Headlines: Feb. 8, 2023

· The Pulse
  • The Edmonton Police Service is requesting a series of bylaw changes related to pepper spray and bear spray, which are types of non-restricted oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. The changes include making it illegal to tamper with safety mechanisms or labels, introducing a "nuisance-type offence" for negligent use in public spaces, and creating consistent rules for businesses to record who buys the spray. Police data from 2015-2021 shows 10,000 recorded incidents of OC spray used in Edmonton in the past six years, with 75% occurring within 100 meters of a bus stop or transit centre. Administration is working with police to draft bylaw changes, which will then go to council for approval.
  • City council's community and public services committee received a report from Alberta Health Services showing Edmontonians experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of a variety of physical and mental health conditions, but that stable housing contributed to a decrease in emergency room visits and hospital stay duration. According to Dr. Chris Sikora, the lead medical officer of health for the Edmonton zone, the AHS study saw a nearly 50% drop in ER visits and a 68% drop in addictions and mental health-related EMS events among a selection of people who had permanent supportive housing. Tricia Smith, executive director of Radius Community Health & Healing, agreed that patients' health destabilizes when they lose housing and also noted a shortage of detox beds.
  • The city's auditor found that the Enterprise Performance Management Policy adopted in 2018, which is intended to improve transparency and keep administration accountable to council and the public, isn't being followed by most departments or enforced by the service innovation and performance (SIP) branch. In a report going to council's audit committee on Feb. 13, the auditor said city departments are only using the provided software to track about half their performance measures. Meanwhile, a separate audit looked at a sample of 15 council reports and found some contained jargon, "confusing, vague and ambiguous content," and, in several cases, false or unverifiable information.
  • The city is inviting Edmontonians to celebrate International Winter Bike to Work Day on Feb. 10. City teams will hand out hot drinks and snacks near the High Level Bridge in the Garneau neighbourhood from 7:30am to 9am. Bike Edmonton has also launched a challenge to win a pair of studded tires for winter cycling.
  • Jobber, an Edmonton company that makes software for home service businesses like heating and plumbing companies, secured $100 million USD in a Series D funding round led by New York equity firm General Atlantic. Since closing Series C funding a few years ago, the company has tripled its revenue and doubled its customer base to more than 200,000 home service providers in 60 countries.
  • EPCOR, Edmonton's municipally owned utility company, has applied to provide water service to an Arizona suburb called Rio Verde Foothills, which has been without water since the city of Scottsdale earlier this year began preventing private water delivery to customers outside city limits because of a water shortage in the Colorado River basin. The company said it could take years to secure water supplies and build the needed infrastructure, however. Its subsidiary EPCOR USA has expanded into several drought-impacted markets in Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Premier Danielle Smith did not commit to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's proposal to spend an additional $46.2 billion on health care over the next 10 years, which would bring the federal government's total contribution to $196.1 billion if a deal is signed in the spring. Echoing the remarks of other premiers, Smith's office said in a statement that the amount is "significantly lower" than anticipated. The premiers said they would take time to assess the proposal.