· The Pulse
  • At an Edmonton Public School Board meeting on March 22, administration outlined a proposed Ten-Year Facilities Plan for 2023-2032, which noted a variety of issues faced by the division such as rapid enrolment growth and deferred maintenance needs. Enrolment in Edmonton's public schools has increased by 25,000 students since 2010, and the division expects steady growth over the next decade. However, the last major modernization project in the division to receive funding did so in 2018, and the last construction project in 2019. Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the division is changing its future funding priorities to focus on building new schools rather than upgrading existing ones. "We are a fast-growing division. We have been passed over for two years from this provincial government for new school builds, and this plan shows clearly once again to the provincial government that Edmonton Public needs funding to build new schools," she said.
  • EPSB also voted 7-2 in favour of a motion to suspend a policy requiring trustees be fully vaccinated, which had yet to take effect.
  • Edmonton Transit Service managers presented the annual transit service plan to city council, outlining their intention to expand on-demand service to northside neighbourhoods, launch smart fare for regional routes, and increase LRT frequency. The report also includes specific bus routes that may see extended hours starting in 2023. At the meeting, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said a major issue facing transit is safety, which is linked to societal issues "beyond the capacity of ETS and even the capacity of the city." Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, branch manager of ETS, spoke recently with Speaking Municipally about the challenges.
  • Student Advocates for Public Health (SAPH), an advocacy group formed by University of Alberta graduate students, is calling for initiatives to improve access to clean drinking water among Indigenous communities. The group pointed out that 43% of First Nation drinking water systems are labelled as medium or high risk. "A lot of these facilities, they have a shelf life of 20 years," said SAPH member Randal Bell. "Chronic underfunding cuts that down to 15 to 10. It's not a matter of just kind of fixing some of these things, sometimes it's going to be replacing the entire system, but we need to get to a point of water pipeline infrastructure." The group's proposed solutions involve intergovernmental commitment and amending Canada's Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported on March 22 that the Omicron subvariant BA.2 is now the dominant strain in Alberta, accounting for around 60% of new positive cases. The subvariant is more transmissible than BA.1, but Hinshaw said there is no evidence of it being more severe. She said Albertans should expect an upward transmission rate in coming weeks.
  • The province introduced the new Public's Right to Know Act, or Bill 9, which would require the provincial government to report crime data annually and publicize the information on its website. If passed, it will come into effect this fall. "The Edmonton Police Service supports a more thorough approach to reporting on crime data for Alberta's entire criminal justice system, from police services and corrections to the court system and the many other agencies and services that uphold community safety and well-being," said Edmonton police chief Dale McFee.
  • A UCP spokesperson confirmed that Jason Kenney's leadership review will be conducted by mail-in ballot. Due to increased interest, the party is also opening up voting to anyone who has a current membership as of March 19. The UCP's special general meeting on April 9 will take place online to accommodate the more than 15,000 people registered to attend.