The Pulse: Nov. 1, 2022

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

Want this in your inbox? Sign up to get The Pulse by email. It's free!


  • 4°C: Mainly cloudy. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 4. Wind chill minus 8 in the morning. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Grey/Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit grey and blue for Acromegaly Awareness Day. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (6-3-0) play the Nashville Predators (3-5-1) at Rogers Place. (details)

A community garden plot in Edmonton. A sign reads "Water Me."

Urban farmers see need for more productive regulatory environment

By Brett McKay

A decade after the adoption of its food and urban agriculture strategy, Edmonton has made it easier for people to grow food for themselves, but it has a long way to go to enable the kind of agriculture that allows farmers to feed others, advocates say.

The city's high-level strategy on these matters, called fresh, came into being in 2012 with a vision to create "a resilient food and agriculture system." Now a decade in, some urban farmers say policy changes haven't addressed the major hurdles keeping people from making full use of the fertile land in the city.

"Urban agriculture, should be, from a policy standpoint, provided the same sort of parity as peri-urban agriculture," said Ryan Mason of Reclaim Urban Farm, who used to operate within the city but has since relocated to Leduc County for a mix of personal and business reasons.

On some peripheral agricultural land that the city has annexed, there are zoning allowances and utility accesses that, for now, spare farmers the regulatory hurdles that limit agricultural development elsewhere in the city, he said.

"While I don't expect the exact same conditions or zoning or allowances in downtown Edmonton as in Horse Hill or what used to be Leduc County, those are the areas that these farmers in those downtown areas are going to compete with," said Mason. "So there has to be at least an understanding (that) it can't be a burden for the business that you're trying to support. And if they don't want to do it, then they should just admit that it's never going to happen, and be OK with the fact that urban agriculture is not going to be a focus of theirs."

Edmonton changed its zoning bylaws in 2016 to enable more urban agriculture within the city. But Mason said many of the roadblocks and challenges he experienced came after those changes were introduced. He cited difficulties getting permits to sell food grown on city land and a 2018 dispute in which the city inspector wanted him to get an engineering review for the hoop house he had erected over his produce.

The inspector would have been enforcing provincial legislation, said Karen Zypchyn, communications adviser in urban planning and economy, though Mason believes an exemption could have been made. At any rate, the city did allow Mason to keep the structure up until the end of the season. The hassle remained, however, and he faces a lot less of it where he is now near Pigeon Lake.

The legislative frameworks that guide urban agriculture are "very piecemeal across the country," said Ron Berezan, founder of The Urban Farmer and farm manager at Blueberry Commons Farm in Powell River, B.C. The success or failure of an urban farm often rides on the municipality's approach to zoning and land use regulations, he said.

Continue reading

Headlines: Nov. 1, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • City council began budget deliberations on Oct. 31 with an overview of the capital budget and the results of the city's satisfaction survey. The operating budget is set for public release on Nov. 3 and the utility budget on Nov. 10; they will go before council on Nov. 14 and Nov. 25 respectively. Public hearings are set for Nov. 28 and 29, before council begins its budget debates on Dec. 1.
  • The city chose PCL Construction to complete part of the Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion from St. Albert Trail to 97 Street, which is the "most technically complex" part of the project. Changes will include removing major traffic signals, adding service roads, adding interchanges at 127 Street and 115 Street and straightening a curve between 121 Street and 107 Street to accommodate a future LRT bridge. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023 and end in 2027.
  • The city announced the recipients of this year's Anti-racism Grants Program, which launched in 2021. A total of $210,000 will be awarded to 12 recipients, selected from a pool of 30 eligible applicants. "This funding is empowering groups to create transformational change, and I hope to see more of these community-driven projects in the future," said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
  • The city designated four buildings symbolic of "the early growth of Edmonton" and its connection to the river valley as Municipal Historic Resources. The Stone House and Summer Kitchen, which are on land leased by the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association, are stone buildings dating to around 1929, the Figg Residence is a house in Bonnie Doon built around 1914 and the Stein Residence is a house in Westmount built in 1912.
  • Duncan Kinney, the executive director of Progress Alberta, who was charged with mischief by the Edmonton Police Service on Oct. 14 in connection with the vandalism of a controversial statue outside a Ukrainian centre, released his first statement in response to the charges. Kinney said he intends to plead not guilty and said the arrest "appears to be an attempt by the EPS to silence and discredit a critic." He added that on the advice of his lawyer, he will not discuss any details of the case. In a statement, an EPS spokesperson said police took the extra step of consulting the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service before charging Kinney, who is due in provincial court on Nov. 10.
  • The board of directors for the Edmonton Metro Transit Services Commission, which represents eight municipalities in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, reviewed a proposed operating budget for the integrated regional bus transit service slated to launch in 2023. The budget, based on 13 proposed routes plus an express service to the Edmonton International Airport, predicts a cost of $29 million to the municipalities and $4 million in revenues though fares and marketing. "With the input that each representative brought forward today from their community, we are now one meeting away from taking the commission from vision to reality," said chair Wes Brodhead.
  • John Day and Rob Seidel, who co-chair MacEwan University's capital fundraising campaign, have a lot to say about the school's "next chapter", central to which are its plans to play a key role in downtown revitalization by constructing a new seven-storey building to consolidate its downtown campus and increasing enrolment 60% by 2030. "The enhanced campus will be a powerful magnet for people whose knowledge, talents, and creativity will help fuel revitalization where it is needed most," wrote Day and Seidel.
A slide showing the road map for Capital City Pilots, from project initiation to challenge discovery phase to challenges issued to innovation assessment to pilot phase to programs and services

Capital City Pilots to provide foot in the door, but no cash

By Karen Unland

The new Capital City Pilots program will be a way for innovators to get "a foot in the door" to start working with the City of Edmonton, but it's not an opportunity to sell a solution.

In April, Edmonton Unlimited received $779,310 in funding from Prairies Economic Development Canada for Capital City Pilots, "a novel collaboration with the City of Edmonton to develop, promote and market a procurement model where small- and medium-sized businesses can test their innovative technologies using City of Edmonton owned assets." The program also got $1.8 million over three years from the Alberta government.

Notwithstanding the federal announcement, it's "not entirely accurate" to describe Capital City Pilots as a procurement experiment, project head Abbie Stein-MacLean said in a presentation delivered during Edmonton Startup Week. "Innovators answering the city's challenge calls will have the opportunity to test their innovations and collect supporting data, but a procurement contract with the city is not a guarantee of the program, and innovations will not be paid for by the city during the pilot phase of the program."

Instead, entrepreneurs will get an opportunity to validate their innovations in a municipal context and get direct data and feedback from city staff who have identified a challenge that needs solving.

"If you have a technology that is right for the municipal context, but you're just really having a hard time getting your foot in the door, this is a great opportunity for you to do that," Stein-MacLean said during the presentation.

Edmonton Unlimited is working with the city's Business Friendly Edmonton initiative to collect challenges from staff. The first wave is expected to be posted in January.

Continue reading