Headlines: March 19, 2024

· The Pulse
  • The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, a cornerstone of the city's arts scene for more than four decades, has launched a community appeal as significant financial pressures threaten its future. The Sustain Fringe fundraising campaign is calling for increased support through donations, sponsorships, and volunteering. Executive Director Megan Dart highlighted the festival's struggle with rising expenses, stagnant municipal and provincial funding, and reduced federal grants. The provincial government said it plans to meet with organizers to discuss needs. This year's festival is scheduled to run from Aug. 15 to 25 in the Old Strathcona area.
  • Creating an advisory committee and action plan to develop an LGBTQ+ safe and inclusive public spaces strategy in Edmonton would cost between $170,000 and $410,000, according to a report presented to council's community and public services committee on March 18. The LGBTQ+ community has reported an increase in hate incidents both in Edmonton and nationally, representing an opportunity for the city to "reinforce safety and foster inclusion," the report says. Despite budget concerns, the committee passed a motion to increase the social development branch's budget by $155,000 for 2024 to fund an engagement plan for the strategy and one full-time position to support the initiative.
  • The City of Edmonton is seeking public feedback on three potential LRT seating layouts for 53 new trains intended for the Capital and Metro lines. The new trains would replace nearly half of the current fleet and accommodate service growth. The deadline for feedback is March 19, with safety, accessibility, comfort, and capacity the primary considerations. The city plans make a final decision and order the trains by June. They're expected to come into service within five years.
  • As Edmonton Fire Rescue Services faces an 82% increase in medical call responses since 2018, a new report to council's community and public services committee has put forward measures to reduce the strain. The report suggests the service shift to only responding to life-threatening emergencies and investing in a specialized fleet truck for medical calls. However, Edmonton Fire Fighters' Union president Greg Rehman said the measures are not enough to deal with a growing demand for service as the city's population expands.
  • The City of Edmonton marked National Transit Operator and Worker Appreciation Day on March 18 to recognize the efforts of Edmonton Transit Service operators and staff who "strive to provide riders with safe, convenient and reliable transit service that keeps Edmonton moving." Online, the city profiled Hicham Fazry, who became a transit operator in 2016 after befriending another operator.
  • Edmonton's Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) is among three Canadian organizations sharing $2.7 million in grant funding through google.org to support AI research, Google Canada announced. The funding will support an Amii project focused on deploying autonomous, modular water treatment systems in underserved communities. Amii CEO Cam Linke emphasized the importance of AI in tackling pressing global issues. "We want to continue to invest in ways for it to have a positive impact," Linke said.
  • Rent increases in Edmonton are the highest in the nation, according to a new report from Rentals.ca, which found new listings in the city are increasing by an average of 17%. While the increases are the highest, the average rent costs are still lower than the national average, said Giacamo Ladas of Rentals.ca. The increases are attributed to a spike in Edmonton's population, which grew by more than 100,000 in two years, leading to a vacancy rate of 2.4%.
  • The city's Transforming Edmonton blog highlighted the role of the Problem Property Initiative in the demolition of a long-standing derelict property in the Parkdale community. The demolition is part of Edmonton's ongoing strategy to tackle properties that pose serious safety concerns and generate frequent complaints. The city has also launched a newsletter to provide updates on problem properties.
  • Edmonton Fire Rescue Services reminded residents to keep pets leashed near potentially dangerous waters after two Good Samaritans rescued Edmonton woman Wanda Wielgan's dog from the North Saskatchewan River at Dawson Park on the weekend. "It just kind of reinstates my faith in humankind that there still are kind and generous humans out there that would risk their own lives to help even an animal," Wielgan said.
  • The Alberta government introduced new legislation to help protect people who enter into life lease contracts, which provide long-term housing stability in exchange for a lump-sum paid up front and lower monthly payments. The changes come as a group of seniors and their families continue to face long wait times to have their investments returned by the Christenson Group of Companies after vacating their life lease properties. The new legislation would give property management companies 180 days to return funds when a contract ends, but would not be retroactive, meaning the those currently waiting for their money would not be helped. Karin Dowling of the Alberta Life Lease Protection Society called it a "slap in the face," adding the group was blindsided by the legislation.
  • The Edmonton Elks announced new additions to their coaching staff, including the return of Jason Shivers as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach. Shivers, who played a role in the team's 2015 Grey Cup victory, returns after a stint with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Elks also welcomed Markus Klund, Albert Poree, Nate O'Neal, and Takoby Cofield to their coaching staff.
  • The University of Alberta Golden Bears men's volleyball team won the U Sports national championship on the weekend, defeating the Université de Sherbrooke Vert & Or 3-2. It was the team's second title in three seasons. Meanwhile, the University of Alberta Pandas took home silver in the U Sports women's volleyball championship, losing 3-1 to the UBC Thunderbirds.