Headlines: Feb. 1, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Coun. Tim Cartmell said he has arranged for EPCOR representatives to appear at the utility committee's March 4 meeting to provide an overview about the equipment failure at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant, which prompted a non-essential water ban in the Edmonton area earlier this week. Cartmell, who chairs the committee, said he has questions about communication and preparedness. EPCOR said it is "conducting a post-incident review" and plans to provide details about the equipment failure, management measures, and resiliency planning. The company expects to lift the ban on Feb. 4.
  • The non-essential water ban has also raised concerns about the impact of water shortages in surrounding communities supplied by EPCOR, including St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Leduc, Beaumont, Sherwood Park, and Fort Saskatchewan. Some communities have suspended activities such as water main and sewer flushing, outdoor ice maintenance, and firefighter testing. In December, Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz asked all Alberta municipalities to develop water shortage plans, monitor water intake, and review water licenses as the province prepares for likely drought conditions in 2024 and 2025.
  • CBC introduced a new podcast called This is Edmonton, which will publish episodes every Wednesday about the "quintessential, random, and occasionally infuriating things that make Edmonton, Edmonton." The show replaces The Loop, which ended in November 2023, and is hosted by CBC producer and reporter Clare Bonnyman. The first episode looks at downtown public art, and the second is a discussion of encampment clearings with CBC reporters Paige Parsons and Wallis Snowdon. It's one of seven new CBC podcasts focusing on local stories across Canada.
  • Edmonton NDP MP Blake Desjarlais's request for an emergency debate on housing and houselessness in the House of Commons was denied by the Speaker. Desjarlais shared his speech on social media and said he will "continue to use all available tools to end this ongoing crisis." In his request, Desjarlais cited Edmonton city council's decision on Jan. 16 to declare a housing and homelessness emergency.
  • The Togather Chinatown Art Fair, a curated market showcasing community-minded, emerging, and marginalized local artists, is happening on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11 at the Edmonton Chinatown Multi-Cultural Centre. The market celebrates the Lunar New Year. The market's founder, artist and illustrator Emily Chu, said the event is a chance to showcase the artistic side of Chinatown, highlight community-building, and break stigmas about the area.
  • Red Bull is organizing the Red Bull Soapbox Race at Queen Elizabeth Park Road on June 22. The energy drink company calls the event, which tests both speed and design, "the world's craziest four-wheeled race" and is inviting "aspiring daredevils, engineers, and artists" to apply starting Jan. 29. Explore Edmonton expects the event will attract 25,000 to 30,000 people.
  • In a video posted to social media, Premier Danielle Smith unveiled sweeping policy changes related to gender identity, surgeries, sports, and education. The policies impact gender-affirming surgery, hormonal therapy, and puberty blockers. They will also require parental permission for students 15 and under to use their chosen pronouns or names at school, ban transgender women from participating in women's sports leagues, and require government approval to teach third-party material about gender and sexuality. The province is expected to provide more details at a Feb. 1 press conference. In response to the changes, Alberta Teachers' Association President Jason Schilling said teachers are "concerned about the chilling effect placed on classrooms and schools, impacting our ability to provide safe, caring and inclusive spaces for all students."
  • The province has launched a free online digital literacy program, which offers 19 self-guided courses at the beginner and intermediate levels for Albertans who want to develop basic digital literacy skills. The program is funded by the federal Skills for Success program.