Headlines: June 22, 2023

· The Pulse
  • The city continues to advise Edmontonians to exercise extreme caution around the North Saskatchewan River and its tributaries due to rain, which will cause high water levels and faster currents in the coming days. Edmontonians are asked to stay out of the water, avoid low-lying areas near waterways, obey trail closures, keep pets away from the river and creeks, and not use watercrafts. Part of the Mill Creek Ravine trail system north of 76 Avenue to Connors Road is closed. Other low-lying trails that may close include the Highlands-Dawson trail, the Capilano-Gold Bar trail, the Emily Murphy-Kinsmen trail, and River Loop Trail near Fort Edmonton Park. The city lists trail closures online.
  • The city's single-use item reduction bylaw will take effect on July 1. Under the new bylaw, single-use plastic shopping bags and foam plates, cups, and containers will be banned, and restaurants will be required to accept customers' reusable cups. Straws, utensils, napkins, and pre-packaged condiments will only be available by request or self-serve. The bylaw will apply to most organizations required to have a city-issued business license or civic event permit. There are exemptions for charities, some businesses, and organizations that operate without a business license, such as hospitals. More information about the bylaw is available online.
  • The provincial government appointed Chinatown safety advocate Michael Lee to serve on the Edmonton Police Commission effective May 1. Lee, who is also the vice-chair of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton, is the first of the province's appointees since the UCP government gave itself the power to appoint police commissioners by updating the Police Act in December 2022. The identity of the second province-appointed commissioner will remain private until a security clearance is completed. In an interview with Postmedia, Lee said he is concerned about Chinatown's safety but does not have any particular agenda, adding that the province has "no bearing on my decision-making." Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, who earlier expressed concern about the province's lack of consultation with council over the appointees, called Lee a "great addition to the commission." Meanwhile, Calgary city council showed its opposition to the province's new power to make appointments to the Calgary Police Commission by voting against bylaw changes that would align with provincial legislation.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank unveiled its brand new Niso Building at a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 21. The warehouse, located at 11448 120 Street between the charity's two other buildings, will house its community pantry and food hamper program. Executive director Marjorie Bencz called the unveiling "bittersweet," noting that the charity is now serving between 30,000 and 35,000 people every month, compared to about 17,000 each month during the peak of the pandemic. The purchase was supported by the Muttart Foundation, which gave the food bank a mortgage on the property.
  • The city announced that its solar rebate program, which reopened on May 8, has closed early due to being fully subscribed. According to a release, the program was "so successful that in just six weeks $1.96 million in funding was committed." Since its launch in 2019, the program, which is called the Change Homes for Climate Solar Program, has provided a total of $6 million in rebates to more than 1,900 households. "We understand that some homeowners will be disappointed with the sudden closure," said Kim Petrin with the city's urban planning and economy department, adding that the city is working to launch the Edmonton Clean Energy Improvement Program (E-CEIP), which will replace the solar rebate, "as soon as possible." An online notice indicates the E-CEIP program, a two-year pilot administered and financed by Alberta Municipalities, is "at capacity and has closed to pre-qualification submissions."
  • A class-action lawsuit against the City of Leduc, which was filed in February 2022 amidst allegations of abuse and harassment of female firefighters, has reached a settlement. The settlement includes $10,000 to $285,000 in compensation to all members of the class action, and any woman who worked at City of Leduc over the past 20 years is eligible to participate. Mayor Bob Young is also required to make a public apology and ensure women represented in the lawsuit do not face retaliation. Christa Steele, one of two female firefighters who started the class action, said she was "relieved everything that we've worked so hard for has come to fruition," but that the result is "just the start of accountability." The settlement, which is believed to be the first for a class action lawsuit involving sexual misconduct or assault at a Canadian municipality or fire department, is expected to have a significant impact on case law and set a precedent for future workplace harassment settlements. A court hearing to approve the terms of the settlement is scheduled for July 4.
  • Officials lifted evacuation orders for some residents of Whitecourt who were forced to leave June 20 due to flooding, which also prompted the town to declare a state of local emergency. On June 21, officials issued evacuation orders for parts of Woodlands County, including areas southwest and east of Whitecourt and near Fort Assiniboine, after both the McLeod River and Athabasca River flooded nearby lands and washed away roads.