The Pulse: March 16, 2022

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  • 8°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning. High 8. Wind chill minus 6 in the morning. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • 1,001: There are 1,001 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 70 in intensive care. Alberta reported four more deaths on March 15. (details)
  • 7-5: The Oilers (33-23-4) defeated the Detroit Red Wings (24-29-7) at Rogers Place. (details)

A map of Edmonton with lots of red patches around the edges, representing the loss of vegetation between 1999 and 2020

Edmonton's disappearing green space needs replacing as the climate heats up

By Emily Rendell-Watson

Edmonton is steadily losing its urban green space, making the city significantly hotter than the surrounding area as temperatures rise due to climate change.

Research by the University of Alberta's Sandeep Agrawal and Nilusha Welegedara has found that between 1999 and 2020, Edmonton lost 15% of its vegetation. The loss is particularly evident in the northern parts of the city, where there is less river valley land and fewer ravines.

This is directly connected to the rise of the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon that occurs when cities replace land with surfaces that absorb and retain heat.

"(Urban heat island spots) correspond with more parking lots, more big box stores, and less trees. Most of the decreases in vegetation have occurred in newly built neighbourhoods because ... vegetation was removed for concrete and roads and things of that nature," said Agrawal, who is the director of the U of A's school of urban and regional planning.

Those changes to the landscape have contributed to summer temperatures that are six to 12 degrees Celsius higher in the city than in surrounding rural areas. Agrawal's research also found that winter temperatures over the 21-year period were up between two and six degrees. While it will be difficult to recover all the vegetation that has been lost, it's important to try to bring some back, Agrawal said.

"The loss of green space and the corresponding rise in the urban heat island effect is entirely due to human activity and urbanization," he explained. "We have seen the heat waves of the last couple of years and the intensity of that is increasing. It is imperative that we think about things that we can manage."

One way to combat the urban heat island effect is to plant more trees. The City of Edmonton has committed to adding two million trees by 2050, a move that's in line with the City Plan and the community energy transition strategy. So far, just over 54,000 have been planted since the goal was approved in December 2020, a city spokesperson said.

Another way is to protect existing trees. A bylaw that accounts for trees on city-owned land will come into effect at the beginning of May, but there is no current protection for trees on private property, though city council has asked administration to provide a report on tools that could be used to that end.

It's important because "even compared to the river valley, private trees make up much more of our urban forest than any other component," said Dustin Bajer, founder of Shrubscriber, a social enterprise that enlists members to fund trees for schools and community groups to plant.

Toronto protects both public and private trees, and Vancouver has a similar bylaw in place.

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By Mack Male

  • The federal government has announced $24 million through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund to build the Heritage Flats housing project in southwest Edmonton. Slated for completion this fall, the project will create 102 homes for Enoch Cree Nation members. The city is contributing a capital grant of nearly $5.6 million.
  • Housing starts in Edmonton declined 16% year-over-year in February, according to new data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The seasonally adjusted decrease from January to February was smaller at just 10%. Home sales were up in Edmonton last month, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
  • According to the latest rent report from, Edmonton is among the most affordable cities in Canada, with average rent for a one-bedroom of $1,038 compared to the national average of $1,473.
  • About 300 people filled out a Postmedia survey on affordability in Edmonton with utility bills emerging as the most common major cost pressure cited, followed closely by food. "Participants also shared details of their lives, helping to put a compelling human face to the issue of affordability," wrote Keith Gerein.
  • "Once known as The Gateway to the North, Edmonton is a place people like to leave — or, at the very least, pass through on their way to somewhere else. Many of the photos I take reflect that, the motels, gas stations, drive-thru restaurants," wrote local photographer Shawna Lemay in her recent piece for CBC's The Henday Project, an initiative to explore Edmonton's suburbs through first-person stories.
  • The provincial government is investing $25 million in operating funding and $47 million in capital funding over the next three years to support charter schools. "Public charter schools play an important role in Alberta's education system by offering unique programming to students," said Adriana LaGrange, minister of education. Edmonton Public Schools board chair Trisha Estabrooks was among the many disappointed by the funding. "I think it's an experiment, quite frankly, that's run its course," she said. "I would like to see the end of publicly funded charter schools."
  • According to a new Angus Reid Institute survey, Albertans are the least likely in Canada to support continued health measures such as indoor masking, vaccine passports, or mandatory COVID-19 testing.
  • Brian Jean, former leader of the Wildrose Party, has won the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche byelection.
A newspaper clipping with the headline "City history gets mixed treatment from council"

A moment in history: March 16, 1978

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1978, Edmonton's city council was considering a plea from the Edmonton Voters Association to save the rail station at 109 Street and Jasper Avenue from demolition.

The early days of Edmonton saw a handful of railways competing for passengers and freight. The Calgary and Edmonton Railway was built in 1891, but it didn't cross the North Saskatchewan River, ending its service in Strathcona. When Canadian Pacific bought the line, it knew that it would be missing out on business if it remained south of the river — indeed, the Canadian National Railway built a station at 104 Avenue and 101 Street when it arrived in 1905, spurring the creation of the warehouse district. To connect to Edmonton's booming downtown, the CPR would need a station. And a bridge to get to it.

Construction of the High Level Bridge and the Jasper Avenue station was completed in 1913. The station was two storeys tall and made of reinforced concrete, with a ticket office, a waiting area, dining, a smoking room, and an area for newly arrived immigrants. The area around the station became a tangle of railway and streetcar tracks, and a bridge extended over Jasper Avenue to allow trains to head south unimpeded.

Then an economic depression hit, worsened by the outbreak of First World War a year later. Nevertheless, the CPR survived while many competitors went bankrupt or were nationalized. The Jasper Avenue station remained busy as a significant departure point for young men headed east before going overseas to fight in Europe. And it continued to be a vital part of the CPR network through the 1920s as grain exports grew, and more passengers arrived to visit or stay.

The station remained open until 1972 when CPR ended passenger service north of the river. Despite pleas of the Edmonton Voters Association and other like-minded people, the station was demolished in 1978. Tracks were torn up to make way for new development and roadways. The railway bridge that spanned Jasper Avenue was taken apart in 1992 and shipped to Fort Edmonton Park.

A grocery store and shopping centre now stand on 109th and Jasper. Still, some reminders of the rail hub remain: multi-use paths extend north and south along the old rail right-of-way. The historic Edmonton streetcar uses some of the CPR's old rail infrastructure to run between Old Strathcona and downtown. And anyone travelling along Jasper Avenue has experienced the dip in the road from when the street used to duck under the old rail bridge.

The futile fight to save the 109 Street station in the '70s might seem familiar. Questions remain on how much should be done — and how much spent — to protect the city's historic buildings. To remember what has already disappeared, check out 305 Lost Buildings of Canada, illustrated by expat Raymond Biesinger, which includes 21 Edmonton places that were dismantled, burnt down, or otherwise destroyed.

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.