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City of Red Deer

City Council Forum Part 4: What is the appropriate approach to municipal tax increases?


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City Hall
In the closing days of the municipal election campaign Todayville has considered the issues that seem to be emerging as priorities for Red Deer voters.  We’ve taken the opportunity to send questions via email to all the Candidates for Mayor and City Council and we’ve promised we’ll post the responses of those who get back to us.  We are happy to add responses from those who haven’t gotten back to us yet over the weekend, but here is a collection from some of the contenders.
We’re separating the responses into the four questions we asked.  The fourth question is always a favourite of taxpayers.  With this question we are attempting to give you insight into how the candidates feel about their power to affect the rate of taxation. Here’s question 4.

4. How do you feel about the following goals: a. Zero percent tax increase? b. Tax increases which are lower than or are tied to the level of inflation? and c. Tax increases which reflect the need of the municipality to correctly provide the appropriate level of services to taxpayers, visitors, and those among us who don’t pay municipal taxes?  Are you committing to one of these options through your mandate?

Mayoral Candidates 

Buck Buchanan

We have had zero taxes and that certainly can come back to bite You when the adjustment has to be made which can amount to double digit increases down the road. The rate of inflation can be an interesting connection as many things the Municipality has to purchase or use are not tied to the inflation rate so again can be skewed number. I would like to see us figure out a better system to tie the Service Levels to Taxation. As a taxpayer I think people only want to know what they are paying for and in some instances what they are getting for their money. This can be difficult in some situations like the Balancing Pool in the Power situation where 50% of the bill is dictated by AESO the governing body that has oversight for Power for the province. I will definitely commit to the Value for Money in the Service Delivery and some of these audits have already taken place.

Ken Johnston

Taxes ensure that current city services are delivered and our infrastructure maintained. We were successful in a 0% tax for 2021 and also a 0% tax or 2022 in last year‘s budget. As you indicate taxation is very complex and cannot easily be tied to the consumer price index as often the  municipal price index is higher . For example the cost of steel, concrete, lumber etc. is typically higher than the consumer price index measurement of inflation. A dedication to operational efficiencies and value for money audits by both Administration and Council will continue if I am successful. We all want value for our tax dollar, that’s the critical measurement . I’ll ensure our citizens have a voice in how we deliver services and at what cost.

Council Candidates

Bruce Buruma

  • The City of Red Deer is a $500 million a year operation–including operating and capital budgets. Some of the most important work of Council is setting the direction for our budget. That requires individuals with experience recommending and implementing budget decisions, which I have. Most important is the need to invest wisely in our community, respect taxpayers and make responsible decisions.

  • There is considerable uncertainty facing City Council–the downturn in our economy has seen reduced assessment values, reduced the capacity of many to pay taxes and other levels of government are downloading costs onto cities. The province has given notice of a 25% cut to infrastructure funding, a major cut for our City. More cuts and downloading is likely which will require tough decisions.

  • The 2022 budget has already been set. This gives the new City Council time to gain a deep understanding of the budget that will allow us to make strong, responsible decisions for the following year. It’s about the balance between revenue and expenses – changes in one requires changes in the other. I have experience making these decisions through my work, as well as community involvement.

  • In the end we need tax rates that efficiently and effectively reflect the need of the municipality to provide the level of services for core operations and programs. We need to ensure we do so in the most cost effective manner that is understood by taxpayers

Brenda Campbell

I haven’t committed to one of the above options but know a majority of citizens prefer a zero percent tax increase. That being said, I’m all about conferring with other municipalities and noting how they best manage. I am frustrated by what I feel is a lack of facilities in Red Deer and have heard about the possibility of a 50 m pool for the more than 40 years I’ve been in Red Deer. I don’t believe in raising taxes for facilities but will do everything to emulate how a smaller centre like Grande Prairie made a 50 m pool and extensive recreational facility possible with their more limited tax base. As well other cities with a lot less population have as many indoor ice surfaces as Red Deer. Look at what Blackfalds is doing. If we draw more business and residents, we will have more tax dollars. Then grants and provincial and federal level monies need to be secured so we can address our hospital situation and other areas that citizens of Red Deer are asking for and deserve.There is money out there and it’s time for Red Deer to get its fair share of it.

Craig Curtis 

During these difficult economic times, my goal would be a zero percent tax increase or one at or lower than the rate of inflation. It is impossible for candidates not on Council to make such a commitment without knowing the current status of the budget or what downloading the Province may include in its budget.

Michael Dawe

I strongly support multi-year budgeting. That helps with planning and also helps keep costs in budgeting under better control.
I also support a minimum of a two-year tax freeze. With careful planning and expenditure control, I feel that this goal is attainable.
Fees and levies also need to be controlled as they are part of the costs of living and doing business in Red Deer.
Another cost of red tape. The City has started red tape reduction. Much more can be done and will make Red Deer a better place to do business and to live.

Victor Doerksen

From the perspective of a taxpayer, taxes are always too high. As a councillor candidate, it is a fool’s game to take a firm position on say “zero percent’ position or any other taxation approach. I will take the time to analyze the budgets in detail to gain better objectivity on spending and programs. My general approach is that people and governments should live withing their means and my bent is always to find ways, if possible, to lower taxes.

A word of caution: Inflationary pressures, burgeoning deficits, and mounting debt at all levels of government are likely to “throw a wrench” into the best laid plans and budgets.

Vesna Higham

For the current two year budget cycle (2021 & 2022) adopted by Council in the fall of 2020, our property tax rate was wholly appropriate and defensible at 0% for both years on the operating side and 0.5% per year on the capital side. Given the extraordinary impacts of Covid, a global recession, and low global oil prices, it was the right, responsible thing to do. Having said that, over the past 27 years that I’ve lived in Red Deer, I’ve seen years where
Council has approved 11% and 13% tax increases respectively over two consecutive years! That is wholly unacceptable and I vowed that I would do all I can to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. So, have our property taxes increased disproportionate to our economic realities? Yes, for sure they have and it’s critical that we not allow those kinds of shocking double-digit increases again. There’s simply no defensible rationale for it.

Having said that I likewise don’t subscribe to the “hold the line – 0% tax increases” indefinitely, because it’s not sustainable in the long term. The general level of inflation for consumer products varies significantly from the types of products/services municipalities must purchase to properly maintain a city of our size. Thus, there’s a separate inflation rate calculated annually to reflect inflationary pressures on the average basket of spending municipalities need to purchase (like gravel, snow plows, waste treatment equipment, and bullet proof vests, etc.).

So I’m likely more comfortable with a version of (b) that accounts for the average municipal spending inflation rate. However, with skyrocketing Federal/Provincial debt and rising inflation, it’s critical that governments everywhere (but particularly municipal governments, who have essentially only one major revenue stream: property tax) rein in spending and prioritize tax dollars on the most essential amenities and services. Therefore, Council needs from time to time to consider how to spend less in absolute terms during challenging economic times.

Cindy Jefferies

The option I would choose is not reflected in your question. I think it is important to maintain a level of service that works for our community. If we choose not to account for inflation and population growth, we are choosing a cut in services or service levels. I am all in favour of reviewing services and service levels, and making choices, but continually expecting to “get more with less” is unrealistic. The services the city provides are valuable. We all depend on them everyday. City services contribute to our quality of life. Equity within our community is important.

Ryan Laloge

This question is part of our all things to all people approach to Municiple governance that needs change.  It assumes that services are based on property taxes, rather than asking what services can we remove if we need to limit our property tax costs to financially strapped home owners and renters.  The problem is not the rate of increase in taxes, but rather what can we no longer afford if we are to make our downtown more livable and reduce significantly crime statistics (like even to the national average). They are not statistic but our lives. This needs council team work urgently and not in a year (again a task force with a deadline and not external consultants).

Lawrence Lee

For me it will always be to continually assess our revenue streams and efficiency of operations in order to provide the required level of city services residents demand. My view is to be fiscally responsible within every decision making process and especially the budget for both operations and capital. There are also huge advocacy opportunities illustrated by our tens of millions in Federal grants annually by our participation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Being the government closest to the people allows for funding to be allocated in the best interests of the local community.

Janise Somers

I believe we will need to adjust property taxes to reflect the level of inflation to maintain our current service levels and work on improving the ‘culture of service’ to our customers, the taxpayers. I would only consider proposing an increase if we can show value to taxpayers by reducing crime and addiction, and to kickstart economic growth.

Dianne Wyntjes

Council members, when reviewing and debating the City’s Operating and Capital budgets must be cognizant of the local economy and specifically the challenges for individuals, families, seniors and businesses from the past 20 months, and before that.

This past term, City Council moved to a two year budget process. Council passed a 0% tax increase for 2021 and 2022 with a mid year budget review for the next Council. The next Council will debate the two year budget process in 2022 for 2023-2024 and then again in 2024 for 2024-2025. Council must also be cognizant of the effects of increasing any fees and charges such as transit fees, recreation fees, facility rentals and development fees. The question is how another two years of 0% tax increases will affect the delivery of municipal services, operations, reserves, the future two year Capital budget and plan and the ten year Capital plan, along with impacts of inflation. The City will continue to pursue any available grants or competitive grants accessed through the Province and Federal orders of government.

Having lived in Red Deer for over 40 years, I recall when one Council had 0% tax increases during the term. I understand that in the years that followed, the next Councils were faced with challenging decisions and citizens of Red Deer later faced double digit tax increases. Good municipal operations means regular review of services, looking to innovation for delivery of services, cost savings where possible and when appropriate, and if it makes sense/cents for Red Deer. Compared to other Alberta municipalities, Red Deer is often in the middle of the pack for property taxes. Respect for tax dollars must always be a priority when making Council decisions along with ensuring there is not a big catch up tax rate for us as tax payers.

There must also be an appropriate balance between the residential and non residential tax rate. I believe the Council of the day should attempt to keep pace with inflation, or they will be adding to future municipal challenges and governance decisions that will need to be addressed by future Councils for Red Deer citizens.

With the local economy, and recognizing the rate of inflation so far this year, and effects of reduced City revenue from fees and charges, the new Council must be brought up-to-date on operating and capital budgets, while at the same time acknowledging inflation and how that will impact City operations and capital budget decisions and city tax payers. At this time it is too early to commit to any tax rate until up-to-date information has been reviewed by Council. Throughout Red Deer citizen opinions, there is a multiplicity of services that each of us, our family or businesses relies upon. The goal of our municipality is to provide these services, through the lens of affordability, reliability and change. And at the same time, Council should work with the business and development community for ease of doing business with City of Red Deer and the lens to economic competitiveness and retaining and attracting businesses to Red Deer.


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City of Red Deer

Annexation allows City of Red Deer to build new “Gasoline Alley” commercial district along QE2

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Annexation with Red Deer County approved

This week, The City received approval from Cabinet that the annexation for land north of the Queen’s Industrial Business Park and west of Highway QEII from Red Deer County was approved.”Our City Council is thrilled with the Government of Alberta’s green light on this annexation. This pivotal move sets the stage for Red Deer’s next 30 years, transforming our northwestern gateway. Leveraging Highway QEII for commercial expansion will redefine Red Deer’s economic landscape. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Red Deer County for their collaboration and to the local landowners for their invaluable contributions to these fruitful discussions,” said Mayor Johnston.On June 22, 2021, Council gave direction to administration to prepare a Notice of Intent to Annex for this area of land. This annexation, encompassing approximately 216 hectares, addressed The City’s deficiency in highway fronting commercial land. On February 14, 2022, Red Deer City Council passed a resolution endorsing a Notice of Intent to Annex, therefore supporting for the proposed annexation and directing administration to begin the formal annexation process.

Following that, the application was prepared for the annexation of approximately 216 hectares of land from Red Deer County. Based on landowner consultation, the proposed annexation area was altered from the Notice of Intent to Annex Land to include the entirety of one of the landowners’ parcels.

Then in April of this year, the annexation was moved to the next step, when both Red Deer City Council and Red Deer County Council passed a resolution endorsing The City to submit an Annexation Application and Negotiations Report to the Land and Property Rights Tribunal. A Land and Property Rights Tribunal hearing was held on June 20, which allows the Tribunal to receive information and evidence from interested parties. After considering the submissions from all parties, the Tribunal made an annexation recommendation to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for the decision to be made.

Now that the annexation was successfully approved by the province, area structure plans will be prepared and adopted by bylaw, by Red Deer City Council. These annexed lands are intended to be developed as a regional commercial development along Highway 2, providing The City with a significant economic development opportunity.

“Securing this annexation approval has been a great success, thanks to all the collaborative partnerships involved. As we move forward, we’re enthusiastic about the potential economic boost this annexation will bring, especially in addressing our shortage of commercial land along the highways,” said David Girardin, Major Projects Planner.

Annexation is used by municipalities to realign jurisdictional boundaries to ensure a sufficient land supply for long-term development. The Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) between The City and Red Deer County provides guidance for all annexations.

To learn more information about this annexation are encouraged to visit

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City of Red Deer

Red Deer Lights the Nights offers festive fun all season long

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Red Deer Lights the Nights returns as a month-long celebration of the holiday season, starting this Friday, November 17.

Free, family-friendly activities are happening downtown and throughout the community, including:
  • North Pole Patio Party – November 17 from 4-7 p.m. at Ross Street Patio
  • Writes of Winter writing contest – through January 15, hosted by Red Deer Arts Council
  • Winter Market – November 24 and 25 at Millennium Centre
  • Rare & Remarkable Artisan Market – November 25 at Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery
  • Capstone Winter Nights Festival – December 1, 2 and 3 at Canada 150 Square
  • Downtown Twinkle Tour – December 15 throughout downtown
  • Santa’s Bus Tour – December 8, 9, 15 and 16 starting at 5:30 p.m.

Residents are invited to visit City Hall Park any time after November 16 to enjoy a beautiful display of colourful lights and festive decorations. Lights are turned on every day from sunset to sunrise until mid-January.

“We’re excited to welcome Red Deerians downtown once again to celebrate the season and enjoy the festive decorations in City Hall Park and along nearby streets. Everyone is invited to come out and participate in all the free activities that are planned, especially Santa’s Bus Tour which returns in December to bring Christmas joy to local neighbourhoods.”

North Pole Patio Party
Friday, November 17: 4 – 7 p.m.
Ross Street Patio

Santa Claus is coming to town – downtown! Visit with Santa in person on the Ross Street Patio as we celebrate the kickoff to the holiday season. Enjoy a free hot chocolate and cozy up to the warm firepits while the kids play candy cane games with the elves. Be sure to pick up a children’s craft bag from the friendly Family Services of Central Alberta team and check out the CMHA’s fun photo booth.

Kraze 101.3 will be live on location cheering on the holiday fun. We look forward to seeing you at this free family event!

Writes of Winter contest
November 17 – January 15

Red Deer Arts Council and The City of Red Deer have partnered on a writing contest to keep our imaginations warm this winter.

Red Deer youth, teens and adults are invited to create a short poem or story (fiction or creative non-fiction) with a maximum length of 500 words about winter and/or the holiday season in Red Deer.

All submissions can be sent to the Red Deer Arts Council at [email protected] for a chance to win exciting prizes. Works will be published for folks to read on We Are Red Deer and the Red Deer Arts Council’s social media pages.


Holiday Season story deadline: December 10, 2023
Winter Blues story deadline: January 15, 2024

For more information, visit the Red Deer Arts Council website.

Winter Market

Downtown Market logo

November 24: 3 – 7 p.m.
November 25: 12 – 7 p.m.

Millenium Centre (location tentative)

Every winter, the farmers’ market makes a special appearance in downtown Red Deer to help you finish your holiday shopping. You can purchase tasty food and baked goods to feed the whole family, local beers and wines for holiday parties and beautiful handmade gifts sure to impress that special someone at this accredited Alberta Farmers’ Market. Join us November 24 and 25 for a great local shopping experience, with tastings and live music from local artists.

Rare & Remarkable Art Market

Saturday, November 25: 10 – 4 p.m.
Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery: 4525 47A Avenue

Join us for a unique Christmas shopping experience where you can explore the arts and crafts of some of central Alberta’s premier artists and craftspeople. Up to 15 artists will set up their displays throughout the MAG’s Remarkable Red Deer exhibit and gallery spaces, with artwork ranging from pottery, beaded jewelry, wool felting, textiles, oil, acrylic and watercolour paintings, sculpture, mixed media, printmaking, and more.

For more information, visit the MAG’s Rare & Remarkable Artisan Market web page.

Winter Nights in Capstone

Friday, December 1: 5 – 10 p.m.
Saturday, December 2: 5 – 10 p.m.
Sunday, December 3: 4 – 9 p.m.

Canada 150 Square, Capstone

Capstone presents “Winter Nights” an imaginative light and art festival featuring art installations by B!G ART, live music, entertainment, late night shopping, activities and more! For more information, visit

Frost Street PatioDecember 8: 4 – 7 p.m.
Ross Street Patio

Join the DBA and Spandy Andy on the Ross Street Patio for some frosty fun! Check out the children’s entertainers, activity booths and sip hot chocolate under the festive downtown lights. Bring the whole family together for an unforgettable outdoor celebration. Whether you’re grooving to the DJ or simply basking in the warm glow of the fire tables, the Ross Street Patio is the place to be for an evening of free family fun. Visit the DBA’s Frost Street Patio Party web page for more information.

Santa’s Bus Tour

December 8, 9, 15 & 16
5:30 – 8 p.m.
Red Deer neighbourhoods

Santa is back on the bus, merrily cruising down the streets of Red Deer! Check out the route maps below and give Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the dancing elves a wave – they light up this bus just for you!

We’ve done our best to help Santa visit each neighbourhood in the city, but due to his busy schedule he cannot visit every street. Please choose the route closest to your home to catch a glimpse of the jolly man and his crew. For safety reasons, please remain on the sidewalk or in your yard and stay off the street during the bus tours.

Tours operate from 5:30 p.m. to approximately 8 p.m. on the following evenings. Follow along on the MyBus website or app to see when Santa will arrive in your neighbourhood.

Downtown Twinkle Tour

Friday, December 15
4 – 7 p.m.

For one night, many Downtown businesses remain open late to help Red Deerians with their holiday shopping and to encourage the support of local businesses. Downtown visitors are invited to pick up a free hot chocolate and a copy of the holiday scavenger hunt on the Patio. Enjoy beautiful window and light displays throughout downtown as you make your way to your favourite shops. Be sure to snag some Reindeer Food and Snowman Soup during your visit, too!

For more information, visit the Downtown Business Association website.

A video showcasing Red Deer’s holiday spirit will be shared on The City’s social media channels so Red Deerians can enjoy the view from the comfort of home.

For more information on Red Deer Lights the Nights activities, presented by The City of Red Deer and the Downtown Business Association (DBA), visit and follow The City and DBA on social media.
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