by Clint Hoekstra

Fireworks: Waste of Edmonton Tax Dollars?

This past week, the City of Edmonton held their annual July 1st fireworks show. While some Edmontonians made the trip to Kinsmen Park or downtown to watch the show, many stayed home this year in solidarity with Indigenous people mourning the loss of thousands of children in the residential school system.

This year’s fireworks show was also broadcast on Youtube and has been viewed about 50,000 times.

Therefore, if about 10,000 people watched in-person (a generous estimate), and another 50,000 online, this totals about 6% of Edmonton’s population.

According to the Edmonton Journal, in 2016, the cost of the fireworks display alone was around $200,000. This price has undoubtedly increased since 2016, and doesn’t include the costs to promote the event, organize the show and film and publish the show with aerial video shots. The fireworks show this year lasted 16 minutes.

Even if the police presence, promotion, organization, and videography were all free, the fireworks show still costs the City of Edmonton at least $12,500 per minute of entertainment. The number is far higher when all of the above-listed costs are included.

Since May, The Keep Times has interviewed seven city council candidates in the upcoming election. Every candidate that was interviewed mentioned the currently abysmal state of the city’s budget.

Safe injection sites have been shut down, 300 positions have been cut from the local government this year alone, and multiple councillors have told us that the city would be able to house substantially more homeless individuals if only it had a bigger budget.

Despite all this, we’re having another fireworks show this Friday in honour of the Calgary Stampede, an event intended to draw Edmontonians away from our city for a week to spend their money in Calgary.

The City of Edmonton, the Calgary Stampede, Edmonton Police Service, and the Edmonton Civic Events Office have all declined or been unable to provide any information as to the actual costs of these events.

While there are undoubtedly larger unnecessary costs in the city’s budget than fireworks, these pyrotechnic events are the only example of our municipal tax dollars almost literally going up in smoke in a matter of minutes.

We may need to start reorganizing our priorities as a city. If homelessness and drug abuse are to be continually touted as our most significant and most urgent issues, perhaps we should fund solutions to those problems before redirecting much of our police force and our tax dollars towards a few minutes of pretty colours over our river valley.