Headlines: Jan. 16, 2023

· The Pulse
  • The Muttart Conservatory is showing Gaia, an internationally acclaimed, seven-metre wide art installation depicting NASA imagery of the Earth's surface. The artwork, which is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth and slowly rotates, will be on display until Feb. 26. Its exhibit at the Muttart marks its Canadian debut after touring since 2018 in Hong Kong, Australia, Europe, United States and the Natural History Museum in London. The piece was created by artist Luke Jerram, whose previous large-scale public artwork called Museum of the Moon was shown at the Muttart in 2018.
  • Veteran CBC journalist Janice Johnston died Jan. 13 of cancer after a brief illness. She was 62. Johnston covered the crime and courts beat in Edmonton for more than 30 years and was remembered as an influential and dedicated journalist who was relentless in uncovering stories important to the public interest and whose years of experience made her an invaluable mentor to young reporters. "Janice was the kind of journalist who lived and breathed the news," said Stephanie Coombs, CBC Edmonton's director of journalism and programming. News of Johnston's death triggered a wave of condolences from journalists in Edmonton and around the country, along with members of Alberta's justice community.
  • The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Edmonton is struggling to meet increased demands because of the theft and vandalism of its truck fleet over the past year, costing the charity $100,000 and hindering its ability to provide items to people in need. "We can't fulfill our obligations of delivering furniture and beds to the poor if we don't have our fleet," said Randy Yatscoff, president of the charity's Edmonton central council. In 2022, the charity received 6,039 service requests, compared with 2,527 in 2021.
  • Demand in Edmonton's rental housing market increased slightly in 2022, but the city remained the most affordable among Canada's major urban centres, according to Liv.rent, a rental listing website. Rents in Edmonton increased by about 7% in 2022, while other major cities saw increases in the double digits. The average price for an unfurnished one-bedroom rental in Edmonton was $1,143 per month compared with $1,498 in Calgary. "Edmonton just has a lot more listings than Calgary," said Hazel Wong, a Liv.rent analyst.
  • Office vacancies in Edmonton are on the rise, according to a new report from the CBRE, a global commercial real estate firm. Vacancies in Edmonton were 22.2% overall and 23% downtown in the fourth quarter of 2022, a slight increase from the previous quarter. The real estate firm attributed the increase to a number of factors, including the continued prevalence of hybrid and remote work. The report also showed that availability in the industrial market decreased even as it added 4.6 million square feet of new space.
  • The Alberta Human Rights Commission awarded an Edmonton woman $10,000 in a ruling that found her landlord had increased her rent in retaliation for noise complaints against the property's other residents. The woman, who lives with physical and mental disabilities, argued that her landlord discriminated against her by failing to adequately address her concerns, instead raising her rent so much she was forced to move out. "This was not a case of the respondent trying to pay his mortgage, it was a case of him getting rid of the complainant," the ruling states.
  • University of Alberta professor Dr. Peter Silverstone spoke to Global News about how to improve your mental health on Blue Monday, which falls on the third Monday in January and is sometimes considered the most depressing day of the year, though there is no scientific backing to the claim. Silverstone noted the concept of Blue Monday is "a bit of a myth" but added "it's been long recognized that this is a difficult time for many people." Among Silverstone's tips to improve mental health were setting small and attainable goals, mindfulness exercises, and physical activity.
  • Premier Danielle Smith continued to walk back comments she made about COVID health violation prosecutions after a flurry of criticism accusing her of interfering with the justice system. "Of course I've never called a Crown prosecutor. You're not allowed to do that as a politician," Smith said Jan. 14 on Your Province, Your Premier, a radio show on 630 CHED. Smith had previously told reporters in Edmonton that she regularly asks Crown prosecutors "as new cases come out, is it in the public interest to pursue and is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction?" The comments were quickly criticized, which prompted Smith to issue a clarification the next day that she had used "imprecise" language and never communicated directly with Crown prosecutors.