Headlines: Nov. 21, 2023

· The Pulse
  • A CBC investigation into the safety record of TransEd, the consortium that built the $1.8-billion Valley Line Southeast LRT found that injury rates for project workers spiked to more than five times the industry average in 2020. While TransEd has not released its project-wide records publicly, it provided CBC with limited data showing 283 near miss incidents, 350 first aid incidents, 93 medical treatment cases, 14 lost workday cases, and 15 public safety incidents. In a statement, TransEd spokesperson Dallas Lindskoog said records "indicate that TransEd partner companies and all the subcontractors that work for them ... exceed OHS averages and industry norms." Workplace safety expert Christopher Coles said "a lack of transparency when it comes to health and safety statistics is concerning."
  • A CBC investigation revealed previously unreported problems contributing to the delayed opening of the Valley Line Southeast LRT, including poor quality construction, design errors, and safety violations. Some issues required some work to be removed and redone. TransEd, the consortium responsible for the project, said that most issues were typical for a major infrastructure project. The line, which was originally scheduled to open in December 2020, finally opened on Nov. 4 and has received positive feedback from commuters.
  • The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights is concerned that its proposed injunction against the city to prevent the dismantling of homeless encampments won't be heard in court until January. Organization president Sam Mason said forcing people out of encampments is harmful, and questioned whether it contributed to an increase in amputations last winter. "We are disappointed that the injunction hearing was scheduled for mid-January and another holiday season will pass while the city continues to regularly displace unsheltered people," Mason said. The city said in a statement that its approach "is compassionate and balances both the safety of the unhoused and the community at large." According to Homeward Trust, more than 3,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Edmonton as of early November.
  • Several Edmonton business groups released an open letter expressing concerns with the proposed 7.09% property tax increase as council prepares to debate the 2024 budget adjustment. The letter, released by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Urban Development Institute - Edmonton Metro, and NAIOP, urges city council to re-evaluate the budget and focus on maintaining core services. It also encourages council to consider using the unexpected $8-million EPCOR dividend to offset tax impacts. Chamber president Doug Griffiths said the city should "at least get back to the five per cent they originally proposed in the four-year-long budget."
  • The Edmonton Downtown Business Association hopes to attract shoppers downtown this holiday season with the Edmonton Downtown Gift Card, which is accepted at more than 50 local businesses. Association executive director Puneeta McBryan highlighted the importance of December sales for downtown businesses, many of which are still recovering from financial strains due to the pandemic. The gift card, which was first introduced last Christmas season, can be purchased and used at any time of year.
  • A record 33,400 international migrants came to Edmonton in 2022, which was triple the city's 20-year average, according to data from the Conference Board of Canada. The city's interprovincial migration also grew last year after six years of net losses, with more than 8,900 people arriving from other parts of Canada in 2022. The data also shows that economic forecasts for the city are positive, with strong growth in the oil and housing sectors. Employment also grew by 3.9% last year and was expected to increase by 3.5% in 2023.
  • Maclean's published a longform feature examining the history of self-styled spiritual leader John de Ruiter, who is facing eight counts of sexual assault against eight different women. His wife, Leigh Ann de Ruiter, faces six counts for allegedly facilitating the encounters. Both have pleaded not guilty. De Ruiter is the head of the College of Integrated Philosophy, which held regular meetings at the Oasis Centre in northwest Edmonton but has now moved to northern Alberta. The article explores how the case against de Ruiter reflects the broader issue of consent and spiritual leaders abusing their power for sexual control. The trial is expected to take place in late 2024 or early 2025.
  • Premier Danielle Smith said she supports the decision by the University of Alberta to fire the director of its Sexual Assault Centre, Samantha Pearson. The university made the decision after Pearson co-signed a letter to Canadian MPs that included a line calling accusations of sexual violence by Palestinians on Oct. 7 "unverified." U of A president Bill Flanagan said in a statement that Pearson's views don't represent those of the university, which has appointed an interim director for the centre.
  • Edmonton-born Lwal Uguak, a defensive lineman for the Montreal Alouettes, played a crucial role in his team's 28-24 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the 110th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton on Nov. 19. Uguak, who was drafted seventh overall by the Alouettes in the 2023 CFL draft, made a significant tackle on Winnipeg's star running back Brady Oliveira, helping take Montreal to its first Grey Cup win in 13 years. "We knew we were going to take care of business, and now we're here as Grey Cup champs," Uguak said after the game.