Headlines: Nov. 30, 2022

  • City council heard from more than 200 people and organizations that signed up to provide input on the 2023-2026 draft budgets during a two-day public hearing spanning Nov. 28 and 29. The hearing was required before council begins debating the budget on Nov. 30, with plans to wrap up in mid-December. Administration has proposed a $7.75-billion capital budget for 2023-2026 and a $3.2-billion operating budget for 2023, along with four years of 3.9% property tax increases. During the Nov. 28 hearing, council heard a range of requests for funding related to climate change, improving the Edmonton Valley Zoo, and adding more transit peace officers. Several speakers requested support for sports and recreation centres, including the CEO of YMCA of Northern Alberta, who said running the Castle Downs location is unsustainable without city funding. Coun. Michael Janz said he will propose a motion to remove the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre project from the budget, which currently only suggests scaling back the design. During the Nov. 29 hearing, council heard funding requests from Edmonton's film and video game industries, affordable housing organizations, and the wildlife rescue group WILDNorth, among others.
  • The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, NAIOP Edmonton, BOMA Edmonton, and the Urban Development Institute (UDI) - Edmonton Metro have issued a joint statement that summarizes their calls to action to city council in advance of budget debates. "Many partners from across the city-building spectrum are clear in their desire to see a more strategic budget," said chamber president and CEO Jeffrey Sundquist. The business organizations said the proposed 2023-2026 budget cycle "lacks a clear list of priorities" for the city, "commits significant spending at the front end," and will require a 16.4% property tax increase over four years "essentially to preserve the status quo." The statement also noted the city's engagement process found the majority of the public was uncomfortable with the proposed tax increase and with incurring tax-supported debt for new projects.
  • The city has activated its extreme weather response in anticipation of the cold weather expected in Edmonton over the coming days. The measures began Nov. 29 and are expected to remain in place until Dec. 8 at 8am. The city's extreme weather response is triggered when temperatures hit -20°C with wind chill for at least three straight nights and shelters reach 90% capacity. As part of the response, Edmonton Transit Service busses will provide overnight service on three routes, and shelter services will be expanded. The city said it won't open LRT stations as shelters because they "lack amenities such as heat, and adequate washroom facilities."
  • Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang was ordered to pay a $7,200 fine by the Provincial Court of Alberta for hacking into the province's vaccination website in September 2021, an action that prompted an RCMP investigation, Dang's choice to leave the NDP caucus, and his subsequent decision to not seek re-election. "I have considered that Mr. Dang's actions were not impulsive, but planned and deliberate and continued for several days," said Judge Michelle Doyle. "His conduct was, in my view, inconsistent with the trust placed in him by his constituents." However, the judge noted Dang's intention was to benefit his community by helping Alberta Health prevent such hacking and praised the 27-year-old as "an exceptionally intelligent young man" who has "enjoyed accomplishments well beyond his years."
  • Edmonton's real estate market is currently experiencing a balance of supply and demand, but demand is expected to increase in the spring, largely driven by "move-up and move-over buyers," according to RE/MAX's latest market outlook report. The average residential sale price in Edmonton increased 3% since 2021 to reach $401,025 over the period of January to October of this year. Other major trends in 2022 are increased migration from other provinces and increased demand for luxury residential real estate. RE/MAX also expects demand for downtown condos to continue rising in 2023 and for the demand in luxury condos to become "more robust." Single-detached homes are still the most in-demand housing in Edmonton.
  • Two more Edmontonians have shared stories with the media involving violent attacks outside LRT stations. One man said he was punched multiple times outside the Southgate LRT Station on Nov. 19, and a woman said she was attacked with pepper or bear spray outside the MacEwan LRT Station on the afternoon of Nov. 22.
  • Premier Danielle Smith introduced the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act during the first sitting of the provincial legislature on Nov. 29. The bill would allow the government to act against federal laws it considers harmful to Alberta's interests, by granting cabinet the power to bypass the legislature to amend provincial laws. NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman said the bill is "not democratic and has no place in democracy," but Justice Minister Tyler Shandro defended the bill, saying the legislative assembly would have to approve a motion before cabinet could change any laws.
  • Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced he has resigned as MLA for Calgary-Lougheed. In a statement posted to Twitter on Nov. 29, Kenney said he is "concerned that our democratic life is veering away from ordinary prudential debate towards a polarization that undermines our bedrock institutions and principles." Kenney served as United Conservative Party leader and provincial premier from 2019 to 2022.