Headlines: Jan. 9, 2023

· The Pulse
  • The city has developed a new tool called Lighthouse to help peace officers identify and track hate symbols that appear in public places. The city partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to create the app and web-based tool, which will be used by frontline workers to photograph and upload images of potential hate symbols. The images are then stored with geolocation and time-stamp information to help identify wider patterns, and are categorized using information from the ADL hate symbol database. "This will be an important tool when it comes to supporting and strengthening investigations and for long-term geographic tracking of symbols in the community," said Kris Andreychuk, manager of data science and research for the city.
  • An increasing number of paths in Edmonton's pedway system have been closed because of necessary repairs and in response to social disorder, causing people who use the network to encounter unexpected blocks and detours. One Edmontonian, Ryan Williams, found himself stuck as he tried to travel from a restaurant on 103 Street to his car in a nearby parkade. "It's a symptom of a much larger problem in our downtown core," he said. City-owned pedways are open from 6am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and 6am to 6pm on Sundays, but Coun. Anne Stevenson noted that some privately owned "crucial connections" have more limited access. Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, said there is tension between businesses renting space that want predictable pedestrian access and property owners dealing with security costs. "This has to be resolved because there's so much activity that's now resumed downtown," McBryan said.
  • A multi-day power outage at Edmonton's Law Courts building that forced delays and several high-profile cases to be postponed or relocated has sparked a discussion on the need for a new courthouse. The south tower of the building lost power on Jan. 3 and was expected to remain closed through Jan. 9 as crews work to determine the exact cause and a timeline for repairs. Danielle Boisvert, president of the Edmonton Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association, called the situation "chaos" and said it points to the need for the province to replace the aging facility. "When you compare Edmonton and Calgary's courthouses, it's like night and day, in terms of the efficiency and the infrastructure available," she said.
  • Hawrelak Park will close for three years beginning March 13 as work on the $133-million rehabilitation project gets underway. The project includes major renovations of the park's utilities, facilities, open spaces, paths and roads. Most of the infrastructure hasn't been upgraded since it opened in 1964, said Brad Watson, a city program manager for facility infrastructure delivery. "I don't think people realize how much utility work is actually underground," he said.
  • The province's first COVID-19 update for 2023 showed 912 hospitalizations, including 40 people in intensive care, as of Jan. 4. Since the last update released in late 2022, 64 more Albertans have died of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 5,415 since the pandemic began. The update comes as the province identified the first cases of a new, highly infectious Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5. On Jan. 5, the province made the Pfizer bivalent vaccine available to everyone aged five and older.
  • Edmonton's housing market is expected to see modest price gains in 2023, according to Re/Max Canada's 2023 housing market outlook. While average sales in Edmonton are forecast to fall by about 2% over 2022 prices, the report says demand for homes will be historically strong. One reason for the strong demand could be affordable prices, said realtor John Carter, broker/owner of Re/Max River City. "You can still buy a nice family house here for the average price," he said. The average price of a home in 2023 is estimated at $413,055.75.
  • Flair Airlines became the official airline of Canada Basketball in a multi-year partnership announced Jan. 6. The deal means Flair will be the preferred airline for all Canada Basketball age-group players, coaches, officials and staff. "As Canada enters a golden era for the game, we're honoured to provide basketball players of all ages, and their families, with opportunities to travel to their next training camp, game or tournament through our new partnership with Canada Basketball," said Nelson Phillips, Flair vice president of marketing and communications.