The Pulse: May 26, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 17°C: Mainly cloudy. Clearing late in the afternoon. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High 17. (forecast)
  • 52%: The number of active cases in Alberta have declined 52% from the peak earlier this month. There are 12,078 cases, down from more than 25,000 on May 9. (details)
  • 62:07: Darnell Nurse logged more than 62 minutes of ice time on Monday, before racing home to Edmonton to witness the birth of his firstborn. (details)

'Not just for cities': EMRB task force recommends more active transit across the region

'Not just for cities': EMRB task force recommends more active transit across the region

By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring in the Regional Roundup

A proposed regional transportation plan suggests there should be more cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in small urban and rural areas, and between municipalities.

The Integrated Regional Transportation Master Plan (IRTMP) was developed by a task force set up by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) in 2019, along with a working group of outside consultants. On May 20, the task force met to discuss the final draft, which includes four objectives for transportation systems as the region's population grows.

The second objective is to "encourage a mode shift to transit, high occupancy vehicles, and active transportation modes as viable and attractive alternatives to private automobile travel," which will make the region more environmentally sustainable and increase the region's connectivity, according to the document. The main ways to reach this goal are to increase public investments in transit infrastructure, and disincentivize car travel by increasing car-related costs, such as parking.

Justin Laurie, a councillor for the Town of Stony Plain and member of the IRTMP task force, told Taproot that while conversations around active transit tend to focus on dense urban centres like Edmonton, the concept is growing in popularity in smaller municipalities like Stony Plain.

"Whether it's walking, cycling, or e-bikes — and those are becoming very popular — people are looking for options to utilize those modes of transportation," he said.

However, investments into active transit may be harder to sell to residents of small urban areas, since cars are still much more popular overall. The IRTMP notes that the City of Edmonton had more than twice the number of people who regularly commute by bicycle compared to the region as a whole, and substantially more who commute by walking, according to City of Edmonton survey results from 2015.

Laurie is confident that investing in the infrastructure first will encourage active transit down the line.

"Options aren't used until they're available," he said, adding that a commuter bus service introduced between Spruce Grove and Edmonton a few years ago originally saw extremely low-ridership, but is now regularly at full capacity.

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By Michelle Ferguson Michelle Ferguson

  • Three deaths in a downtown park over the weekend have renewed calls for a coordinated emergency response to the city's growing overdose crisis. Overdose deaths in Edmonton and surrounding area nearly doubled in 2020 — from 267 in 2019 to 485 last year.
  • Wayne Gretzky stepped down from his role as vice chairman of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, citing the pandemic and other life changes. Shortly after the announcement, the New York Post reported that Gretzky was joining Turner Network Television (TNT) as a lead analyst.
  • Edmonton Public Schools expects to cut more than 400 full-time position next year — the majority teaching positions. The extra staff were hired for COVID-19 with $38.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, which aren't being renewed, reports the Edmonton Journal.
  • The Edmonton Police Service has created a new specialized unit that focuses on repeat offenders. The new branch, called Diversion and Desistance, will see police and social workers working with up to 65 offenders at a time with the goal of keeping them out of the criminal justice system.
  • Edmonton property owners will receive their 2021 property tax notices shortly. The city is waiving the 2% administration fee to sign up for the monthly payment plan. For the first time in two decades, there is a 0% tax increase, reports the Edmonton Journal.
  • The city's proposed tree permit system received heavy pushback from utility companies and infill developers on Tuesday. While the company supports a bylaw to protect the city's tree, Epcor estimated that the new permit process would require 8,000 permits and cost thousands of dollars a year.
  • South Asian Albertans, including Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, are excited to see former city councillor Amarjeet Sohi run for mayor, reports the CBC. Edmonton has never elected a non-white mayor.
  • The province is expected to unveil its reopening plan at a press conference this morning. Doctors are cautioning against easing public health measures too quickly.
New initiative launches to showcase Alberta as a major hub for medical research

New initiative launches to showcase Alberta as a major hub for medical research

By Hiba Kamal-Choufi Hiba Kamal-Choufi in the Health Innovation Roundup

Alberta Innovates has launched a new initiative to attract world-class clinical trials to the province and establish Alberta as a major destination for medical research and innovation in North America.

Clinical Trials Alberta (CTA) is a collaborative effort between academic institutions, government, and healthcare delivery organizations. Tammy Mah-Fraser, executive director of health platforms at Alberta Innovates, said the new initiative will tell the world that the province is open for business.

"Alberta is an innovation hub and we want to continue to attract research and innovation to bring the world's latest therapies to improve patients' outcomes," Mah-Fraser told Taproot.

"CTA helps attract new methods, ideas, and products to Alberta that will diversify our economy and grow the health industry. Alberta has the perfect environment to conduct clinical trials."

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Coming up at council: May 26-28, 2021

Coming up at council: May 26-28, 2021

By Mack Male Mack Male

Here are some of the notable agenda items coming before city council this week:

  • A proposed one-time COVID-19 Impact Operating Grant for The Orange Hub would make up to $180,000 available to support organizations within the hub that have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic. At least four organizations have told the city they are in urgent financial need and another five have stated federal supports are not sufficient.
  • Replacing the pedestrian bridge over 170 Street is projected to cost as much as $8 million, which would include contributions of up to $2 million each from Alberta Health Services and West Edmonton Mall. A funding request will be considered as part of the spring 2021 supplemental capital budget adjustment.
  • In an update on Living Hope: A Community Plan to Prevent Suicide in Edmonton administration says implementation is "proceeding well" but will be extended to March 2022 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Council previously approved $422,900 for implementation activities.
  • Administration recommends $10.37 million in grant funding for four proposed affordable housing developments that will result in 124 new units. The report suggests that the investment would leverage a total of $67.9 million in construction value.
  • The city is looking to renew its agreement with Google for productivity and cloud platform services for $9.6 million over five years. The city has used Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) since 2013.
  • Explore Edmonton has agreed to fund an exploration of the viability of adapting the Edmonton Expo Centre for use as a sport venue, and will provide $77,250 to retain the services of Incite Strategy Management for the project.
  • The $1.14 million annual decrease to the weed control program approved by council last fall will result in reduced manual shrub maintenance and potentially increased use of herbicides.

Meetings are streamed live on city council's YouTube channel.

Photo of The Orange Hub courtesy of Arts Habitat Edmonton.