The Pulse: May 2, 2022

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

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  • 2°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming northeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High 12. (forecast)
  • 7am: Eid al-Fitr celebrations will be held this morning to mark the end of Ramadan; police are expecting heavy traffic near the Edmonton Islamic Academy until 10:30am. (details)
  • 8pm: The Oilers will play the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place in Game 1 of their first round playoff series. (details)

A screenshot of Paula Simons delivering her speech from home

Edmonton senator seeks more money and power for municipalities

By Karen Unland

Canada's "upside-down and backwards" government structure denies municipalities the power and the money to deal with the big problems that land on their doorstep, says Sen. Paula Simons.

Cities are on the front line of public health, immigration and refugee settlement, the effects of climate change, and the work of reconciliation, she told Episode 176 of Speaking Municipally, but they are "the children and sometimes the stepchildren of their provincial governments" with few ways to raise money aside from property taxes.

"All of the major issues that our country faces are being tackled at the municipal level," said Simons, a former journalist who was appointed to the Senate in 2018. "So why don't our municipal leaders have the tools, the flexibility, the funding, to actually do that work?"

A constitutional amendment is "nigh on impossible," but she said she is doing what she can by making a Senate inquiry on the challenges and opportunities of Canadian municipalities.

"I'm not sure that there is a piece of legislation that I could draft that would solve these problems," she said, noting the incremental and indirect nature of any kind of work in the Senate. "But I think what I can do is do my own small part to put these issues on the public agenda."

The idea is to get eight to 10 other senators from across the country to speak to the issues facing municipalities, which may lead to a deeper study.

"Every municipality, large and small, faces the same quandary. They don't have the taxing powers that they need to have. They are very much beholden and need to come cap in hand to the province. And they have this funny relationship with the federal government in which there is often federal funding, a pot of money here, a program there ... but there's always that provincial government running interference in the middle."

Some areas are in federal jurisdiction and thus easier for municipalities to lobby for. Edmonton has already taken a step in that direction by asking for an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that would decriminalize simple personal possession of illegal drugs, which is part of its harm reduction strategy. Other potential wins may be found in Indigenous relations and immigration, Simons suggested.

Continue reading


By Karen Unland and Mack Male

  • Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) announced $6.7 million in funding for 27 community-led infrastructure projects across Edmonton on April 29. Among the projects funded are $750,000 for improved pedestrian areas near Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard, $375,000 to revitalize the Central LRT Station at 100 Street, and $300,000 for the Downtown Business Association to transform two alleyways into community gathering spaces. Another $164,760 for the Valley Zoo Development Society will be used to refurbish the zoo's antique carousel and make it operational year-round.
  • Developers speaking at a NAIOP Edmonton event on multifamily housing said Edmonton could soon see a boom in multifamily housing projects. "We're actually already seeing quite a bit of demand increasing from the consumer for multifamily," said Rohit Gupta, CEO of the Rohit Group of Companies.
  • Expanded sidewalks will not be returning to Whyte Avenue this summer, but the Old Strathcona Business Association is working on ways to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, association chair Kris Armitage told CTV. He said 60 outdoor dining areas are opening in the coming weeks, and the vacancy rate has dropped back to normal levels.
  • Retired lawyer Deb Miller, who teaches law at the University of Alberta, says she will no longer identify herself as a Queen's Counsel to protest the UCP government's decision not to grant the honour to Moira Vane, a longtime prosecutor and law society bencher with ties to the NDP.
  • The Race-Pace Swim Club, which serves Ukrainian youth in Edmonton, is having a hard time getting affiliated with Swim Alberta, which makes it difficult to book pool time and impossible to race in swim meets. Officials told CBC there is room on other competitive swim teams for the swimmers, but members of the club want to stay with Race-Pace because of its coaching and cultural ties.
  • An Edmonton man is looking for the strangers who saved him when he went into anaphylactic shock during a run through the river valley on April 25. David Poretti was running through McKinnon Ravine when he fell ill, probably because of an allergic reaction to nuts. Two cyclists helped him contact 911, and a woman walking by used her EpiPen on him, he told CBC.
A photographer gets a shot of mascot Hunter (a person dressed as a lynx) with a T-shirt in his mouth

Coming up this week: May 2-6, 2022

By Karen Unland

This week's calendar includes two home playoff games for the Edmonton Oilers against the L.A. Kings, with free festivities outside of Rogers Place. There are also sessions on business marketing and a new accelerator for startups, an opportunity to learn about birds, and a celebration of immigrant accomplishments.

Find even more listings in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: Hunter will join fans in ICE District Plaza during the Oilers' home playoff games. (Mack Male/Flickr)