The Pulse: June 27, 2022

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

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Essentials

  • 17°C: Mainly cloudy with 60% chance of showers. High 17. UV index 5 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 2-4: The Edmonton Oil Kings were eliminated from the Memorial Cup on Friday by the Hamilton Bulldogs. (details)
  • 23-30: The Edmonton Elks lost to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday. (details)
  • Yellow: The High Level Bridge will be lit yellow for Pollinator Week. (details)

A young man dances in an art gallery, while others watch

Young artists gather to explore climate change and just transition


By Brett McKay

While more people are aware of the reality of climate change than ever before, for many it remains a remote concept. But art can engage people emotionally where the fact-and-figure heavy warnings about the present ecological crisis may fail to connect, say young artists working on climate action.

"Through creative means, we can tap into people in a different way," said Maren Kathleen Elliott at a symposium called Young Arts and Culture for Systems Change at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts on June 26. "Popular culture, popular opinion, and how the public is feeling about issues is so shaped by the media that we consume: the books we read, the podcast, the show, the documentary."

Art can also break through the despair that can be paralyzing, she suggested.

"This dichotomy between wallowing and taking action, I wonder if they're not separate things but just stages that we go through," she said. "If we shut ourselves off from those emotions, there's a numbing effect. And if we just pretend everything is fine, that doesn't lead to action. There's a balance between honouring the weight of it and honouring the reality of it, and being open to the issues around climate change and climate justice or injustice."

The symposium brought together young artists and culture workers to share art and performance focused on climate change, and to talk about how their disciplines can be used to engage people in the push for a just and equitable energy transition. Alongside Elliott, the panel included Emele Neufeld, Breanna Barrington, Jason Romero, and Riley Tenove, who work in a range of mediums and represent various cultural perspectives, but were unified in using their work to process the emotional burden of looming ecological collapse that saddles younger generations.

"You care about the environment. Horrible things are happening. Should I sit and wallow? Or should I try and do something?" said multimedia artist Barrington. She said she has been trying to use her own work as an advertisement for aligned local initiatives doing environmental work, such as Shrubscriber, which provides free trees for schools and community projects.

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Headlines


By Mack Male

  • Edmonton is on track to beat its all-time rainfall record for June, having received more than 150 mm of rain so far this month, said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada. But July and August could be hotter than average. "I think psychologically, this month has been a bit of a downer but I would say everything is looking up," he told CBC News.
  • Integrity commissioner Jamie Pytel is once again investigating a code of conduct complaint against Coun. Michael Janz, Postmedia reports. "Mr. Janz has an open agenda of hate towards the Edmonton Police Service. This is clearly evident throughout his posts on Twitter," the complaint states. Janz said he thinks there is a "concerted effort to try and silence me and to erroneously paint me as some sort of anti-police radical, which couldn't be further from the truth."
  • The city has announced the launch of this year's Anti-Racism Grants Program — initiated by the Anti-Racism Advisory Committee — with total funding of $300,000 available to support work and initiatives that raise awareness about racism and its impacts.
  • PrideFest returned to Churchill Square this weekend, the first major Pride event since concerns around diversity and the inclusion of police officers were raised four years ago. Organizers expected 10,000 people to attend and are already working on next year's event. "I don't want to announce that quite yet, but we are working on something that starts with the letter P that goes down the street, but I can't say what it is," said executive producer Trevor Watson.
  • Edmonton's hotel occupancy hit 53% in April for the first time since 2019, but a lack of international travellers is slowing the recovery, Explore Edmonton CEO Traci Bednard told CBC News. "They're the folks that stay the longest and also spend the most money," she said.
  • Plans to revamp the Rossdale neighbourhood could take 10-15 years to build, depending on economic conditions. The area is defined as a priority growth area in the City Plan, according to Avril McCalla, a senior policy advisor at the City of Edmonton.
  • The city held a grand opening for Blatchford on Saturday and said that the 52 parcels of land it has developed so far have been sold or sales are pending. Earlier this month city council unanimously requested a progress update, due back by the end of September, on the project.
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Cover art for Speaking Municipally, featuring a cartoon turnip in front of Edmonton's City Hall

City considers small-scale encampments after earlier rejection


By Karen Unland

On Episode 184 of Speaking Municipally, Troy Pavlek and Mack Male take a look at the city's possible change of heart on letting houseless people live in encampments.

When the idea first came to council in April, administration advised against sanctioning encampments, warning of problems with safety, sanitation, and conflicts with neighbours. In May, council approved a funding increase of $860,000 for its encampment response, on top of the $2.7 million budget, to deal with the expected surge in people living outside.

Coun. Anne Stevenson of Ward O-day'min then brought forward a motion asking administration to look into a pilot for one or more small-scale encampments, which council approved 11-2 on June 20.

"Her argument here is that the current response really just leads to the cycle where encampments start up, the city goes and moves them or takes them down, and then they come back," Male said on the podcast. "This idea of sanctioning them is not to allow them to be permanent, not to allow them to grow exceptionally large, but to help mitigate this Whack-a-Mole system that we currently treat encampments with."

During the 2021 election campaign, Taproot asked candidates how the city should address encampments, based on the policy at the time to slowly dismantle encampments deemed to be low-risk by connecting inhabitants with services and to more quickly dismantle those deemed to be high-risk. Here's how the winning candidates answered:

  • "The current policy towards encampments is acceptable." — Amarjeet Sohi, Aaron Paquette, Andrew Knack, Tim Cartmell, Sarah Hamilton, Jo-Anne Wright
  • "Encampments should be allowed if there are no better housing options available." — Keren Tang, Ashley Salvador, Michael Janz
  • "Encampments should be dismantled immediately." — Jennifer Rice
  • No position or did not answer — Erin Rutherford, Karen Principe, Anne Stevenson

Speaking Municipally also looked at new information on affordable housing, "the most important tool in the toolkit for dealing with homelessness," as Pavlek put it. The good news is that the city is on track to exceed its affordable housing targets. The bad news is that without continued investment and renewal of operator agreements, Edmonton is at risk of losing many of its 14,837 existing units.

They also talked about a proposal from Janz to introduce a "mansion tax", the long-awaited and still-not-here opening of the Valley Line Southeast LRT, and the outcome of several issues related to the police: following up on the community safety plan presented to the province, figuring out funding for the Healthy Streets Operations Centre in Chinatown, and filling the Edmonton Police Commission's empty seats. Hear it all on the June 24 episode.

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Minister Josephine Pon and Tribal Chiefs Ventures Inc. celebrate the grand opening of eight new affordable housing units

Coming up at council: June 27-July 1, 2022


By Mack Male

This is city council's final committee week before the summer break. The community and public services committee will meet on Monday and executive committee will meet on Wednesday.

  • By the end of the year, the city projects it will have created approximately 2,843 units of affordable housing since approving the Affordable Housing Investment Plan in 2018. Administration has developed three scenarios for the updated Affordable Housing Investment Plan for 2023-2026 to build and refurbish 2,400 to 3,500 units. The required financial contribution from the city ranges from $163.4 million to $246.4 million.
  • Administration's proposed approach for snow and ice control — to be implemented over three years — promises a faster response to weather events, a 45.2% improvement on the completion of blading residential roads to a five-centimetre snowpack, and better clearing around public squares, paved pathways in parks and playgrounds, and residential driveway openings and curb cuts. If approved, the updated approach would cost $9.5 million for the rest of 2022, and would have a total budget of $89.9 million in 2023, $104.7 million in 2024, and $111.5 million in 2025, for a total estimated tax increase of 3.1% from 2023 to 2026.
  • Hangar 14, which is the only remaining "double wide, double long" hangar in Canada, is currently leased by the Alberta Aviation Museum. The building requires extensive rehabilitation in the next five years, which administration estimates will cost at least $41 million. Given the high cost and other challenges, a City of Edmonton-led rehabilitation is not being considered. Administration's recommendation is to sell the building.
  • The development of an after-hours response system and the designation of a "Night Mayor" are among the options for council to consider to further support the hospitality and entertainment industry.
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Fireworks over the High Level Bridge, lit up with red and white for Canada Day

Coming up this week: June 27-July 1, 2022


By Debbi Serafinchon

This week, you can learn about growing a health innovation company or building a more socially and environmentally sustainable Edmonton; find a mentor or connect with women who are engineers, designers, and product managers; take in a documentary about a business leader; or mark Canada's birthday.

Find even more listings in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: A fireworks display at 11 pm is scheduled to cap off a day of Canada Day activities at various venues throughout the city. (Mack Male/Flickr)

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