The Pulse: May 19, 2023

The Pulse will be off on Monday, May 22 for the Victoria Day holiday. We'll be back in your inbox on Tuesday, May 23.

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  • 28°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud near noon. Local smoke becoming widespread smoke near noon. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 late in the morning. High 28. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for World Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) Day, marked to raise awareness about Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. (details)

Unused patio furniture piled up outside of a restaurant called DOSC on 104 Street.

Post-pandemic patio rules lead to hiccups for some restaurants

By Colin Gallant

With pandemic lockdown measures in the rearview, new rules for patios that obstruct public space have come into effect, causing headaches for some Edmonton business owners.

"We're extra focused on creating the same vision that the businesses want for their space, but balancing the needs of everybody that's using the street as well," said Shewkar Ibrahim, the city's director of traffic operations.

New rules for patios on public space launched on Jan. 23. Ibrahim said they came about for several reasons: to conform with council priorities determined in the 2023-2026 budget cycle; to better reflect increases in car, pedestrian, and active transportation traffic as compared to the height of the pandemic; and to improve accessibility along sidewalks, roads, parking spaces, and alleys.

Though Ibrahim's team consulted with Business Improvement Areas and their members from January to March, some businesses felt caught off-guard. That includes DOSC (part of the Hoot Company restaurant group) and its brand director Bianca Condren.

"We're prepared from year to year to do the same thing over and over again, and then all of a sudden it had changed, and there were so many different new restrictions," she told Taproot.

The Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA) is offering a new grant program designed to help businesses offset costs associated with the rules, said executive director Puneeta McBryan. The program provides up to $5,000 per applicant from a total pot of $240,000, most of which comes from the city's Downtown Revitalization Fund.

"Compared to the ultimate flexibility over the last few years, without having to incur really any major costs, that comparison I think is a bit tough to swallow for some owners right now," McBryan said. "The rules themselves, I think, are really well-thought-out and rational, and equitable for both pedestrians and the public and the restaurant owner."

The new rules offer four different patio sizes. Each has different requirements for built infrastructure to make up for the space obstructed, ranging from none for a small, partial sidewalk patio to fencing and boardwalk for a patio covering the full sidewalk.

Condren and McBryan both agreed that the temporary patios of the past few years posed issues for pedestrians, especially those with visual impairment or who use mobility aids. "It was a really poor pedestrian experience," McBryan said. "Those ramps were atrocious. They would break, and we witnessed more than one wheelchair almost tip over."

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Headlines: May 19, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • The activation of the city's extreme weather response on May 17 was the first time the response was triggered due to poor air quality. The response is activated when the city records a score of seven or higher on the Air Quality Health Index for three consecutive days and involves opening all city facilities to people needing respite and distributing N95 masks to social agencies. It was set to end May 19 at 8am, but the city's website notes the timeline is subject to daily changes based on conditions.
  • The province closed 12 provincial parks and recreation areas ahead of the long weekend to lower the risk of more wildfires starting or spreading. Weekend forecasts of 25-30°C in northern and central communities, combined with strong winds and a risk of thunderstorms, will create dangerous wildfire conditions. However, meteorologist Jesse Wagar suggested things are "looking hopeful" with rain in the long-term forecast beginning next week. As of the afternoon of May 18, 98 wildfires were burning in Alberta, with 26 considered out of control, and more than 10,300 people were displaced. Since the start of 2023, 487 wildfires have burned more than 765,000 hectares across the province. Alberta Wildfire believes around 47% were caused by human activity.
  • Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein published an article considering Edmonton's wildfire risk. According to David Lazenby, acting chief of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, Edmonton is less vulnerable to wildfires than some other cities because of a lack of large forested areas on the city's edges. Lazenby added that fire crews have the equipment and experience to handle wildfires in the river valley as well as a well-honed incident command system. While this information is "obviously heartening," Gerein suggests political leaders must emphasize more comprehensive action to reduce emissions and ward off the worsening effects of climate change.
  • The Edmonton International Airport reported several flight cancellations due to an ongoing labour disruption involving WestJet and its subsidiary Swoop, which are in the midst of negotiations with their pilots' union. By 2:30pm on May 18, 10 WestJet departing flights and three arriving flights had been cancelled at YEG, but no Swoop flights were impacted. Some YEG passengers spoke to CTV News about the financial burden of switching flights. In total, WestJet has cancelled more than 100 flights, and 1,800 pilots were expected to walk off the job if a deal is not reached by the morning of May 19.
  • The Edmonton Police Service announced that police officers are partnering with peace officers for the third year in a row to launch Project TENSOR, which stands for Traffic Enforcement Noise/Speed Offence Reduction. According to a release, the project involves focusing traffic enforcement resources on "hot spots" for noise, speeding, stunting, and other offences. It will officially begin May 19 and run throughout the spring and summer months. The release does not say which areas are considered "hot spots."
  • The Edmonton Elks and 630 CHED announced a new broadcast agreement that will allow fans to listen to full coverage of every game either on the air or online. Play-by-play announcer Morley Scott and analyst Dave Campbell will be joined by analyst Blake Dermott, sidelines reporter Dave Boles, and Brenden Escott, who will host a 90-minute pre-and post-game show. The Elks' regular season begins June 11 with a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
  • The city announced that Edmontonians will once again be able to use Edmonton Elks game-day tickets as fare for Edmonton Transit Service or Park & Ride services to get to and from Commonwealth Stadium this season. The tickets will be valid as transit fare for two hours before the game and two hours after the game. The service begins May 27, the day of the Elks' first pre-season game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
  • Marguerite Trussler, Alberta's ethics commissioner, published a report following her investigation into conflict-of-interest violations by Premier Danielle Smith. In the report, Trussler concluded that Smith, in her capacity as premier, contravened the Conflicts of Interest Act in her conversations with then justice minister Tyler Shandro regarding criminal charges against Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski. Trussler also found Smith breached the principle that MLAs should not speak to accused individuals subject to criminal proceedings, but the phone call with Pawlowski was not in itself covered by the Conflicts of Interest Act. Finally, Trussler found no evidence of emails sent to Crown prosecutors about any pandemic-related prosecutions. Trussler did not provide recommendations regarding sanctions against the premier but reserved the right to make recommendations once the Legislative Assembly resumes session. In a statement, Smith said she would seek legal advice to develop guidelines for premiers on how to speak to justice ministers about "policy issues and other sensitive matters." She also suggested Trussler's findings confirm that CBC and the NDP "repeatedly lied to Albertans for months" about her or her office contacting Crown prosecutors.
A kitten stretches while a person pets it

Weekend agenda: May 19-22, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

Events this long weekend include a two-wheeled trip to the ESO, an outdoor dance party, some historic sightseeing, a tremendous trivia night, a Ukrainian dance extravaganza, and the purrrrfect opportunity to stretch.

Find even more things to do in the Arts Roundup and the Food Roundup.

Photo: The Edmonton International Cat Festival is hosting various forms of feline fun from May 20 to 28. (Edmonton Cat Fest)