Headlines: June 28, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Two of the three Alberta legislature fountains are set to reopen by July 1. The reflecting pool, north cascade fountains, and dome fountain, all built in the 1970s, have been closed since 2020 because of maintenance issues. This summer, the public will be able to wade in an updated reflecting pool and enjoy the dome fountain, which is designed to resemble the legislature's dome. A new spray park with a river feature should be ready by summer 2025, officials said.
  • The Edmonton Public School Board is planning to build 25 more lockable seclusion rooms in its schools despite promises to phase them out, drawing criticism from advocates for people with disabilities. Edmonton's 214 public schools could have 192 seclusion rooms by September, and the division already has 63% of the province's seclusion rooms while enrolling only 14% of Alberta's K-12 students, CBC reported. Data shows the number of students who both use the rooms voluntarily and who are confined involuntarily are rising. The NDP government banned seclusion rooms in 2019, but the UCP reversed the ban and introduced standards for seclusion and restraint.
  • University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola wrote an op-ed weighing in on tensions between city council and the Edmonton Police Commission. In recent weeks, the commission has drawn scrutiny for its refusal to share auditing information about the police service that council requested. Oriola wrote that the commission is on "legally tenuous grounds vis-à-vis its belligerence towards council" and suggested that some are "genuinely confused about their role" on the civilian-led oversight body.
  • Edmonton city council's decision to add a line in a district planning bylaw that addresses 15-minute city conspiracy theories could cause harm by "normalizing" conspiracy thinking, said University of Alberta professor and misinformation researcher Timothy Caulfield. Before council approved the first part of the district plan earlier this week, it added a line indicating the policy would not "restrict freedom of movement, association, and commerce." Coun. Andrew Knack said the move wouldn't change the minds of people who don't trust the government. The plan must be approved by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board before council can finalize it.
  • The Grindstone Theatre Society has secured exclusive management of two theatres at the Orange Hub, a City of Edmonton-owned centre running out of the former MacEwan University arts campus in Jasper Place. The society's three-year contract includes the 350-seat performance theatre and the flexible 60-90 seat Black Box theatre.
  • Nick Lees, a well-known Edmontonian columnist and philanthropist, died on June 24 at the age of 81. Lees spent nearly 50 years at the Edmonton Journal, where he gained a reputation for his lively writing on wide-ranging topics, including his penchant for adventures. One of his friends, Mark Scholz, appeared on CBC's Radio Active to remember the colourful stories that made Lees famous. Edify published a feature article on Lees in its January issue.
  • CBC's Radio Active spoke with Marta Buryn, director of water services distribution at EPCOR, to learn whether Edmonton is susceptible to water disruptions similar to Calgary's main water break on June 5. Coun. Tim Cartmell suggested shortly after the event that something similar could happen, but noted Edmonton has two water treatment plants and reservoirs across the city, giving it more connectivity and redundancy than Calgary.
  • The Edmonton Oilers confirmed that general manager Ken Holland will not be returning after his five-year contract runs out. Oilers CEO of hockey operations Jeff Jackson said Holland's departure was the plan all season, and the discussion was kept private during the playoffs to avoid distractions.
  • The Alberta government released its 2023-24 financial report, which shows the province ended the fiscal year with a $4.3-billion surplus. The UCP's plan remains using most of the surplus to pay off debt and investing some in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, which critics argue is inappropriate given the ongoing affordability crisis.
  • Strike action against WestJet that could have affected flights over the long weekend was averted after federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan issued binding arbitration between the airline and the union representing aircraft maintenance engineers. The union said it was told by its legal counsel that there is "no modern precedent for the minister's action." Prior to O'Regan's order, observers were predicting major disruptions to summer travel.
  • Alberta Innovates has appointed Michael Mahon as interim CEO following the departure of former CEO Laura Kilcrease earlier this week. Mahon has spent more than 35 years in Alberta and Manitoba's post-secondary sectors and was previously president of the University of Lethbridge. Alberta Innovates says it is undergoing a leadership transition as part of a "bold new strategic direction" and recently appointed five new people to its board of directors.