The Pulse: May 30, 2022

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

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Essentials

  • 17°C: Cloudy with 30% chance of showers early in the morning. Clearing in the morning. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 17. (forecast)
  • 30-20: The Edmonton Elks defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in pre-season play on May 27. (details)
  • 84-71: The Edmonton Stingers defeated the Saskatchewan Rattlers on May 29, following a 74-86 loss to the Niagara River Lions on May 27. (details)

Tyler Shandro stands in a suit in front of an LRT station, holding papers

Return of loitering bylaw looms amid response to transit safety concerns


By Karen Unland

A proposed bylaw amendment beefs up the definition of "inappropriate behaviours" on Edmonton Transit Service property in an effort to improve both safety and the perception of such on the transit system.

Bylaw 19983 would amend the existing bylaw governing the conduct of transit passengers to explicitly prohibit remaining on transit property while engaging in behaviours other than the use of transit, as well as prohibiting the visible use of controlled substances.

The amendment amounts to the reintroduction of a loitering bylaw, tweeted lawyer Chris Wiebe, which could lead to excessive ticketing of unhoused people.

"Reintroducing the loitering bylaw does not solve these problems," Troy Pavlek said on Episode 180 of Speaking Municipally, Taproot's civic affairs podcast. "Of course, we know what solves these problems. It's housing. It's social supports."

As council heard last week, the scope of the problem is significant. In 2021, transit peace officers responded to 52,000 calls, a little over 1.5% of which required a call to the Edmonton Police Service for further support. In the past six weeks, security guards have deployed Naloxone 52 times in transit facilities.

"That's at least a time a day, basically, of a transit security guard having to administer life-saving medication to someone who is potentially succumbing to drug poisoning or overdose, which highlights sort of the intensity of this problem, but also the ill-defined scope of this problem," Pavlek said, noting that we tend to think of the transit peace officer's job description as one of enforcing fares or keeping people's feet off the seats, not "This station is a supervised consumption site. Let's make sure no one dies."

And yet, the response from the province, which has both the spending power and the responsibility for housing and health care, is to insist the city spend more on police, as Justice Minister Tyler Shandro suggested when he invoked the Police Act to request a public safety plan to be delivered within two weeks. Council spent considerable time on Friday discussing a response to Shandro's request.

"These problems are ostensibly solved by getting provincial help. And now the provincial government is saying you have not solved these yet, therefore we're going to increase police funding, of all things," Pavlek said. "It's a very frustrating cyclical situation where it feels like we're not learning anything nor progressing."

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Headlines: May 30, 2022


By Karen Unland

  • About 300 people gathered at City Hall on May 28 to call for more security in Chinatown in response to the violent deaths of Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang. "Before these murders, everybody was afraid. We are angry now," Wen Wang of the Chinatown Business Improvement Area said at the "Rally for Safety in Chinatown." Michael Lee of the Chinese Benevolent Association said the community needs hope. "We see homelessness, we see food insecurity, we see health problems, and we see the degradation of poverty," he said. "But worst of all we see hopelessness, we see despair." Police Chief Dale McFee attended the rally and promised quick action. "We have a lot of resources now. We just need to align them," he said.
  • A provincial court judge stayed charges against a man who was zapped with a Taser five times as he climbed a fence to get away. Judge Olugbenga Shoyele ruled that the Edmonton police officer broke policy when he deployed his stun gun on the fleeing man, saying "It appears to me that the Taser was deployed out of frustration." The man had been charged with being unlawfully in a dwelling house and obstructing a peace officer after the incident in June 2021 near Whyte Avenue and 110 Street. Staying the charges was necessary, Shoyele wrote, because the "state conduct here, as described, risks undermining the integrity of the judicial process."
  • The daughter of a man who died with two friends in Kinistinâw Park a year ago is still waiting for the autopsy report to confirm what killed her father. Clifford Mitchell, Jason Bush, and Michael Dion were found in cardiac arrest at the park at 96 Street and 103 Avenue and could not be revived with Narcan. Naomi Johnson told Postmedia it was a surprise to hear carfentanil was found in Mitchell's system, since he was not known to use opioids.
  • Edmonton Public Schools is planning to eliminate about 250 jobs while expecting 2,800 more students next year, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer supports for students with additional needs. Provincial funding has not kept up with enrolment growth, said board chair Trisha Estabrooks after trustees approved a $1.2 billion budget. Last week, Edmonton Catholic Schools approved a $528 million budget that adds 10 new teaching positions, with enrolment growth expected to be essentially flat, CBC reported.
  • As the Edmonton Oilers prepare to meet the Colorado Avalanche in Round 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs starting May 31, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek will attend her June 7 council meeting in blue and orange, having lost her bet with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. She and fellow councillors will also be donating to the Kids with Cancer Society. Tsuut'ina Nation Chief Roy Whitney and Canadian men's soccer player Sam Adekugbe will also be donating to charity after losing their respective bets with Enoch Cree Nation's Billy Morin and soccer star Alphonso Davies. Meanwhile, Los Lobos has offered to play La Bamba live if the Oilers go all the way, buoyed by Joey Moss's favourite song, which has become an anthem for the team.
  • The Edmonton Oil Kings will play for the WHL Championship against either the Kamloops Blazers or the Seattle Thunderbirds. Unlike the Oilers, the Oil Kings will have home-ice advantage — Game 1 is at Rogers Place on June 3.
  • The Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden is coming to life again on some previously vacant lots at 107 Avenue and 110 Street. The sanctuary is the result of a partnership between Native Counselling Services of Alberta, which works with healing lodges to tend the garden; Alberta Retina Consultants, which owns the land and provides fencing and water; and the city, which has provided grants for landscaping and infrastructure. "It's gone from a really big eyesore to a beautiful location," Chad Bolster of the Stan Daniels Healing Centre told CBC.
  • The federal and provincial governments will be spending $20 million to repair and reimagine the water features, walkways, and decking at the Alberta legislature. Construction is expected to be complete by summer of 2024. The fountains have been turned off for two summers because of leaks that threatened the safety of the pedway and tunnels below.
  • Edmonton and Saskatoon are likely to be among the first Canadian cities to face the invasion of wild boars, warns a University of Saskatchewan researcher. The feral pigs have been spotted in at least 28 rural municipalities and counties, including Lamont in northeastern Alberta, and they are mobile enough to expand to urban areas, Ryan Brook of the Canada Wild Pig Research Project told CBC.
  • A street in Beverly has been renamed Cheremosh Way in honour of Cheremosh, a Ukrainian dance company that has contributed to the local arts scene for more than 50 years.
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Traffic barriers with a "road closed" sign at the intersection of 102 Avenue and 102 Street

Coming up at council: May 30-June 3, 2022


By Mack Male

Community and public services committee is scheduled to meet on May 30, urban planning committee on May 31, and executive committee on June 1. Here are some of the key items on the agenda:

  • 102 Avenue downtown alongside the Valley Line Southeast LRT has "potential as a car-free mobility space" but administration cautions there are many constraints, such as the introduction of dead ends, limited access to nearby parkades, and potential traffic delays elsewhere during peak times. Urban planning committee will consider options including short-term temporary closures and a one-year pilot closure. Coun. Anne Stevenson said the idea could attract people to downtown businesses and envisions a "pedestrian-centric heart" that includes 104 Street, Rice Howard Way, and Churchill Square.
  • Sharp declines in photo radar revenue over the past few years will result in the Traffic Safety Automated Enforcement Reserve (TSAER) ending 2022 with a $9.1 million deficit. Revenue projections for 2023-2026 suggest the reserve will be unable to fund both Vision Zero traffic projects and the current level of funding transferred to the Edmonton Police Service. Administration suggests either reducing programs and services to match available funding or finding alternative funding sources to make up the difference.
  • The proposed Sidewalk Maintenance Strategy framework would supplement neighbourhood renewal and other existing maintenance programs to define a high priority sidewalk network that "prioritizes the most vital accessibility corridors." The program would unfold over three phases throughout the rest of the year. Administration estimates 78.3 kilometres of sidewalks might qualify for the program with an estimated cost of $20 million to repair.
  • The Edmonton Arts Council reports in an update on the Connections & Exchanges arts and heritage plan that 2021 was "a significant year for public art in Edmonton." Thanks to the addition of 14 new works last year there are now 283 pieces in the public art collection, with another 30 projects in progress.
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Menu board and front counter at Growlery Beer Company

Coming up this week: May 30-June 3, 2022


By Debbi Serafinchon

This week offers the opportunity to hear Rachel Notley's vision, cheer on the Oilers in the first game of the Western Conference finals, celebrate the start of NextFest, learn about a local brewery, and salute the city's top communicators.

Find even more listings in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce's next Meet the Maker networking event is at the Growlery Beer Company. (The Growlery Beer Co.)

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