“It’s just words,” said Principe. “It does not activate any levers that council could use to address the crisis.”
Hamilton said that slapping the word “emergency” on Sohi’s package to deal with the housing crisis is a “non sequitur.”
“It runs the risk of desensitizing us to what emergencies mean when a government declares an emergency,” she said.
And Cartmell said that council’s version of what constitutes an emergency is not what the public expects.
“There’s nothing in the definition of ‘emergency’ that says go form another task force, to have another meeting, create another set of terms of reference and pick a meeting place and order the lunch,” he said.
Paquette said that Indigenous people have dealt with displacement since the Road Allowance, since colonization. And he said that when the E word is used incorrectly, “it is powerful, too.”
And he said that using inflammatory language, and shaming other levels of government to come to the negotiating table, isn’t productive. He said that as soon as council declares a state of emergency, they let the other levels of government “off the hook” when it comes to houselessness.
“I want everyone at the table willingly, so we get willing work, rather than grudgingly, so we get inadequate funding.”
Paquette saw the writing on the wall. After council voted, the UCP responded with a scolding, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said: “It is disappointing that the City of Edmonton would choose to issue a performative declaration suggesting an emergency and implying a lack of response from our government… When the word ‘emergency’ is used, Albertans are used to stepping up and taking action directly, while that is not the intention of this motion.”