Headlines: March 22, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee told reporters that there have been no encampment-related deaths since the province opened its downtown navigation centre and police began an encampment crackdown in January. McFee also said addressing overdoses, encampments, and crime requires going beyond "one-dimensional" approaches. Advocates have told Taproot that the province's navigation centre and the frequency of encampment removals has led to "abject misery" for many and cut vulnerable people off from support systems.
  • Data from Alberta Justice shows the number of deaths among homeless Edmontonians has increased significantly in recent years, from 37 in 2019 to 302 in 2023. The size of the homeless population also doubled during the pandemic, reaching 1,390 in late 2019 and 2,868 as of January this year, according to Homeward Trust.
  • The City of Edmonton is facing a "once-in-a-generation" cost to replace a third of its LRT fleet, and at the same time lacks funds to replace hundreds of aging diesel buses. A total of 37 LRT cars have been approved for replacement, over five years, at a cost of $240 million. However, the current capital budget includes funding to replace only 22 buses, instead of the 322 that need to be replaced, council's urban planning committee heard this week. One opportunity for council is an expected pot of federal funding for permanent public transit, which will be available in 2026-2027, but it's unclear how much Edmonton could receive. Council will get a detailed briefing on options in May. Meanwhile, the city continues to seek $82 million in damages from the bankrupt American electric vehicle manufacturer Proterra.
  • The owners of the Edmonton Riverboat, formerly called the Edmonton Queen, announced that the vessel is up for sale, although the asking price and sale timeline are unclear. The 210-tonne, 52-metre paddlewheeler has been hosting special events and river valley cruises since 1995 and has changed hands multiple times. The boat was renamed and underwent significant renovations under current ownership, which acquired it in 2016 for $553,000.
  • Three security guards were injured at the Stanley A. Milner Library just after 5pm on March 19. Library officials say the guards sustained minor cuts as they tried to remove a knife-wielding man from the building. Police have not released any information on charges.
  • Edmonton Global CEO Malcolm Bruce met with Strathcona County council this month as part of a listening tour to gather concerns from member municipalities that are considering leaving the regional development agency. Councillors questioned Edmonton Global's communication, the value of an external board beyond the county's own economic development staff, and funds Edmonton Global spent on the 2022 Forward Slash event. "We sometimes are more transactional and not treating them as a partner as much as we should be, and that includes information sharing," said Bruce. "It's not working as well as it needs to, and I take that point."
  • An opinion piece in the LGBTQ-focused publication Xtra Magazine suggests that Westlock's ban on Pride crosswalks is likely to inspire similar actions across Alberta. "It does not go unnoticed that as soon as one conservative government at a provincial or municipal level decides that it's okay to attack queer and trans people, no matter how they dress it up, it creates a permission structure for others to follow suit," wrote journalist Dale Smith. After Westlock's Feb. 22 plebiscite, a similar proposition came before Drumheller council, which affirmed its support for the LGBTQ community after hearing opposition to the idea from residents and organizations.

Correction: This file has been updated to reflect that while the City of Edmonton needs to replace 37 LRT cars and 322 buses, which is more than is currently budgeted for, it is not necessarily in a position to have to choose between LRT cars or buses.

Correction: This file has been updated to reflect that three security guards attempting to remove a man from the Stanley A. Milner Library were cut rather than stabbed in a March 19 incident.