Headlines: Dec. 16, 2022

  • The city's extreme weather response has been extended to Dec. 26. Temperatures are expected to fall to slightly above -20°C over the next couple of days but plummet to dangerously low levels as Christmas approaches. The city said it has seen high usage of its extreme weather buses and that shelter occupancy rates are currently at 90%. The extreme weather response began Nov. 29.
  • City council voted 8-5 against Coun. Andrew Knack's motion to provide $13 million annually for the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission (EMTSC), meaning the commission cannot proceed with the first phase of the service connecting Edmonton with seven municipal neighbours, which was scheduled to launch in April. Coun. Aaron Paquette called the plan "aspirational and wonderful" but questioned its value, while Coun. Jo-Anne Wright called the EMTSC an "extra layer of red tape." Steve Bradshaw, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, said the union supports council's decision because the plan "cost more and more and more money" as it went along. EMTSC chair Wes Brodhead said he was "somewhat taken aback" by council's decision. Plans for a regional transit service have been in the works for over a decade, although the number of participating municipalities has dwindled from an initial 13. Withdrawing from the commission is estimated to cost the city $15 million.
  • Edmonton Fire Rescue Services responded to more than 72,000 fires in 2022, chief Joe Zatylny said during his year-end news conference. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, crews responded to 65 fires involving tents and encampments, which resulted in five deaths. This year also saw the leading cause of fires shift from cooking and cigarettes to deliberately set fires, which increased to 1,500 as of Nov. 30, compared to 971 in all of 2021. Zatylny said fires related to so-called problem properties decreased, which he attributed to the property safety team pilot program currently underway.
  • The Edmonton Arts Council (EAC) announced 20 local artists as the recipients of this year's Edmonton Artists' Trust Fund Award. The winners are selected after a community nomination and peer review process and each receive $15,000 to pursue their arts. "There is recognition for the individual and the impact they have had," said Sanjay Shahani, EAC executive director. "These people are at the top of their game." Among this year's recipients are street artists and muralists, painters, installation artists, and musicians.
  • The city revealed that 1,316 bus shelter windows have been broken as of Nov. 30 of this year, which is up from 1,273 in 2021 and 1,075 in 2020. "Every Edmontonian pays for these repair costs," said Trevor Dennehy, the director of LRT operations and maintenance, who explained the majority of cases were vandalism. Repairs have already cost the city around $400,000 in 2022, up from $394,000 in 2021 and $320,000 in 2020. Coun. Andrew Knack said the city continues to discuss ways of saving money on bus shelter repairs.
  • Lawyers for the City of Edmonton appeared before the Alberta Labour Relations Board to appeal a ruling last July on a case involving Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 which resulted in the city paying photo radar ticket fines incurred by people driving city vehicles. The board had decided that making drivers pay fines as well as face reprimand from their employer amounted to double discipline. Since the ruling, the city has spent $31,874 to cover tickets accumulated by municipal staff, including police, firefighters, bus drivers, and even photo radar vehicles caught speeding or running red lights. "The effect of the decision," said city lawyer Hugh McPhail, is that the drivers get a "free pass on photo radar and red light camera offences." A decision on the appeal is expected in the coming weeks.
  • An Edmonton man built a life-sized, custom Christmas tree using 20,000 Lego pieces. James Hinchliffe used a variety of sets and pieces sourced online to complete the project, which he started in January. Everything on the tree, from the garland to its ornaments, were built using the iconic building block. "You can't just walk into the Lego store and get 10,000 green bricks," Hinchliffe said. "It doesn't work that way."