The Pulse: Jan. 23, 2023

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

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  • 2°C: Mainly cloudy. 30% chance of flurries late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 early in the afternoon. High plus 2. Wind chill minus 8 in the morning. (forecast)
  • 4-2: The Edmonton Oilers (27-18-3) defeated the Vancouver Canucks (18-25-3) on Jan. 21. Connor McDavid scored his 40th goal of the season. (details)

A street in the Historic West Ritchie area with "false front" façades

On the agenda: Cost-cutting, Strathcona development, and council's conduct

By Mack Male

Council will start the week with a public hearing on Jan. 23, followed by council services committee on the morning of Jan. 24, a code of conduct subcommittee meeting on the afternoon of the 24th, an emergency advisory committee meeting on Jan. 25, and a non-regular council meeting on the afternoon of the 25th. Here are some of the key agenda items:

  • City council will receive a draft scope of work for the 2023-2026 operating budget amendment that directed administration to reduce expenses by $60 million over the four-year cycle and to identify "an additional minimum $240 million" that could be directed to priority areas such as housing and climate change. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said in December that the intent of the amendment was not to eliminate frontline services, but rather to streamline management, remove redundant positions, and analyze the use of consultants. An audit conducted in 2018 found that the city spent an average of $123 million per year on consultants from 2013 to 2017.
  • Updates to the Strathcona Area Redevelopment Plan would address concerns raised by the Old Strathcona Business Association about desired businesses being denied development permits due to outdated zoning. The affected area consists mainly of one- to two-storey commercial buildings south of Whyte Avenue between 101 Street and the CP Railyard. New uses allowed would include breweries, wineries, and distilleries; cannabis retail stores; live/work units; supportive housing; and urban indoor farms.
  • A draft work plan proposes that updates to council's code of conduct be developed by reviewing more than a dozen sections over four meetings in 2023. The code of conduct bylaw was adopted in June 2018 and was followed by the addition of an integrity commissioner and an ethics advisor in September 2018.
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Headlines: Jan. 23, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Chinatown residents are hopeful that the Year of the Rabbit, which was ushered in during the Lunar New Year on Jan. 22, will bring luck and improvements to the neighbourhood after it experienced setbacks during the pandemic, ongoing social disorder, and the murders of two business owners in May 2022. Phong Luu, owner of Kim Fat Market, said he is feeling optimistic despite thefts and vandalism at his store costing him about $40,000 last year. "It's challenging because, with all the vandalism, with all the break and enters, we're trying to run a business and it's hard, but we have faith, that's why we're still here," Phong said. The neighbourhood has "a lot of untapped potential," said Brett Latchford, the director of Chinatown Recovery for the city. "We're moving in the right direction." Council approved $10 million in Chinatown infrastructure improvements in the 2023-26 capital budget and will spend $6 million to install a new Harbin Gate. Edmonton police are also running the Healthy Streets Operations Centre pilot in the area in an effort to improve community safety.
  • A coalition of five unions representing city employees is supporting Coun. Michael Janz's call to establish a municipal lobbyist registry for councillors and senior staff in city administration. "Lobbyist registries are tools that help to increase public accountability and trust in elected officials and senior administrators," the Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions said in a news release. Janz called for the registry in response to a city recommendation to award a $26.4-million sole-source, non-competitive contract to Ledcor to build a pedway between Churchill LRT Station and Qualico's future Station Lands development. Administration said awarding the contract directly would mitigate potential project risks and reduce costs because Ledcor is already the site contractor for the development. City council is expected to vote on the recommendation this week.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was critical of the late opening of a new 24/7 temporary shelter in west Edmonton. Council voted on Nov. 30 to provide $7.5 million to open the shelter spaces, located in a former hotel at 155th Street and Stony Plain Road. "The delay in these spaces being opened to the public is not acceptable as we made the decision to fund these emergency spaces with the understanding that they would be up and running the following month," Sohi told Postmedia. The shelter, operated by Jasper Place Wellness Centre in partnership with the Tallcree Tribal Government, opened Jan. 20 with 59 private rooms available. The city said the facility will operate on a referral basis only until the remaining 150 congregate living spaces open, which is expected by February.
  • An LRT train collided with a vehicle that made an illegal right turn onto the tracks along the Valley Line LRT extension on Jan. 21. No injuries were reported. TransEd spokesman Dallas Lindskoog urged drivers to obey traffic signs and signals. "If you see tracks, expect a train," he said. While the line isn't open, TransEd has been conducting testing on the tracks since 2021. An opening date for the line, which is two years late, hasn't been announced.
  • A group of Edmonton cycling enthusiasts hosted the inaugural Cold City Classic fundraiser on Jan. 21 in support of Boyle Street Community Services. The group rode their bikes in a 20-km circuit for 12 hours in hopes of raising $10,000 for the social services agency. "We really wanted to combine something we enjoy doing with a good cause," said Matt Anderson-Baron, one of the event organizers. So far the group has raised just over $5,500.
  • Graduate students at the University of Alberta say they are already struggling to make ends meet and can't afford a proposed tuition increase for next year. "Students are in crisis," said grad student Andrea DeKeseredy, adding they are "having a lot of trouble being able to buy food, afford their rent and pay their tuition." The university has put forward a 6.5% increase for international students and 5.5% increase for Canadian students, with a final decision expected in February. Meanwhile, the Alberta government is "contemplating some support for students," Premier Danielle Smith said on 630 CHED's Your Province, Your Premier radio show.
  • More than 1,400 Albertans died of drug poisonings in 2022, according to Alberta substance use surveillance data. The data shows that 1,443 people died from January to November. While it was the third straight year the numbers were higher than 1,000, they were lower than the all-time high of 1,842 deaths recorded in 2021. Judith Gale, with the Bear Clan Beaver Hills House outreach group, advocated for housing support for those struggling with opioid use. "Once we've housed them, we can help them along the way to obtaining sobriety, if that's what they choose," she said.
  • The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations has appointed Chief Leonard Standingontheroad as its new Grand Chief. "It is a great honour," said Standingontheroad, who is also Chief of Montana First Nation. "I have always been passionate about upholding our rights as Treaty People." In a news release, Standingontheroad said he will focus on health, education and economic development issues during his term.
An upside-down umbrella sculpted from ice and swathed in blue light

Coming up this week: Jan. 23-27, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

This week offers frozen art and the hottest night of the year, along with opportunities to learn about a trade mission to Taiwan, Alberta's economic outlook, and what it takes to get a local food product into stores.

Find even more things to do in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: Internationally acclaimed ice-carving artists will vie for your vote as they sculpt blocks of ice into crystal-clear works of art at Chiseled. (Ice on Whyte)