Headlines: Feb. 6, 2023

· The Pulse
  • A new report from city administration says Edmonton should not adopt a so-called mansion tax that would require owners of properties valued at $1 million or more to pay a higher property tax rate. Coun. Michael Janz asked administration to look into options for a progressive municipal tax last summer, but in the report scheduled to go to executive committee on Feb. 15, administration said it would be "inadvisable" to adopt such a system. "We have some serious legal concerns about whether that's even within our authority and there are also a lot of practical concerns," Anton Szabo, director of the city's assessment and taxation branch, told CBC News. Under the existing property tax system, all owners pay the same tax rate but the total amount varies depending on the home's value.
  • About 40 representatives from groups focused on fighting food insecurity gathered on Feb. 2 at Commonwealth Recreation Centre to discuss ways to increase collaboration and share resources. "A lot of folks are struggling," said Renée Vaugeois, executive director of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, which organized the gathering in partnership with the City of Edmonton and Righting Relations Canada. "I think we're starting to realize that anybody could fall into that trap of not having enough." A 2022 University of Toronto report found that 20.3% of all households in Alberta had experienced food insecurity in the previous year, the highest rate among all provinces.
  • After a slow start, more businesses are moving into Edmonton's Manchester Square, according to its developer 76 Group, which said the property was slow to attract business tenants because it opened as the pandemic began in March 2020. However, 13 of 19 units are now occupied, said Giordano Morgulis, 76 Group vice president. "It's definitely a different building than it was a year ago," he said.
  • Downtown Edmonton music venue Station on Jasper announced its permanent closure on Feb. 4. "We worked hard to reopen after all the Covid closures, but it was a tough ride," the business said in a Facebook post. The sudden closure came as a shock to local musicians Jo Johnson, with the band River Poets, who said the news was "like a gut-punch." Concert promoter Steve Derpack said the closure is part of a larger trend of disappearing venues since the pandemic created challenges for the industry. "It changed the face of everything," Derpack said. The venue, which still had shows scheduled for the coming weeks, said it would work with artists to find new locations or issue ticket refunds.
  • An investigation from the provincial ombudsman found that Alberta Environment failed to respond appropriately after issuing a 2011 enforcement order against Edmonton composting company Cleanit Greenit. Trumpeter resident Sarah Hunter, who campaigned against the facility for years, submitted a complaint to Ombudsman Kevin Brezinski about the province's responses to her concerns. Brezinski's investigation found the province "did not act in accordance with legislation and policy" and did not stop environmentally harmful practices at the facility for more than seven years. The provincial government ultimately suspended the company's license to operate in 2022 following years of complaints from nearby residents about the strong odour coming from the facility. The company has been ordered to remediate the site by August 2024.
  • The Canadian government has partnered with Edmonton-based Capital Power on a 23-year, $500-million agreement to supply all federal government buildings in Alberta with clean energy as part the Greening Government Strategy. Capital Power will provide 250,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually through renewable energy credits until a new wind energy generation facility in Alberta begins operations, which is expected Jan. 1, 2025. As part of the agreement, Capital Power will enter into equity partnerships with Indigenous organizations for facility development, and employment and training opportunities.
  • The Alberta government will undergo a review of its delivery of mental health and addictions programs in the province to "ensure the allocation of resources is meeting the needs of Albertans, especially as the system shifts to recovery-oriented systems of care," according to a request for proposals. The successful proponent will be responsible for assessing all programs and services provided by Alberta Health Services directly, along with those delivered by third-party providers. Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare, told CBC News he is concerned the review will be used as justification to shift resources "to fit an ideological model."