The Pulse: Nov. 15, 2022

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  • 3°C: Clearing in the morning. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High plus 3. Wind chill minus 8 in the morning. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for National Children's Grief Awareness Day. (details)
  • 56%: According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), only 56% of Alberta motorists use winter tires. Of these, 74% say the tires have saved them from loss of control or collision. "But the fact that 43% of the province's drivers do not use winter tires threatens everyone using wintertime roadways," said TRAC. (details)

A screenshot of a Google Map showing the bike paths added to Street View by Eugene Chen

Project adds hundreds of kilometres of bike paths to Google Street View

By Brett McKay

With the help of funding from a Community-Based Budgeting Project created by two city councillors, Eugene Chen has added more than 500 kilometres of bike paths to Google Street View. Now he is hoping to keep the project going by enlisting the help of community groups and volunteers.

Chen received $2,000 from the budgeting project, created by Coun. Keren Tang of Karhiio and Coun. Andrew Knack of Nakota Isga, to take the photos and videos needed to add community bike paths in those wards in Google Street View. The funding helped cover the cost of the camera, but with the price of the equipment and additional expenses, he has spent closer to $3,500, kicking in the balance himself to get the project off the ground.

"I've had the idea for a few years now, but going out and spending even a grand on something that may or may not work is significant, and when I received approval of the grant, knowing that someone else in the community liked my idea and was willing to take a risk on me ... gave me enough confidence and reason to give it a really strong shot," Chen told Taproot. "Because of the grant, I was willing to take the further risk of extra costs over the current funding."

With the trails in Nakota Isga and Karhiio completed and already getting over a million views, Chen has plans to keep the project going. Knowing how much time it would take one person to cover the thousands of remaining bike path kilometres, he is looking for ways to involve other people in the project.

At the BetaCityYEG Meetup on Nov. 30, Chen will be sharing his story, talking about possible next steps, and collecting feedback from attendees on what else could be done.

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Headlines: Nov. 15, 2022

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • City staff presented council the 2023-2026 operating budget during a Nov. 14 meeting and indicated the city would need to raise taxes by nearly 3% each year to retain the same service levels as recent years. At least one councillor, Ashley Salvador of Ward Métis, expressed concern that the budget falls short on climate investment. "I worry that if we don't start now we're actually not going to have enough runway to do what we said we needed to do," Salvador said. Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for Nov. 28 and 29. Council is expected to hold more thorough deliberations from Nov. 30 to Dec. 16.
  • The Edmonton Social Planning Council released its 2022 Living Wage Report, which says a living wage in Edmonton is $21.40 an hour, up from $18.10 in 2021. "A living wage is rooted in the belief that individuals and families should not just survive, but live with dignity and participate in their community," the authors wrote. It is defined as "the hourly wage that a primary income earner must make to provide for themselves, their families, and reach basic financial security." Minimum wage in Alberta is currently $15 an hour for workers 18 and older.
  • Children's hospitals in Alberta are experiencing an influx of kids infected with viral illnesses including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, the common cold, and COVID-19. The Stollery Children's Hospital has seen wait times rise to 16.5 hours since late September, while the number of children triaged as needing urgent, emergent, and critical care has increased 5.5%. "The Stollery and Alberta Children's Hospital (in Calgary) have been overwhelmed," including by seriously sick kids and pre-teens, said Dr. Sam Wong with the Alberta Medical Association. "They're ending up in ICU requiring intubation and blood pressure support. So it's a serious illness." Meanwhile, Premier Danielle Smith reiterated the province will not introduce mask mandates.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw has been replaced as Alberta's chief medical officer of health after serving in the role since January 2019 and overseeing the province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Mark Joffe, an Alberta Health Services vice president, took over the position effective Nov. 14. "I have always put the needs of my patients first and foremost throughout my career, which will continue as I take on this new challenge," Joffe said in a news release. Replacing Hinshaw was among Danielle Smith's first promises after being sworn in as Alberta premier.
  • A shigella outbreak primarily impacting Edmonton's "inner-city population" has doubled in about a month, reaching 163 reported cases on Nov. 14. In a statement, Alberta Health Services said the bacteria is affecting groups "including but not limited to Edmonton's vulnerable and houseless population" and advises everyone to practice hand hygiene even if the risk to the "general public" remains low. AHS has created a task force involving the city, shelters, and Alberta Community and Social Services to address the outbreak.
  • The Edmonton Police Service is reallocating resources this week to fulfill its plan to move 62 more officers to the front lines and create a 10-squad patrol model, a move first announced in October. The change will have service impacts including the closure of the front counter at the northwest police station and reduced hours at other stations. As of Nov. 13, front counters in all remaining EPS divisions are closed on weekends except for the downtown division, which is open 8am-8pm every day. Counters in the southeast, southwest, west, and northeast divisions are open 9am-5pm on weekdays.
  • Parisa Ghanbari, an international student from Iran completing her master's at Concordia University of Edmonton, is raising awareness of common scams in Canada after she lost $10,900 needed to cover tuition for the upcoming semester. The scams in question can involve fake government agents, threats to immigration status, and general coercion. The Concordia Students' Association said information about scams should be included in new student orientation and reminders sent through emails and social media. Ghanbari has created a GoFundMe to help cover her tuition. "Provided the current situation in Iran, my family is afraid that they will not be able to arrange the money again within two months," she wrote.
  • Downtown Edmonton restaurant Tres Carnales Taqueria says it will reopen for business Nov. 15 after addressing issues raised in a recent Alberta Health Services inspection report and closure order. "We are so sorry to everyone we have let down. Thanks to our fast and thorough crew, AHS now reports that every single deficiency point has been addressed to meet their stringent satisfaction," the restaurant said in an Instagram post.
  • The 2022 AC Awards, hosted by Diversity Magazine, took place on Nov. 12 to celebrate the achievements of African Albertans and Albertans with African roots. "It means a lot because it comes from the community — from folks who have for several years perhaps watched my public engagement on issues that they care about," said University of Alberta criminology and sociology professor Temitope Oriola, who was recognized in the "Professional of the Year" category. Diversity Magazine published a full list of recipients.
  • Many Edmontonians are gearing up to watch Team Canada compete in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The team has brought on Edmonton soccer star Alphonso Davies, who plays for Bayern Munich, banishing fears he would be sidelined by a hamstring injury earlier this month. Canada faces Belgium in its first group match on Nov. 23.
Gleise M. Silva and Isha Datar interact on stage while Alison Sunstrum looks on

Panel explores what fair and sustainable future of food will need

By Karen Unland

At the conclusion of the Chancellor's Forum on Food for the Future, Sen. Paula Simons asked the assembled experts what they imagine we'll be eating in 50 years. Their answers reflected the diversity of their experiences as well as a common desire for equity and environmental sustainability.

The event, convened by Chancellor Peggy Garritty at the University of Alberta on Nov. 9, assembled Isha Datar, executive director of New Harvest, a nonprofit institute that funds research into cellular agriculture; Alison Sunstrum, founder and CEO of CNSRV-X, which invests in emerging agtech; and three academics from the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences: soil scientist William Shotyk, agricultural economist Ellen Goddard, and beef nutritionist Gleise M. Silva.

"I feel like what we eat in 50 years is completely dependent on the choices that we make now. And if we continue on the path that we've been on so far, I don't know what our choices would be in 50 years," said Datar, referring to the drastic decrease in options that unaddressed climate change will bring. "If we make the right investments into diversifying our food system and creating more resilience, so we're able to bounce back from changes in the supply chain and to really create resilience in a climate-change future ... I think we could have a wide diversity of foods."

Shotyk took the question from the point of view of not only a soil scientist but also a gardener and occasional farmer. Growing our own food within city limits could be part of that diversified future, he suggested.

"When I look around Edmonton, I see a lot of space not being used, and I just think about how much food could be grown in the city," he said, noting that this requires intentional protection of our third-most important natural resource behind oxygen and water. "We take care of the soil, the soil takes care of us."

As an economist who studies consumer preferences, Goddard noted our tendency to want to eat what we have always eaten, although we have become more open-minded towards alternative ways of producing food in light of the supply-chain shocks of the past two years.

"I think for Christmas dinner, we're probably going to eat the same food. I'm just not sure how it's going to be created or where it's going to be created," she said. "But I will lay you odds we will still want to see something that looks like possibly turkey, possibly mashed potatoes and gravy. But it will come from different origins."

Sunstrum and Silva added that whatever our food looks like and wherever it comes from, we need to make sure everyone is fed.

"I really hope that whatever I'm eating, every single person around the world has the same access," Sunstrum said.

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Cover art for Speaking Municipally, featuring a cartoon turnip in front of Edmonton's City Hall

Podcast examines what spending decisions say about priorities

By Karen Unland

Episode 198 of Speaking Municipally digs a little deeper into Edmonton's carbon budget.

The previously noted discrepancy between the City Plan's target (135 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions between 2019 and 2050) and the target listed in the city's first carbon budget (176 million tonnes between 2022 and 2050) has to do with whether we're trying to comply with the Paris Agreement or the more stringent "community carbon fair share budget" of the C40 Cities agreement. The 2021 fall supplemental operating budget adjustment explains it further.

However, Edmonton is not on track to meet either target, and the lack of funding for emissions-reducing measures in the city's proposed budget has disappointed the Energy Transition Climate Resilience Committee.

Speaking Municipally co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male noted that Calgary's budget seems to be taking climate change more seriously while acknowledging that such spending is simply to lay the foundation for even harder work ahead. "For us to not be setting the foundation, it means that we are not only going to have a hard time solving those very difficult problems, we're just not going to be able to solve it," said Pavlek.

The foundational measures Edmonton's climate committee wants to see funded — such as the Bike Plan, electric bus infrastructure, and energy retrofits of city buildings — are actions we know will make a difference, as opposed to the future changes that are "known unknowns" at this point, Male added.

"Getting to that last mile on emissions reduction will involve solving problems that we don't know how to solve yet," he said. "How do we transfer mobility from emissions-burning to emissions-reducing? That is a big problem that we have the start of solutions to but not the full solution."

Hear more takes on the carbon budget, as well as the unfunded demolition of the Northlands Coliseum, the decisions on how to spend downtown vibrancy funds, a subsidy for single-use item reduction, and the discontinued parking ban in Wolf Willow on the Nov. 11 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.