The Pulse: Aug. 18, 2021

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

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  • 23°C: Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h in the afternoon. High 23. (forecast)
  • Oct. 13: The Oilers will face the Vancouver Canucks in the 2021-22 season opener on Oct. 13 at 8pm. (details)
  • 142 St.: The 142 Street access to Yellowhead Trail will permanently close on Wednesday as the Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion Program continues. (details)

Park and ride in Edmonton

Transportation priorities approved for Edmonton region

By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring in the Regional Roundup

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) has identified highway widening, park and ride, and consolidating the region's transit networks among its top transportation priorities in 2021.

The EMRB voted unanimously to approve a list of transportation project priorities on Aug. 12. The list contains 149 road and transit projects which are sorted into those that are ready for construction, ready for design, and ready for planning, and then grouped into top, medium, and lower priorities.

Gale Katchur, the mayor of Fort Saskatchewan and chair of the task force that designed the EMRB's transportation master plan, told Taproot the list will serve as a resource for the provincial government when deciding where to allocate funds.

"The province can accept this and say 'when we need to do upgrades to road systems, these are the priorities based on the criteria that these 13 municipalities have agreed to,'" she said.

The majority of the projects listed have to do with roads, mainly involving adding lanes to existing highways and arterial roads. Nine of the 28 projects listed as top priorities are upgrades to Anthony Henday Drive or adjacent sections of highway.

Katchur said that focusing on upgrading existing infrastructure is more efficient than building new infrastructure, in terms of cost and land use.

"If you have a new highway being built, all of a sudden there is a demand to put new highway commercial (zones) against it. With that, you have more urban sprawl," she said. "We're trying to be as compact and efficient as we can."

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By Michelle Ferguson Michelle Ferguson

  • The University of Alberta won't mandate vaccination, but will require students, faculty and staff who are not fully vaccinated to undergo regular rapid testing when classes resume in September. The university will also require masks in indoor areas, where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Elective orthopedic surgeries at the Royal Alexandra Hospital were suspended for three days, starting Monday, due to staff shortages. Fifty-three patients will have to reschedule their procedures. An internal email said the staffing problem has been going on for months and warned that more disruptions could occur throughout August.
  • The City of Edmonton won't be hosting any public election forums. A longstanding tradition, Aileen Giesbrecht, the city clerk and returning officer for Edmonton Elections, said it wasn't worth the cost to taxpayers. Mayoral candidate Kim Krushell called the decision undemocratic.
  • Advocates and police say that Edmonton's new anti-harassment bylaw is well-intentioned, but will not stop hate in Edmonton. Advocates say the city needs to consult affected communities, while Michael Elliott, president of the Edmonton Police Association, says the city should focus on education. A report from city staff notes that no additional funding or resources are being used to implement the bylaw.
  • The Kapawe'no First Nation has begun work on assessing the site of the Grouard Residential School. The first nation will be working with the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta. The residential school in Grouard, located around 400 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, operated from 1894 to 1957.
  • Edmonton is the first city in western Canada to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index). The GDS-Index will allow the city to track its environmental sustainability as a tourism destination.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank and City Farm have teamed up once again to provide fresh produce to vulnerable Edmontonians. The pilot project, started in summer 2020, has harvested and delivered more than 25,000 pounds to the food bank so far this year.
  • Edmonton writer Omar Mouallem will explore the history of the popular, independently-owned fast-food chain Burger Baron in a new documentary.
The Walterdale Bridge in Edmonton's river valley

Municipal election rundown: Aug. 18, 2021

By Andy Trussler Andy Trussler

Every week in the lead-up to Edmonton's municipal election on Oct. 18, we're rounding up the news and announcements you need to know to stay informed.

Policies and profiles

  • Mayoral candidate Kim Krushell released her downtown strategy which guarantees support for downtown employers, a free-fare transit zone from Government Centre to Churchill Square, diverse residential options, and more.
  • Mayoral candidate Amarjeet Sohi posted his plans to combat climate change if elected. Some promises include building on the clean energy improvement program and working with the development industry to promote green building and net-zero standards.
  • Mayoral candidate Michael Oshry published a blog post in response to Amarjeet Sohi's plan to designate the river valley as a national park. Oshry called the proposal "a disaster for our residents and our city," and instead pointed to his policy to develop West Rossdale as an option that would "significantly expand river valley access" and "be done hand in hand with our Indigenous communities."
  • Columnist Keith Gerein corresponded with mayoral candidate Mike Nickel, who has yet to participate in any debates, via email. Nickel responded to most but not all of Gerein's inquiries, notably leaving questions about sharing misleading information, a lack of respect from colleagues, and voting to approve council's code of conduct, unanswered.
  • The Canadian Home Builder's Association shared O-day'min candidate Gabrielle Battiste's responses to its survey on housing where she outlined her thoughts on infill development, market-affordable housing, and the residential construction industry.
  • Emil Tiedemann shared new candidate profiles of O-day'min's Joshua Wolchanksy, Anirniq's Bev Esslinger, and sipiwiyiniwak's Sarah Hamilton.

Candidate forums

  • Eight of the invited ten mayoral candidates — Mike Nickel and Augustine Marah did not make an appearance — spoke at the Ladies Corner Canada Media (LCCM) forum on Aug. 13. Ward forums for Sspomitapi and tastawiyiniwak also took place, with more to come.
  • The Philippine Media Association's mayoral forum saw those same candidates answer questions on traffic cameras, homelessness and the opioid crisis, and the city's economic recovery. Postmedia shared a recap of the event.
  • The Alberta Enterprise Group is hosting a forum on Sept. 8 to engage mayoral candidates on "policy that supports Alberta entrepreneurs' ability to create and grow jobs, the economy and the province."

A list of all of the candidates who have announced they are running in the Edmonton municipal election is available here.

Learn more about Taproot's effort to ground our election coverage in what is important to Edmontonians on our People's Agenda page.

Photo: Nicole McFatridge/Instagram

Dr. Mahdi Tavakoli

U of A health researchers awarded $4.8 million in innovation funding

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

The University of Alberta has been awarded a total of $4.8 million for 23 health research projects through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Mahdi Tavakoli, who directs the Telerobotic and Biorobotic Systems Group at the U of A, has received $130,695 for his research focused on the use of mobile robotics for continuity of health-care service delivery during and following COVID-19.

"Access to and delivery of health care as an essential service must be enhanced to better deal with COVID-19 and other future pandemics," Tavakoli told Taproot.

"Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence hold the key to the robust delivery of health-care services to allow for continuous access to health care while minimizing the risk of transmission of infectious diseases," he said. "Any further experience we gain with doing robot-assisted patient evaluation, assistance, and imaging in clinics, health-care facilities, long-term care homes, and patient homes will be useful not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but also during future pandemics."

Tavakoli said the funding would help to demonstrate the practical benefits of using robots in health care. He hopes his research will enhance "both the capacity and the resilience of the Canadian health-care system."

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