Headlines: March 12, 2024

· The Pulse
  • About 5,000 City of Edmonton workers and 682 Edmonton Public Library employees represented by Civic Service Union 52 are preparing to walk off the job on March 14 after the union served strike notice. Negotiations between the city and the union reached an impasse in January over disagreements about wage increases and other working conditions. All public library branches will close from 11am on March 14 until further notice, and the job action will also impact various city services and facilities, including recreation centres. The potential for a strike comes as union members rejected the city's "best and final" offer, which included a 7.25% wage increase over four years from 2021 to 2025, which the union said was not enough to keep up with cost of living increases and inflation.
  • The City of Edmonton says it is preparing contingency plans as the potential for a strike by unionized city and Edmonton Public Library employees looms. "We are prepared to respond to the labour disruption, and contingency plans are in place to minimize service disruptions," city manager Andre Corbould said in a statement. The city has activated its Emergency Operations Centre and several front-line services will continue uninterrupted, including Emergency Fire Rescue Services, Edmonton Transit Service and DATS, construction on capital projects, snow clearing, and waste collection.
  • A new report from Edmonton Public Schools shows an increase in refugee students from Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan. As of Feb. 24, students from these three countries comprised 47% of the 1,567 displaced students in Edmonton's public schools. Students that qualify can access funding through a refugee student grant, which provides additional educational, social, and language support.
  • Queen Elizabeth High School in north Edmonton has introduced several measures to support Muslim students for the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. The supports were requested by the school's first Muslim Students Association, and include a drop-in room, a dedicated prayer room, and special accommodations during lunch and for prayers. The school will also host an iftar dinner on March 20 for teachers, students, and families to break their fast together.
  • MacEwan University kicked off its Pride Week with a campus march celebrating and showing solidarity with the LGBTQ2S+ community. The week-long event, themed "Queering the Future," features educational workshops, panels, drag shows, and other activities aimed at promoting inclusivity and combating homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. The celebrations run until March 15.
  • The province is committing $840 million over three years in the 2024 budget for 5,000 more affordable housing units. The funding includes more than $400 million for housing projects through the Affordable Housing Partnership Program and $75 million for the Indigenous Housing Capital Program to build homes for Indigenous people across Alberta. The 2024 budget also includes funding for seniors housing development and renewal, the province said, with ongoing projects aimed at improving housing accessibility and affordability.
  • Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is the latest candidate to enter the Alberta NDP leadership race. Nenshi said he is joining the race because of concerns over the leadership of Alberta's United Conservative Party government, which he called "not only incompetent," but also "immoral" and "dangerous." His entry into the leadership race to replace Rachel Notley raises the profile of the contest and could expand the NDP's support beyond its current Edmonton stronghold. Party members will elect a new leader on June 22.
  • A group of Albertans owed money from Edmonton developer Christenson Group of Companies after leaving so-called life leases have come together under the Alberta Life Lease Protection Society. President Karin Dowling said the society is meant to advocate for those owed money after leaving life-lease units, launch legal actions, and push for legislative changes. Life leases allow tenants, often seniors, to pay a lump sum up front, offering long-term housing stability. The Christenson Group said it is working on its refinancing efforts but has not provided a timeline for repayments. A spokesperson for the Alberta government said the province intends to introduce life lease legislation within weeks.
  • The Alberta government is implementing new temporary measures to update the province's electricity market rules based on recommendations from the Alberta Electric System Operator and the Alberta Market Surveillance Administrator. The changes are intended to help lower utility bills by addressing the practice of "economic withholding" by power generators, and are part of a broader effort to adapt Alberta's electricity system, originally designed for coal, to better accommodate natural gas and renewables.
  • The Alberta government and Indigenous leaders want to access $137 million in unused federal funding from the Site Rehabilitation Program to clean up inactive oil and gas sites in First Nations communities. The program has had clear economic and environmental benefits, said Chief Cody Thomas of Enoch Cree Nation, highlighting its role in land revitalization and job creation for Indigenous contractors. More than 1,824 inactive well sites have already been reclaimed.

Correction: This file has been updated to amend the number of Edmonton Public Library employees expected to go on strike on March 14.