Explore Edmonton received a tax write-off worth almost $1.2 million, but the price the organization had to pay was a scolding from Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
“There was a level of accountability that was not fulfilled,” said Sohi. “That kind of sloppiness is not acceptable.”
This week, the City’s Executive Committee voted 5-0 to forgive Explore Edmonton’s nearly $1.2 million in unpaid taxes and penalties. How did Explore Edmonton end up falling into arrears with one of its biggest funders, the City itself?
It’s a comedy of errors, really. Explore Edmonton, which promotes the city and works to attract major events to the area, was born out of the ashes of Economic Development Edmonton (EDE). Way back in 2007, EDE signed a lease from the Government of Alberta to take over a building in the Edmonton Research Park. Subtenants in the building paid the property taxes. Everyone was happy.
Then, in 2021, the building was inherited by Explore Edmonton, but no information was provided to the City on who was sub-leasing the building. With no one to send tax notices to, the City started running the meter on Explore Edmonton.
Except, Explore Edmonton didn’t know that bill was piling up. So, the tax bill grew, penalties were accrued, and it sat with the City as a growing, unpaid debt.
Explore Edmonton simply doesn’t have the money to pay it, and administrators told the members of the Executive Council that it’s impossible to go back to the sub-tenants to retroactively bill them for taxes.