Paquette says the lack of money being invested into mental-health supports and addiction treatment means that more is actually being spent on the long run. It costs less to treat people for addiction than to have them treated over and over in emergency wards. And, once a person is arrested, the costs skyrocket. Incarceration is expensive.
“It’s just fiscal sense. Frankly, I don’t care that other people may think that those with addictions have a moral failing. What does that have to do with the money? Nothing. Doing the right thing saves money. It saves lives. And some of the people you treat go on to get educated, have productive lives and they become taxpayers.”
Another big part of the budget goes to transit. Paquette has advocated for free transit in the past, and he believes that fares have already gone too high. He’s blunt. He doesn’t think the service is frequent enough, or extensive enough, to justify the jacking of fares.
“Every budget, it’s, ‘increase fares, increase fares.’ I already think we’re on par with New York City when it comes to fares.” (We checked; New York’s monthly pass is more expensive than Edmonton’s, but its single-ride fares are cheaper).
“Transit was ignored for a generation,” said Paquette. “First, they took out all the trolleys, for roads, and now we’re basically reinstalling trolleys with the Valley Line train. It’s bizarre.”
He said the tried-but-not-so-true method of basing transit funding on 50 per cent fares, 50 per cent subsidy, is “weird.”