Headlines: Sept. 5, 2023

· The Pulse
  • Edmonton and Calgary had their smokiest summers on record, with Environment Canada data showing that both cities set new records this year for "smoke hours." So far this year Edmonton has recorded 244 smoke hours, beating the previous record of 229 hours set in 2018. Calgary has recorded 464 smoke hours, compared to 450 in 2018. Data shows that wildfire smoke has jumped significantly in the past decade, with Edmonton recording an average of just 14 smoke hours annually between 1981 and 2010. This year's numbers are expected to climb because of continued wildfires in B.C. and northern Canada.
  • City administration is proposing a new standard to control urban sprawl and manage the city's growth. According to a report presented to council's urban planning committee, the substantial completion standard would require developing areas to meet a minimum threshold for certain amenities, such as stores, parks, schools, and recreation centres, before approving new developments in other areas. However, Kalen Anderson with the Urban Development Institute for the Edmonton metro region, argued that halting new growth would be "a boon for the rest of the metro region" because it would lead to developers targeting areas outside the city. Currently, 91 of Edmonton's 295 residential neighbourhoods are in developing areas, such as Ellerslie, west Henday and the city's far northeast.
  • The 170 Street pedestrian bridge connecting the Misericordia Hospital and surrounding neighbourhoods with West Edmonton Mall (WEM) and the adjoining WEM transit centre opened on Sept. 1. The bridge, located between 87 Avenue and 90 Avenue, features a shared pathway for pedestrians, cyclists, and other active transportation users. WEM demolished the bridge in 2018 after determining that refurbishing it would cost much more than a replacement. The city and WEM shared the $10.4-million cost of the bridge, which was originally scheduled to open in late 2022.
  • In an appearance on Global News's monthly Civic Matters segment, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi spoke about the increased Edmonton Police Service budget and the police funding formula, which council approved on Aug 23. While Sohi noted he has previously stated that "automatic increases for any department are not sustainable without any accountability built into that," he said he supported the police funding formula presented to council because the context has changed, including an increased toxic drug supply, gang violence, and shootings. "We need to make sure we provide proper resources to the police to tackle and stabilize the situation," he said.
  • As students go back to school, the city is reminding drivers to follow school zone speed limits of 30 km/hr and use designated pick-up and drop-off locations outside of schools. Edmonton Transit Service will offer more frequent service during peak hours on some routes and has introduced three new school special routes. The city also noted that with 200 construction projects underway across the city, drivers should plan their route and stay updated on road closures and potential delays through the traffic disruptions map.
  • City crews will close and winterize Edmonton's 77 spray parks beginning Sept. 5. Some spray parks may remain open past that date, but all locations are expected to be closed by Sept. 8. Residents are encouraged to check the city's website for operating hours and maintenance closures.
  • The Alberta government has approved 12 collegiate schools across the province, including STEM Collegiate in south Edmonton, which opened its doors to 250 students this year. The school focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and aims to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. Collegiate schools, which can be public or private, offer specialized programming and pathways to post-secondary education and careers for students in Grades 7 to 12. The UCP government has identified the schools as a priority, with more expected to be approved in the coming months.
  • The Edmonton Police Service says it is seeing increasing amounts of xylazine, an animal tranquilizer commonly used to sedate horses, in the city's drug supply. Staff Sgt. David Paton told CTV News that drugs are being cut with "various adulterants such as xylazine" and "other fentanyl analogues." Without a strong drug checking system, it's hard to know just how much xylazine is in the city's drug supply, noted Marliss Taylor, with Boyle Street Community Services. "Right now, what we have is a cornucopia of drugs that are mixed together, and we don't know what they are or in what quantities," she said.