The Pulse: March 9, 2022

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  • -7°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of flurries early in the morning. Clearing late in the afternoon. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High minus 7. Wind chill minus 21 in the morning and minus 12 in the afternoon. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • 1,106: There are 1,106 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 77 in intensive care. Alberta reported 7 new deaths on March 8. (details)
  • 6pm: The Oilers (30-23-4) will play the Washington Capitals (30-18-9) at Rogers Place. (details)

A parked, yellow, photo radar vehicle marked DRIVE SAFE, flying an orange and yellow caution flag

As photo radar revenues decline, council to decide how to pick up the costs

By Emily Rendell-Watson

Edmonton's traffic safety automated enforcement reserve is facing a projected deficit as photo radar revenues decline, says Jessica Lamarre, director of the city's Safe Mobility Strategy.

That means city council will have to make some difficult decisions this year about how to fund what photo radar tickets pay for, namely the city's Vision Zero program, police traffic services, and capital projects like school safety and safe crossings.

In 2020, the city brought in $49.5 million in automated enforcement revenue, of which it spent $46.3 million. Just over $22 million went to the Edmonton Police Service, $15.8 million helped run Vision Zero, $2.9 million was dedicated to the Community Facility Partner Capital Grant Program, and $5.3 million went to capital projects.

That amount is down from 2019, which saw $56.8 million in revenue go to the city from photo radar, but it's not as low as the $29.1 million that's projected for 2021 (which is what's expected to be collected long-term based on actual issued fines last year).

Lamarre said her team plans to discuss the deficit with council in May — an early conversation that will help inform budget deliberations at the end of the year.

"They're going to have to think about their different funding mechanisms for the work and how they want to prioritize it — whether that's changing who receives funding from the reserve, or what kinds of things receive funding," Lamarre explained. "Some of it may need to come from the tax levy instead of from the reserve itself, or they may not want to continue some work."

One area where council may look to reduce spending is in the portion of the reserve funding that goes to police. Over the past four years, the EPS has received $22.3 million from the reserve each year (which Lamarre said is built into the police funding formula). That number doesn't change as revenues fluctuate over the budget cycle, but it could be up for debate as council decides how to tackle this challenge.

Lamarre's team could also be at risk, but she said she isn't too concerned as council seems "very committed and passionate to Vision Zero and Safe Mobility."

She added that it's important that the work her team is responsible for continues to grow, so it can update infrastructure as well as the way that the city's mobility network operates to protect all modes of transportation.

"We obviously need to be thinking about a shift from a city that was very much built with vehicles in mind to a city that's built for people," she said.

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By Mack Male

  • The provincial government has introduced Bill 4 which would amend the Municipal Government Act to limit the authority of municipalities to pass bylaws related to mask-wearing or proof-of-vaccination. "If (municipalities) want to require local businesses to force their customers to wear masks, they will need permission from the minister of municipal affairs," McIver said. Under the proposed legislation, municipalities could still require masks at city-operated locations.
  • Hours later, city council voted 8-5 to repeal the Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings bylaw. Councillors Michael Janz, Erin Rutherford, Ashley Salvador, Anne Stevenson, and Jo-Anne Wright were opposed. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he voted to repeal the mask bylaw because of Bill 4. "Not repealing it and keeping it will be more of a performative act, not a substantive act to actually protect people because we won't have that ability," Sohi said. "We are treated like kids by the province. So, it's a really sad day."
  • Following the repeal of Edmonton's mask bylaw, two subsequent motions for new bylaws were also passed. One would require mask-wearing on public transit and in city facilities, while the other would be similar to the repealed bylaw but would be submitted to the province for approval per the requirements of Bill 4 (which has not yet taken effect). Councillor Andrew Knack, who brought forward the latter motion, said exploring every option is warranted. "Getting back to normal is never going to happen," he said. "Our normal from two years ago is not going to be the normal going forward." Both bylaws are slated to come back to city council for consideration next week.
  • Edmonton Catholic Schools announced on International Women's Day that washrooms from Grades 4 and up "will soon be equipped with dispensers for free period products and disposal receptacles" to support efforts to strengthen equity in schools. "No student should have to skip class or feel embarrassed because they cannot access period products," said board chair Sandra Palazzo. The initiative is estimated to cost $300,000.
  • The Edmonton Queer History Project has launched its new interactive website, walking tours, and podcast series. A new map marks 27 historically-significant landmarks. The first episode of the From Here To Queer podcast features Michael Phair. "We want young people to be able to learn this history," he told CTV News. "To be able to understand that the rights and the privileges that they enjoy today as queer young people were only here because of the brave and courageous people who fought for them."
  • 95.7 CRUZ FM's Pam Kirby and 102.3 NOW! Radio's Raj Dhami are the last two late-night radio hosts in Edmonton, Postmedia reports.
A newspaper clipping headlined "Government House Possible Museum"

A moment in history: March 9, 1944

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1944, Alberta's leaders were talking about turning Government House into a provincial museum. If the idea had come to fruition, it would have been another in a long list of different roles the building has played over its controversial history.

In 1910, Alberta was a young province, riding high on a financial boom. Little expense was spared when it approved the construction of an official residence for the province's lieutenant-governor. A.M. Jeffers, the chief architect of the recently completed Legislature Building, oversaw the mansion's construction. It was set on 28 acres of land in Glenora, overlooking the river valley. The brick building was finished in sandstone brought up from Calgary and worked by stonemasons brought over from Scotland.

When Government House opened in 1913, the reception brought hundreds of guests from around the city and across the province. But it wouldn't be long before the lavish mansion and its expensive furnishings would become a point of contention. As the province's economy slowed down during the First World War, the costs associated with Government House became a frequent target for opposition politicians, newspaper editorials, and angry citizens.

Six lieutenant governors made their homes in Government House from 1913 until 1938, when Premier William Aberhart closed down the building following a heated political showdown with Lt.-Gov. John Campbell Bowen. (Bowen had to move his family into a hotel after being booted out.)

Government House sat vacant until 1942, when it was leased to North West Airlines, which handled much of the cargo delivery to Alaska during the Second World War. Government House served as an office for the airline and a dorm for U.S. airmen stationed in Edmonton. As part of the lease, the furniture was emptied out and auctioned off — an act that the government is still trying to undo to this day.

While there was some talk of turning Government House into a provincial museum, it would remain tied to the war effort for a couple more decades. Later in 1944, the federal government converted it into a hospital to treat those wounded overseas. Once the war was over, it served as a veterans' home until it returned to the province in 1964.

Government House then underwent extensive renovations and repairs. At the same time, that long-awaited Alberta Provincial Museum (later the Royal Alberta Museum) was built just a few hundred metres away marking the country's centennial in 1967. Now the RAM has moved downtown, and there are no clear plans for what will happen to the Glenora building.

Government House persists, however. While no longer a viceregal residence, it is where new cabinet members are sworn in, and it serves as the meeting place for the governing party before each legislative session. It is also a frequent greeting place for foreign leaders and other visiting dignitaries. The building was declared a provincial historic resource in 1985 and a national historic site in 2013 Alberta's newest artist-in-residence, Aeris Osborne, recently announced that Government House would be included in a series of paintings celebrating the province's heritage houses.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.