Headlines: Nov. 29, 2022

· The Pulse
  • The city is expecting a small surplus of $67.8 million in its operating budget for 2021, according to its third-quarter financial update. The surplus is partly the result of job vacancies, as salaries represent about half the city's operating costs, as well as higher-than-expected transit revenue, which city manager Andre Corbould said points to the success of the city's transit safety plan. Coun. Tim Cartmell said the surplus reflects the city being careful in the face of COVID-19 pressures but cautioned against seeing it as "a bonanza of dollars that's going to save us." Mayor Amarjeet Sohi tweeted that he wants to invest the surplus in affordable housing, "bold climate action," and expanding the industrial tax base. Council's first budget meeting is scheduled for Nov. 30.
  • Sgt. Michael Elliott revealed he will step down as president of the Edmonton Police Association effective January 2023 and return to active-duty policing. The union will hold a byelection to identify a replacement for the single year remaining in his term. "It's been rewarding but stressful at the same time," Elliott said in a text to Postmedia. "I need a break. I have not ruled out running again down the road, but my mental health is more important at the moment." Elliott was elected president in 2017 and became known in recent years for defending certain controversial police actions and having public conflicts with some municipal politicians.
  • Alberta will experience a sharp drop in temperatures over the coming days, with most of the province expected to hit -20°C or colder on Nov. 30. The seasonal average for this time of year is between 0°C and -3°C. Environment Canada expects the cold snap to be long and wide-ranging, with most of the country experiencing frigid weather by December. The sudden drop comes at the end of one of the warmest falls recorded in Western Canada, with Edmonton recording its hottest ever August and October.
  • Experts are concerned about the low flu vaccine uptake in Alberta, which raises the risk for children and seniors. Only around 20.5% of all Albertans have received their annual flu shot. Just 12.7% of children between the age of six months and four years have received the shot and 57% of seniors have been vaccinated, while the target for both groups is 80%. Currently, Albertans aged 19 and younger account for nearly one-third of flu-related ICU admissions. "Influenza now is driving our ICU stays and hospitalizations in terms of respiratory viruses," said Dr. Cora Constantinescu at the Alberta Children's Hospital. Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatrician in Toronto, said it's "only a matter of weeks before what's happening with children is going to be happening with their parents, and then it's going to be happening with their grandparents." Two children in Alberta have died from the flu since the start of the season.
  • The province announced it will re-index Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), Income Support, the Alberta Seniors Benefit, and the Alberta Child and Family Benefit effective Jan. 1, 2023. The social benefit programs will see their rates rise by 6% to match inflation. Recipients of AISH and Income Support can expect to see an increase in their January payments, which will go out Dec. 22, recipients of the Alberta Seniors Benefit will see the change reflected on their January cheques, and recipients of the Alberta Child and Family Benefit will see the increase in their first quarterly payment in February 2023.
  • The Alberta legislature will reconvene on Nov. 29 beginning with Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani's speech from the throne. Premier Danielle Smith said the session will "set a new course for Alberta." In a release, the province said Albertans should expect "a slate of legislation geared to addressing the inflation crisis and standing up for Alberta's interests." The public can livestream the session starting at 3pm.
  • 630 CHED Santas Anonymous, a charity that collects Christmas gifts for Edmonton families, said it is seeing an "unprecedented" demand as the holidays draw closer. Toy donations can be dropped off at a variety of locations and monetary donations can be made on the Santas Anonymous website. The charity is also looking for volunteers to prepare gifts and deliver them during the Dec. 17-18 weekend. Edmontonians in need can apply for toys before Dec. 5.
  • Brinks, an American private security company, drew the alarm of Edmonton man Andrew Kopp, who said the company leaked the private information of around 100 customers, which Kopp was able to access through a menu on the company's home security system online portal. Kopp reported the incident multiple times, waited months, and asked for the matter to be escalated, but the company did not follow up. Brinks told CBC's Go Public that the data leak was an "isolated issue" but did not say how many Canadian customers were affected. Kopp reported Brinks to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in Alberta, which told CBC it will remind the company of "their obligation to report to our office and notify affected individuals."