On the agenda: Wîhkwêntôwin, esports, airport link

Council is back to meeting but will do so virtually. This shift follows a week when the city cancelled all public meetings in the wake of the Jan. 23 attack on city hall. The building will be closed to the public indefinitely.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 5, an urban planning committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 6, and an executive committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 7.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • Councillors have the opportunity to move the Oliver neighbourhood's proposed new name, Wîhkwêntôwin ᐄᐧᐦᑫᐧᐣᑑᐃᐧᐣ, closer to being official at an executive committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 7. Wîhkwêntôwin, pronounced we-kwen-to-win, means "circle of friends" in nêhiyawêwin, or Cree. The city introduced a new policy in 2021 that allows communities to request to rename if the namesake's views do not reflect equity and inclusion. If a community wants to rename a neighbourhood or a significant asset, the new name must be approved by the naming committee, which is made up of citizen volunteers. If executive committee approves the Wîhkwêntôwin name on Feb. 7, it will move on to city council for final approval.
  • Game Con Canada has chosen the Edmonton Expo Centre as its venue from 2024 to 2026. A city report suggests the event could see up to 34,000 attendees who are passionate about video games and esports. The report, to be examined at the Feb. 7 executive committee meeting, outlines several ways Edmonton could advance the Alberta Esports Strategy, and attract major gaming events and investments, with one being to create a city-wide esports working group. Stakeholders said a more formalized structure to support esports is needed.
  • The Edmonton International Airport and the Edmonton Downtown Business Association support creating a direct bus link between the region's international airport and downtown Edmonton, according to a report due at a Feb. 6 urban planning committee meeting. Edmonton's council requested administration to explore cost-sharing options, as it declined to fund the service during its budget deliberations in December 2022. No organizations have formally committed to a cost-sharing model. The report said the proposed service would cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million, depending on frequency, with an upfront capital cost of between $10 million and $30 million. The city said council would need to approve funding for the route as there is no money for it in the budget. Route 747 currently runs between Century Park Transit Centre and YEG. The proposed new service would supplement the 747 route, the city said. The new route could attract more conference goers and boost the economic potential of the airport and downtown. A route could also support those who live and work near the airport, as the majority of 747 bus passengers are "regular riders" who likely work at YEG or the Premium Outlet Collection Edmonton International Airport, the city said.
Five men stand beside an Edmonton Transit Service bus.

City councillors at the 2012 launch of Route 747, the city's first-ever bus to the airport. A new bus route from downtown to the airport is up for discussion this week at council committee meetings. (Edmonton Transit Service/Facebook)

Here are some other agenda items:

  • Explore Edmonton owes about $1.35 million in unpaid taxes on a property it rented in the Edmonton Research and Development Park. Though the province owns the research park and is therefore exempt from taxes, other parties that lease buildings become responsible for paying taxes. According to a report, Explore Edmonton did not pay taxes on the building in 2021 and 2022 because it assumed it was tax-exempt. Non-profits must apply for tax-exempt status, but the city said the property was being subleased to for-profit businesses and therefore likely would not have been eligible for tax exemption. Administration said Explore Edmonton does not qualify for the city's retroactive municipal tax relief, but that council can choose to cancel or refund municipal taxes in this case.
  • Community and public services committee is circling back to discuss turf and horticulture service levels. Councillors first received a report on Jan. 15 that outlined how the city is unable to mow grass and pull weeds to service-level targets due to a reduced budget. At that meeting, Coun. Jennifer Rice introduced a motion on behalf of Mayor Amarjeet Sohi that would have administration prepare a funded service package for the spring operating budget adjustment to return service levels to what they were in 2019, as well as an unfunded service package for consideration at the fall operating budget adjustment. The motion was not put to a vote, but discussion is scheduled to resume at a committee meeting on Feb. 5.
  • Councillors are set to revisit a report on closed and shared streets downtown at the urban planning committee meeting on Feb. 6. This discussion was postponed in both December and January. The city said it is working to create the conditions for car-free spaces and is looking for more opportunities for temporary city-supported closures in priority areas like Rice Howard Way and 104 Street. Postponed from the same two meetings is a report on how on-demand transit could be co-mingled with Dedicated Accessible Transit Service for efficiency.

Meetings stream live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.