Headlines: Feb. 15, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Edmonton city council voted unanimously to send a proposed new public spaces bylaw back to administration for more research and revisions following hours of debate. The public hearing drew more than 50 speakers, the majority of whom opposed the changes, citing concerns such as punishing vulnerable people and introducing restrictions on protests. University of Alberta School of Public Health associate professor Elaine Hyshka questioned the introduction of fines for public drug use, saying evidence shows fines for minor drug offences don't deter use in public spaces. Supporters of the bylaw included Edmonton Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Griffiths and Downtown Business Association executive director Puneeta McBryan. Meanwhile, Taproot managing editor Tim Querengesser appeared on Alberta at Noon to discuss the proposed changes.
  • A few hundred Civic Services Union 52 members rallied outside city hall on Feb. 14 after members voted 91% in favour of a strike. Union president Lanny Chudyk said members are not "asking for the moon" and want a fair negotiated settlement that "does not impact taxpayers severely." Michelle Plouffe with the City of Edmonton said the city applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board to hold an employer proposal vote to "ensure every eligible union member can vote directly" on the city's offer of 7.25% over five years. Plouffe said this "extraordinary application" and other steps are being taken to minimize disruptions to city services. Political analysts note that CSU 52 has never before gone on strike, and it's common for parties to come close to a strike or lockout before reaching an agreement.
  • The Edmonton Downtown Business Association announced plans to bring back the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market, which will run outdoors on Saturdays along 104 Street from May to October this year. The market closed in January after struggling to survive inside its 97 Street building. "The overwhelming sentiment was that the community wants to see a downtown farmers market restored on 104 Street," said association director Puneeta McBryan, although she noted the outdoor market will be smaller than in the past, with limitations due to LRT construction in the area. Vendors have until March 15 to submit their applications.
  • GraceLife Church, an Edmonton-area congregation that made headlines during the COVID-19 pandemic for refusing to adhere to public health restrictions, is planning a major expansion of its facility in Parkland County, just west of Edmonton. The church wants to add 50,000 square feet, which would allow Sunday service capacity to rise from 800-900 people to 1,200-1,500 people. GraceLife needs to complete public engagement for its permit application to be reviewed. The church held an information session on Feb. 12, but the county has not yet issued a permit for the expansion.
  • BGCBigs is running a campaign to recruit 100 male mentors over 100 days. "We're posing this challenge to men in our community, specifically, because so many men have the capacity to be awesome mentors, but they don't even realize it," said Ian Amundson with BGCBigs. The organization has a waitlist of more than 700 young people looking for mentors, including 400 boys, who in some cases wait up to two years for a mentor. The campaign ends May 15.
  • The Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship at NAIT ran its 2024 Innovation Challenge, which invites student groups to develop creative solutions to problems identified by community partners. This year's challenge, which focused on how to accommodate Edmonton's ecological impact as it grows to two million people, drew its largest number of entries. The four winning entries are featured on NAIT's website.