The Pulse: Feb. 15, 2022

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

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  • -5°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of flurries early in the morning. Local blowing snow in the morning. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. High minus 5. Wind chill near minus 14. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • 1,528: There are 1,528 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 127 in intensive care. Alberta reported another 35 deaths on Feb. 14. (details)
  • 3-0: The Oilers (25-18-3) defeated the Sharks (22-21-4). (details)
  • 8:30pm The Oilers will play the Kings (24-16-7) in Los Angeles. (details)

A view at the construction of new residential towers in downtown Edmonton in 2014

Planner sees need for 'granular' projects to build downtown population

By Emily Rendell-Watson

The latest census shows that Edmonton is one of a handful of Canadian cities to see a decline in its downtown population between 2016 and 2021. The decrease is surprising, says urban planner Neal LaMontagne, but he doesn't think it is necessarily a sign that the city is headed in the wrong direction.

"I see a lot of really wonderful green shoots in downtown. But I think it's an indication that it's not easy. Downtown Edmonton is behind the curve for Canadian cities," he told Taproot in response to the 1.1% population decline at a time when the census metropolitan area's total population grew by 7.3%. "It will catch up, I believe. But it's really difficult."

For the purposes of the census, Statistics Canada defines downtown Edmonton as roughly bounded by 111 Avenue to the north and the river to the south, more or less between 123 Street to the west and 82 Street to the east. In addition to the central core, it includes neighbourhoods like Oliver, Queen Mary Park, Boyle-McCauley, and Riverdale.

But Downtown Edmonton Community League president Chris Buyze told CTV News Edmonton that those borders aren't indicative of downtown population growth because the core boundaries are "97 Street to 109 Street and 97 Avenue to 105 Avenue," arguing that within those boundaries the population has gone up 17.5% in the last five years.

LaMontagne, who moved to Edmonton from Vancouver last fall, said regardless, there needs to be a focus on building up the neighbourhoods that border the core of the city, more "granular" projects, and getting people onto the streets.

"It's having places to go: bars, restaurants, art galleries, bookshops — this stuff is everyday life," he said, adding that when there's enough of those amenities, people will pay a space or cost premium to be at the heart of the action.

That's where the University of Alberta lecturer thinks the city needs to improve, instead of "trying to do these home-run things" like the Ice District or Churchill Square.

"(Edmonton) has not been building up that fine-grain stuff that actually drives downtown. And it's starting to, that's why I think it's early stages ... 104th Street is a much better thing than almost anything that's happened downtown," he said.

LaMontagne said if the city continues to improve in that realm, it would also encourage the neighbourhoods bordering the core to take advantage of downtown amenities in the evening, when the bustle created by office workers during the day is quiet.

Continue reading


By Mack Male and Doug Johnson

  • The formation of an independent, community-led anti-racism group was endorsed by city council's community and public services committee on Monday. The city is asking for $2 million to start working on the strategy which originated with the first motion of the current term. The plan will go to council for approval next week.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he met with police chief Dale McFee and Edmonton Police Commission chair John McDougall on Monday night to discuss community concerns related to Saturday's protest. "They assured me they are listening to your concerns and keeping everyone's safety and wellbeing at the forefront as we navigate through these trying times," Sohi tweeted.
  • Felicia Mutheardy, a corporate economist with the city, said she doesn't expect the spread of the Omicron to have as dramatic of an effect on the local economy as previous waves. Last November, the city's economic forecast saw signs of recovery, and this year Edmonton is expected to see gross domestic product growth of nearly 8% and a return to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Edmonton police are warning Edmontonians about cryptocurrency investment scams spreading over dating services. The police's cybercrime investigations unit identified 87 cases (including ones that didn't happen over dating apps) in 2021 — in all, this represented a total of $5.29 million.
  • Two motorcyclists were handed $2,000 fines after admitting to careless driving — having sped through traffic only seconds before the death of another rider in their group. In 2019, a 31-year-old man who was part of the group of three motorcyclists died after his motorcycle collided with an SUV on the Anthony Henday.
  • An Alberta judge rejected an emergency injunction against the province's decision to lift the mask mandate in schools, though the court battle is expected to continue. Premier Jason Kenney said that the move — made by the Alberta Federation of Labour and parents — was just a political stunt.
  • Jason Tetro, an expert in infectious diseases and author of The Germ Files, said that Alberta's plan to open the province up and remove COVID-19 restrictions is three weeks too early. "I would much rather wait that little bit of extra time, than go back and Groundhog Day what we did in the summer, when thought we were having the best summer ever and instead we all ended up getting locked up," he told CBC News.
  • The City of Edmonton sent a Wordle valentine to the City of Calgary yesterday. On each line, the post showed a different five-letter word (such as 'Jyoti,' and 'tower') before landing on 'adore.'
Cover art featuring "Daveberta" followed by the Alberta coat of arms

Podcast pick: The Daveberta Podcast

By Karen Unland

After five years of commenting on Alberta politics, The Daveberta Podcast is going on "semi-permanent hiatus." The show signed off on Feb. 14 with one last episode, which reverted to the show's original premise: "Two friends of different political leanings actually talk about politics without yelling at each other," as host Dave Cournoyer put it. "You may disagree, but it doesn't necessarily mean you need to fight to the death in every single conversation."

Ryan Hastman, the right-leaning member of the original cast, left the podcast in 2019 to work for the newly elected UCP government. The left-leaning Cournoyer has been a constant since 2017, as well as producer Adam Rozenhart, who would chime in from time to time, especially for the show's popular segments featuring listener questions.

The finale also features an interview with Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita. "You bring a very steady voice, one that's very considerate," Morishita said. "If more of us took on that role, in all pieces of political discourse ... we would be far better served."

Cournoyer's time as a political commentator both predates and will outlast the podcast, as he has been blogging at since 2005 and said he plans to continue, perhaps even popping up on the podcast feed again.

The Daveberta Podcast was named the outstanding news and current affairs series at the 2020 Canadian Podcast Awards, and has been a member of the Alberta Podcast Network (which was started by your correspondent) since 2018.

You can listen to this and other podcast picks from Taproot on Listen Notes.