Headlines: Jan. 31, 2023

· The Pulse
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi wrote a blog post about downtown and transit safety after Premier Danielle Smith and Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis commented on a Jan. 22 incident where a man caused $5,000 in damages to an Edmonton Transit Service bus and threatened a female nearby. Both provincial politicians tweeted about the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force created in December, which a government spokesperson said will make an announcement on Feb. 1 about its plans for "concrete action." The mayor's blog pointed to the city's Safety Plan, produced in 2022 at the request of Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, and reiterated its requests for support from the Alberta government, such as increasing its police funding contribution, immediately opening more harm reduction and recovery beds, and providing Edmonton the same level of funding for permanent shelter spaces as Calgary.
  • All 450 temporary emergency winter shelter spaces in Edmonton that the province announced funding for in October are now open, with the last 150 opening on Jan. 27. The additional spaces bring the city's total to about 1,280. Tim Pasma, manager of homeless programming for Hope Mission, said the organization has been phasing in additional spaces at its shelters in the city's core and a warehouse on Girard Road in a south side industrial area. Pasma said the shelters are so far able to accommodate everyone arriving, but numbers remain high, with occupancy ranging from 80-100%.
  • Residents of the Kirkness neighbourhood are frustrated after their vehicles were ticketed during a residential parking ban, which began Jan. 24. Residents said the city had not put up signs in the neighbourhood indicating a ban was in place as it had in previous years, even though the city's website says to "look for parking ban signage in your neighbourhood." Coun. Tim Cartmell reiterated that Edmontonians can sign up for email and text notifications telling them when to move their vehicle. Last year, council increased fines for violating a parking ban from $100 to $250.
  • The Mindbender, an iconic roller-coaster in Galaxyland at West Edmonton Mall that opened in 1985, has been permanently shut down. A statement by the mall's vice-president of parks and attractions said WEM is working on "groundbreaking new plans for family thrills" but acknowledged the ride will be missed. "To say that there are big shoes to fill at this point is an understatement," said Matthew Dutczak, creator of Best Edmonton Mall, which also released a YouTube video about a fatal crash on the Mindbender in 1986.
  • John de Ruiter, the self-appointed spiritual leader who was arrested on Jan. 21 and charged with four counts of sexual assault in connection with separate incidents from 2017-2020, was granted bail under strict conditions following a hearing that needed to be relocated to accommodate 33 people identifying as de Ruiter's supporters. De Ruiter's defence lawyer said the allegations will be "hotly contested" by his client and suggested the case could take years to go to trial.
  • Matt Berlin, an emergency backup goalie for the Edmonton Oilers, made his NHL debut on Jan. 28. The 25-year-old University of Alberta student took the ice with 2:26 left in the third period, blocked the only shot he faced, and celebrated the 7-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. According to coach Jay Woodcroft, the idea to play Berlin, which came from Connor McDavid, was to "give somebody an opportunity they will remember for the rest of their lives."