Headlines: Nov. 21, 2022

· The Pulse
  • Two-thirds of the support pillars on the Valley Line Southeast LRT line have deficiencies and need repair. TransEd, the consortium in charge of construction for the long-delayed project, said in a Nov. 18 update that 30 of the 45 piers now need reinforcement, up from the 18 originally identified in August. TransEd CEO Ronald Joncas offered no timeline for completion of the repairs, but emphasized in his update that it is safe to walk and drive below the elevated tracks. "We are doing everything we can to repair the piers safely and as quickly as possible," he said. Added repairs and delays won't cost the public more because the project has a fixed-price contract, but Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said that was little comfort to people waiting for the line's opening. "Like all Edmontonians, I am equally frustrated that the project that would have been in service two years ago is still delayed," Sohi said.
  • Advocacy groups are concerned about the risk of fire to unhoused Edmontonians who are trying to stay warm in the cold winter months. More than 800 Edmontonians experienced homelessness in November according to Public Interest Alberta executive director Bradley Lafortune. One person died in a tent fire on Nov. 3 and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services responded to seven encampment fires in the first two weeks of the month. "People who are trying to stay warm are starting fires and then dying," said Lafortune. He said warming spaces, such as LRT stations, should be opened during the coldest winter nights. Laurence Braun-Woodbury, advocacy director at the Bissell Centre, said the organization is developing a fire prevention campaign for people who are unhoused.
  • Edmonton City Centre Mall has partnered with Boyle Street Community Services to develop a more empathetic approach to ongoing security issues and social disorder on mall property. The partnership, which began about three months ago, includes a patrol team that responds to overdoses and provides food, water, and clothing to vulnerable people in and around the mall. The team also works with mall security to connect people in need with social services and support. "We've been able to get people housing in a couple of weeks, which is kind of unheard of," said Brenna Gavel with Boyle Street.
  • Alberta's Substance Use Surveillance System reported 976 opioid-related deaths as of August, a slight increase from the same time period in 2021, when 969 deaths were recorded. In Edmonton, opioid-related deaths decreased, with 32 deaths reported in August, compared to 62 in August 2021. The National Overdose Response Hotline provides support and services for people who use drugs and encourages anyone who is using alone to contact them first at 1-888-688-NORS (6677).
  • The United Way of the Alberta Capital Region has launched its annual winter fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $25 million to provide necessities like food hampers, winter coats for families and hygiene kits for people experiencing homelessness. United Way president and CEO Rob Yager said demand is expected to be higher this year because of a combination of pressures. "The pandemic, financial strain, inflation, food insecurity, mental illness and social issues are compounding things for more and more Albertans," said Yager. "And quite frankly, it's created a financial affordability crisis for people in Alberta."
  • Two Old Strathcona residents told the Edmonton Police Commission that the disturbance caused by the Edmonton Police Service's use of the Air 1 helicopter should be reviewed. Theresa Shea told the commissioners that the noise is impacting her quality of life and ability to sleep at night and that despite repeated complaints, the problem is getting worse. "The sonic stress of nighttime aerial surveillance is an avoidable health issue," she said. Mark Anielski said he is concerned about the value the helicopter brings to the city. "If they can't demonstrate that the operating costs are having a verifiable, positive impact in terms of their mission, why are we not holding them to account?" he asked. According to EPS, Air 1 responds to about 3,000 calls each year.
  • The 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway in Qatar and local bars are buzzing in anticipation of Canada's first game at the tournament in 26 years. Many are hosting watch parties for Team Canada's match against Belgium, scheduled for 12pm local time on Nov. 23. "I think Alphonso Davies has really created that buzz in the city," said Scott Krebes of Kelly's Pub. "If Alphonso Davies scores on Wednesday this place is going to be unbelievable."
  • Business owners along 124th Street hope attention from the All Is Bright Festival will help bring in additional foot traffic to the area. The event, which was held Nov. 19 and celebrated its 10-year anniversary, "brings an uptick in traffic (and) it builds awareness of the business community," said Michael Kreuzer, an optometrist at Glasses Half Full. The annual festival is "a way to welcome winter and end the darkness by lighting it up," said Luwam Kiflemariam of the 124 Street Business Association. Bling Gifts and Decor's Kloy Parker is among the business owners looking forward to the holiday season and events. "It's crucial for us — foot traffic is about 80% of our business," Parker said.
  • Transit users can now tap on and off busses and the LRT with the new Arc transit card. Starting Nov. 21 and until supplies last, outreach teams will be handing out free Arc cards at various transit centres and LRT stations. Transit users can also purchase Arc cards at vending machines and through participating retailers.