Headlines: March 5, 2024

· The Pulse
  • RCMP have laid terrorism-related charges against Bezhani Sarvar in connection with a Jan. 23 attack at Edmonton city hall. The 28-year-old security guard is charged with counselling commission of a terrorism offence and possession of property for terrorist purposes, the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team announced on March 4. Sarvar is also facing nine criminal charges in connection with the attack. No one was physically injured in the incident and the city has since begun work to repair bullet holes and damages caused by a Molotov cocktail lobbed in the atrium. A security assessment is also underway and Postmedia reporter Lauren Boothby posted online that the city has since installed metal detectors in the building's lobby. Speaking at a separate news conference, National Defence Minister Bill Blair said there is a "high threshold" to lay terrorism charges, calling it a "very serious matter."
  • Canadian Forces Base Edmonton is receiving a $45.3 million federal investment for infrastructure upgrades aimed at enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability, National Defence Minister Bill Blair announced. The project will upgrade 124 buildings, reducing energy costs by 21% and helping to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The work is expected to create 125 jobs and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2026.
  • Several car wash operators told Edmonton's utility committee that they were unfairly targeted by EPCOR's ban on non-essential water use after an equipment failure at the E.L. Smith water treatment plant. Several businesses are seeking compensation because the ban caused them to lose money, adding they were not told how EPCOR determined which businesses were considered non-essential. EPCOR representatives were at the March 4 meeting to provide an update on the incident, which was caused when water leaked into an underground electrical vault after a seal failed.
  • The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness expressed its disappointment with the 2024 Alberta budget, saying it provides insufficient funding for housing and is "evidence the government does not have a commitment to the human right to adequate housing." Despite previous calls for significant investment in social housing, the budget provides only half of the requested $600 million for the year, the coalition said. The budget also cuts funding for Income Support and homelessness outreach, which will further exacerbate the housing crisis in Edmonton and across the province, the coalition added.
  • Edmonton's commercial real estate market is expected to improve in 2024, thanks in part to industrial growth and reduced office space vacancy. Mid-sized investment deals are also expected to drive recovery, according to Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE). Building owners will need to ensure they have the right amenities to attract and retain tenants, said CBRE's Dave Young, adding he has "renewed optimism in the province."
  • Businesses in Edmonton that used a free Google service to create simple websites will have their sites shut down as of March 5 after the tech company announced it would discontinue the tool. The websites, which end in "business.site," will instead redirect to the companies' Google profiles, but only until June 10. Serengeti BBQ owner Edmond Ndira said the restaurant will make a new website but said he gets many customers through word of mouth, social media, and dining events. Edmonton-based digital marketing company Whitespark is offering a service to help businesses replace their Google sites, and has already had 350 sign-ups.
  • Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools are welcoming the $2.1 billion investment over three years for new schools allocated in the 2024 Alberta budget, but are emphasizing the need for rapid construction to meet student enrolment growth. The funding will support 43 new school projects, including a new public school for grades 7 to 12 in Glenridding Heights, and the construction of four new Catholic K to 9 schools in Heritage Valley Cavanagh, Rundle, Crystallina Nera, and Hays Ridge.
  • Edmonton was recognized as "maybe the most forward-thinking city for housing reform in North America" in the latest episode of Oh the Urbanity! Edmonton's efforts to increase infill housing and build affordable and energy efficient developments were highlighted, along with the city's recent zoning changes to encourage more density.