Headlines: Oct. 31, 2023

· The Pulse
  • City administration has allocated $8 million in its draft 2024 capital budget for an unnamed technology project related to cybersecurity, referred to only as an "in-private discussion item" in a city report. The draft operating budget sets aside $436,000 for the project's operations and indicates one staff member would be assigned to it full time. A city spokesperson said further details will remain private because releasing them is "not in the best interest of the corporation or citizens." Council is expected to discuss the project in private before deciding whether to fund it.
  • In his latest article, Postmedia opinion columnist Keith Gerein suggested municipal tax increases could become a focal point of the next civic election. City council is facing criticism for proposing a property tax hike of 7.09% in next year's budget, which would be the highest increase in a decade. With a potential cumulative tax increase of 22% over the four-year budget cycle, the hikes could give opponents of the current mayor and council "a tent pole on which to build a campaign," Gerein wrote.
  • Edmonton radio host Lauren Hunter revealed her latest Halloween costume last week. Hunter, who is known for creating elaborate costumes inspired by news headlines, dressed up as a full-sized fridge. "We're all feeling the grocery prices this year, but we all love food," Hunter said, adding she put 50 hours into building the costume. Last year, she dressed up as a cracked Valley Line LRT concrete pier.
  • Edmonton's office vacancy rate has decreased in the third quarter of 2023, indicating a potential shift in the market. While the change is positive, the city is still a long way from a balanced market, said Cory Wosnack with Avison Young. The decline in vacancy is attributed to the leasing of office space by Norquest College and Classical Academy, a new charter school in the city. There are also ongoing efforts to convert vacant office space for residential use.
  • Pro-Palestine supporters staged a protest in the office of Edmonton Centre Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault on Oct. 30 as part of a nationwide effort to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Officers with the Edmonton Police Service were called to the office around 11:30am and said the nine protestors left "without issue." A representative of the protestors said they were inside the office for about an hour before continuing the demonstration outside. The protest was one of 17 that took place at MP offices in 12 cities across Canada.
  • The UCP government outlined its agenda for the fall sitting of the Alberta legislature in its throne speech on Oct. 30. The government says it will lower electricity and auto insurance costs, and that the province would use the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act if the federal government implements emissions caps or a net-zero electricity grid by 2035. While the provincial government is holding consultations on a potential Alberta Pension Plan, the throne speech did not include any mention of the plan. The government also introduced its first bill of the sitting, which, if passed, would prevent the government from increasing personal or business tax rates without first holding a referendum.