Headlines: April 14, 2023

· The Pulse
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi spoke to Global News on April 12 about the need for more provincial funding to support Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. "We are stepping up and stepping in as much as we can," said Sohi, "but we will not be able to find permanent sustainable solutions to this crisis until the province recognizes that it's their lack of investment in these areas that is causing disorder in Edmonton." A spokesperson for the province said the government is "focused on housing as a critical support" and "providing over $1 billion over three years to invest in affordable housing." The NDP's affordable housing plan calls for $1.6 billion in provincial funding to leverage $3 billion in available funding from all levels of government and housing providers, which it says will house an additional 40,000 Albertans within five years.
  • Coun. Anne Stevenson appeared on the CBC Radio program Alberta at Noon on April 12 alongside Patricia Jones, president and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, to discuss encampments, homelessness, and affordable housing in their cities.
  • University of Alberta sociology professor Marta-Marika Urbanik and colleagues from other post-secondary schools interviewed 45 people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton's downtown and Chinatown areas as part of a research project on violence, social disorder, and drug use. Urbanik told CBC the interviewees feel less safe downtown than before the pandemic and identified rising rates of homelessness, gang activity, deterioration of the "street code," and drug supply toxicity as the main drivers of safety issues among people living on the streets. The research has not yet been published, but Urbanik said they are sharing preliminary information with the city and interested organizations.
  • The Capital Line South LRT extension to Ellerslie Road, originally estimated to cost $1 billion in a 2020 business case, is over budget due to inflation and other market disruptions. The city did not provide an updated budget, but in a report going to executive committee on April 14 has identified three ways to cut project costs: building the Heritage Valley station and the Ellerslie Road crossing at grade instead of elevated and deferring the expansion of the existing Heritage Valley Park and Ride, reducing the size of the operations and maintenance facility that comes with the extension, and reducing the number of trains ordered as part of the project. Coun. Jennifer Rice said she requested the discussion be pushed ahead to give the public the opportunity to review the changes. Construction on the extension is expected to start in late 2023 and take five years.
  • In a piece for The Walrus titled "Why Alberta Is Bullying Its Cities" Edmonton-based writer Tim Querengesser chronicled the UCP government's relationship with Edmonton and Calgary, focusing on tensions in recent years between the province and the cities' progressive mayors over transit, policing, and housing.
  • The 2023 provincial budget's post-secondary investments include $13.7 million toward creating 517 new seats in health, technology, and business programs across Concordia University of Edmonton, MacEwan University, NAIT, NorQuest College, The King's University, and the University of Alberta. According to a release, the province is putting a total of $193 million toward creating 8,000 new seats in high-demand post-secondary programs across Alberta. NDP health critic David Shepherd suggested the investments are not enough to "undo the profound damage the UCP has done to our post-secondary schools and our healthcare system," adding the NDP is committed to freezing tuition.