Headlines: Nov. 7, 2023

· The Pulse
  • The city highlighted its partnership with Beljan Development for the redevelopment of the former YMCA building downtown to create affordable housing. Last week, council's executive committee approved a total of $16.7 million for three affordable housing projects, including $6.5 million for the YMCA redevelopment, now called Williams Hall, along with $9 million for Leston Holdings to build a mixed-market apartment complex, and $1.15 million for Jasper Place Wellness Centre to develop three 12-unit buildings. The city's Affordable Housing Investment Program provides grants of up to 25% of costs for new or renovated affordable housing units. Since 2019, the city has invested $150 million to create 3,083 affordable housing units through the program.
  • The city has launched a new winter bus service to provide transportation for vulnerable people who need access to shelter spaces. Two buses will be in service until March 31 and operate on two routes throughout the winter, providing transportation to emergency shelters. When the city's extreme weather response is activated, an additional bus will be added to the service, temporary shelter spaces will open at Al Rashid Mosque, and city facilities will be available for people to stay warm.
  • Edmonton is on track to have the deadliest year on record for opioid-related deaths, with 423 deaths so far this year. According to the province's substance use surveillance data, Edmonton's drug poisoning death rate is the highest it has been since 2021, with 58.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Calgary has recorded 458 deaths so far this year, while Lethbridge hit a record high of 94 deaths. A total of 1,262 deaths have been recorded across the province so far this year.
  • Panellists at the recent REenvision Housing symposium hosted by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board shared their perspectives on how to tackle Edmonton's housing challenges and attract residents to the city's downtown. Cory Wosnack with Avison Young noted that Edmonton has the second-highest office vacancy rate in the country and argued that incentives are needed to encourage their conversion to residential units, an effort councillors have recently explored. Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust, noted that homelessness figures have grown significantly in recent years, and called for long-term strategies and investments to address the crisis.
  • Members of Edmonton's Lebanese community are concerned for friends and family in Lebanon as clashes at the border with Israel escalate. The Canadian Arab Friendship Association says it has seen an increase in calls in recent weeks from people asking for help to bring their family members to Canada. The association is trying to help, but president Yazan Haymour said the situation is uncertain for citizens who don't have Canadian passports. In a statement, Defence Minister Bill Blair said the federal government is ready to help citizens and permanent residents evacuate if the situation deteriorates.
  • A hidden message etched into a steel column on the Mindbender rollercoaster at West Edmonton Mall was recently uncovered as the ride was dismantled following its decommissioning. Former ironworker Stuart Houston wrote "Stu loves Deb, Kyle and Cam" in honour of his wife and two sons while he constructed the rollercoaster in 1985. "Who would have thought 38 years later someone would have found that," he said.
  • The Alberta government has introduced legislation that would allow technology companies and workers to use the title "software engineer" without a license from APEGA, the provincial regulator for professional engineers. Tech companies advocated for the change, arguing that current regulations are holding Alberta's industry back. If the bill becomes law, companies would be able to advertise software engineer positions and employees would be able to publicly use the title. However, APEGA has said that software engineering should be regulated, especially as the artificial intelligence industry grows. It recently filed an injunction against Edmonton-based tech company Jobber for using the title software engineer in job postings.
  • Alberta has a stockpile of nearly 40 million COVID-19 rapid tests that are set to expire within months and will be discarded if not used before then, the province said. Some tests will expire on Jan. 1, while the majority have an expiry date of March 2024. The tests are still available to pharmacies, continuing care homes, and primary care providers until they do expire.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the appointment of Mary Moreau to the Supreme Court of Canada. Moreau, former chief justice of the Court of King's Bench, was nominated to the position by the prime minister last month. Her appointment means a majority of the judges on the Supreme Court of Canada are women for the first time in its history.