Headlines: Dec. 15, 2022

· The Pulse
  • City council approved all 36 changes to the 2023-2026 operating budget tabled by Mayor Amarjeet Sohi on Dec. 13. The increases included $74.8 million for affordable housing and homelessness prevention along with $25.6 million in affordable housing grants, $42.9 for on-demand transit, $11 million for snow removal services, $14.8 million for public washrooms, and $13.6 million for transit safety. Council also approved investments to reopen outdoor pools, fund urban farms, create a tax subclass to penalize derelict properties, and advance climate adaptation plans. The most significant reductions are to city administration, which needs to create a plan to cut $60 million over four years and find an additional $240 million in their budget for core services. City manager Andre Corbould told Postmedia he feels "pretty confident" about achieving the goal and praised council's clarified priorities. "We are focusing on transitioning to what this council wants to do based on what they were elected to do," he said.
  • On Dec. 12, city council voted 8-5 in favour of demolishing the out-of-use Northlands Coliseum at a cost of $35 million. It currently costs up to $1.5 million annually to maintain the building, according to the city. "It's been put off for far too long, and we need to take responsibility for this," said Coun. Ashley Salvador of Ward Métis, where the building is located, adding that the demolition will allow the city to proceed with the Edmonton Exhibition Lands redevelopment project. Salvador also said administration will look into options to partner with industry to assist in the demolition. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi voted against the demolition, citing concerns over the cost.
  • Emergency department wait times in all five Edmonton hospitals are at the longest they've been since 2015. Data obtained by CTV News through a freedom of information request shows median wait times broken down by month, which provides a more accurate picture than what is publicly shared by Alberta Health Services through its website or its Annual Monitoring Measures Report. CTV reported that four of the hospitals matched or surpassed their longest-ever wait time in September 2022, with the University of Alberta Hospital recording the longest median wait time at 3.6 hours and the others recording median wait times of 2.6-3.3 hours. Dr. James Talbot, a professor at the U of A School of Public Health and former chief medial officer of health (CMOH), suggested the government and public health officials are failing to take action to address emergency department capacity. "The plan is apparently to say nothing and hope things get better," said Talbot, who added the public is "without leadership" because Alberta's current CMOH, Dr. Mark Joffe, has not appeared before the public since accepting the job in November. Health Minister Jason Copping attributed the wait times to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses currently in circulation.
  • The Salvation Army, Edmonton's Food Bank, and the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton all say they have seen a drastic increase in the number of people seeking services over the past few years but indicate that community support is helping them deliver their programs this holiday season. "Edmonton has come through," said Lt.-Col Brian Venables of the Salvation Army. "We live in a very generous, blessed city." Meanwhile, the province has released new details about how it will distribute millions of dollars in funding for food banks, which it first announced on Nov. 23.
  • According to Clever Canadian, a website that reviews products and services, Edmonton is the fifth most family-friendly city in Canada based on factors such as employment, safety, average household income, housing and daycare prices, and the number of parks. Edmonton was behind Quebec City, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver, but ranked above Toronto and Montreal. "Compared to other markets, Edmonton offers affordable rentals for families and a safe, scenic environment for children to flourish," wrote blogTO in a summary of the list.