Headlines: March 13, 2024

· The Pulse
  • With more than 5,000 members of Civic Service Union 52 ready to strike as of 11am on March 14, the City of Edmonton is telling residents to plan and prepare for service disruptions and some facility closures. All recreation, sport, and leisure centres will be closed to the public with some exceptions, and all drop-in and registered programs at parks, attractions, and arts and heritage facilities will be cancelled. Business permitting and licensing will be paused, along with several inspection services. Essential services such as Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, Edmonton Transit Service, and waste collection will continue with minimal impact. The Edmonton Public Library announced all 21 branches will close, suspending all programs and extending due dates without late fees, while the Edmonton Police Service will temporarily suspend public-facing services like police information checks.
  • Civic Service Union 52 president Lanny Chudyk met with Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi on March 13, but said the parties are no closer to reaching a deal. "The city continues to be unwilling to negotiate," Chudyk said. "The mayor can keep his head in the sand all he wants and wish the two parties would get together – but that directive comes from him." On the same day, Sohi and the rest of council released a joint statement saying the city's offer, which includes a 7.25% wage increase over five years, is a "fair and equitable deal" for both union members and "Edmontonians, who are facing their own affordability pressures." Alberta Jobs Minister Matt Jones said the province is monitoring the labour dispute closely.
  • Edmonton city council compensation is increasing by 2.41% in 2024, with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's base salary rising from $211,488 last year to $216,585, ranking him among Canada's highest-paid mayors. Councillors' base salaries are $122,363 in 2024, up from $119,484 in 2023. Council compensation is determined by a regulatory mechanism set by a council policy that was last reviewed in 2020. When asked by Postmedia about his salary, considering the city's financial challenges, Sohi said elected officials don't set their own pay. "What we get paid should be determined by an independent body of experts and community members. That's exactly what happened here," he said.
  • The City of Edmonton has paused plans for a hydrogen fuelling station for city buses and private vehicles because the demand for hydrogen has changed, but a spokesperson said it will revisit the project when there is more "clarity and consistent demand". Despite the pause, two municipal hydrogen pilot projects are still moving forward, including testing on a hydrogen-fuelled bus. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the city is committed to exploring hydrogen technology but will do so cautiously, in light of past challenges with electric buses.
  • Edmonton has completed a new solar photovoltaic installation at the Commonwealth Recreation Centre, featuring 1,128 panels expected to significantly offset the facility's energy needs. The project, which began operations in March and received $340,000 in funding from the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, aims to produce 708 MWh of energy in its first year. A dozen city facilities now have solar photovoltaic installations in operation.
  • Const. Dustin Adsett of the Edmonton Police Service is on trial for allegedly assaulting a man with a Taser during a March 2021 arrest, after responding to a call about a man pointing bear spray at officers. Adsett, who has pleaded not guilty, testified that when he arrived at the scene, he was shocked to see another officer, Const. Oli Olason, with his boot on the man's head. Adsett said he assumed the tactic was in response to Olason being bear sprayed, which informed his choice to use the Taser. Olason, who resigned from the police service in late 2021, is set to stand trial in May 2025.
  • The Edmonton Police Service released footage of a cave shelter in the river valley inhabited by a person experiencing homelessness. Police said the cave was purposely dug to provide shelter and was discovered on Feb. 21 to have collapsed. It is now fenced off and police said its occupant was taken to the navigation and support centre the province opened in January.
  • The Winspear Centre in Edmonton is set to receive $12.8 million in funding from the 2024 provincial budget for its expansion project that aims to enhance the venue with a new 550-seat acoustic performance venue, community spaces, music studios, and classrooms. The project, expected to create about 350 jobs, is aimed to be complete in 2025.
  • The Alberta government introduced a new Alberta is Calling program offering a $5,000 refundable tax credit to attract 2,000 skilled tradespeople to the province in 2024. The province says the effort is intended to address workforce shortages in sectors such as construction and infrastructure, but critics say the effort falls short of promises to attract health and childcare workers the United Conservative Party made in the last election. Finance Minister Nate Horner also proposed amendments to expand the province's film and television tax credit program.