pleasant, patient and well mannered, so that approach also fits well with his style. However, a problem is a provincial government that is not that astute, or does not care about Edmonton’s issues, may not get the message being conveyed. This seems to be the case here.

    The first troubling thing is this meeting took so long to happen. After all the legislature is just down the street from the mayors office, but it seems like politically it is worlds away. The second problem for me was the missing Deputy Premier and only Edmonton cabinet minister. It does not convey a sense of importance when the only Edmonton minister is missing. The third problem is it ended in platitudes and pleasantries. Edmonton has already been fairly clear about what a lot of its pressing concerns are and what it wants from the province.

    This may be a repeat of the debacle where Calgary did not get funding for its downtown issues and concerns. The UCP said they hadn’t been asked, the mayor then quickly produced a previous letter documenting the ask which must have been a tad embarrassing for the disorganized and apparently clueless provincial government.

    I realize urban issues are not a UCP’ priority and Edmonton’s are even less so. However, anyone who has been in downtown Edmonton recently can see all the problems. It is way past the point now for platitudes by the province, action is urgently needed. It is unfortunate Smith and her out of town contingent still does not seem to get this.

  4. Edmonton, Whyte Avenue, summer 2022: Homeless sleeping on the sidewalks and picking discarded food from garbage cans. Is this the way Canada’s richest province treats its poorest? Yes, it is. Has Danielle Smith ever ventured off the Legislature grounds?

  5. “Edmontonians facing houselessness, mental health illnesses, and the drug poisoning crisis require a more immediate and robust response,”

    The above made alot worse by the covid policies of Edmonton and the adherence to policies preferred by the NDP.

    A much better option is to provide opportunity to build their owns lives. This is what the provincial government is working on.

    You know, doing their job. Sohi should take note.

    As to the province not acquiescing to his asks. I think that they agreed to work on it. I guess we will see how that goes in the fullness of time.

    Which leads me to wonder, where such monies, he says he needs, will come from if the NDP get in and transition away from hydrocarbons to poverty?

    Something to think about.

    1. I’d like your proof that the Provincial government is providing so-called “opportunities”. Wages are stagnant and supports have been cut or insufficient for a long time. I love how you couldn’t help but talk about covid and hydrocarbon as if that relates at all to anything in this article. How on earth did covid policies cause these problems? And if it really was covid related why isn’t the UCP doing something about that? Oh yeah never mind the pandemic was manufactured by the NDP years in advance so most likely their fault too. You might want to acquiesce to the fact that you’re not as smart as you think.

      Something to think about…

      Another empty-brained progressive

    2. While hydrocarbons are insanely profitable, they make up a small minority of Albertas GDP. Will we have fewer billionaires ? Probably. Would we all be literally able to breathe easier? Also probably. We ain’t going to starve.

    3. Delusion is strong with this one. He’s been a victim of regulatory capture. That kind of victim-blaming nonsense has worked so well in the past at solving homelessness, you know.

  6. This bird happens to believe the UCP is colluding with the EPS (and likely elements within the RCMP) to hold the most liberal city in the province hostage until we scream for them to unleash the jackboots. It’s disgusting. Can I prove it? Of course not, the public isn’t privy to internal police police and communication. But I definitely have my suspicions.

    1. I have a less dystopian explanation: there’s nothing in it politically for them to bother in Edmonton. They know they’re not buying enough votes to get in here, so they’re pushing the pork where it will make or keep seats.

      1. While that explains the UCP’s disinterest in campaigning for seats in the Capital, it doesn’t explain the actions of the EPS over the past couple of years. It could be that Dale McFee being a UCP loyalist is a coincidence, but then the only UCP MLA from Edmonton was literally the justice minister. Makes me wonder, maybe it is just cops having hurt feelings because people wont stop saying ACAB, who knows.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.