The Pulse: June 21, 2023

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!


  • 19°C: A mix of sun and cloud. High 19. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • Green/Yellow/Pink/White: The High Level Bridge will be lit green, yellow, pink, and white for National Indigenous People's Day. (details)

Two men, one in a blue suit and the other in a black sweater, smile and shake hands in front of a banner that reads "Alberta Ecotrust"

Partnership delivers energy retrofits to multi-unit buildings

By Shayne Giles

Two west Edmonton residential buildings with a total of 165 units are receiving energy retrofits as part of a new partnership between the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and Toronto's Efficiency Capital.

"Seventy-eight percent of the buildings you see here today are still going to be here in 2050," said Matthew Zipchen, president of Efficiency Capital, during an announcement held during the Alberta Energy Efficiency and Innovation Summit on June 20. "That means that we need to retrofit almost every single one of them to be net zero by 2050."

The partnership aims to help Edmonton and Calgary meet their goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Across Canada, residential housing emissions account for 13% of the total.

"Apartment owners, condominium boards, affordable housing providers, they often don't have access to energy management services in the same way larger building owners or portfolio owners might," said Mike Mellross, program director for the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, noting that it can be hard for such groups to source capital rebates or other funding options.

Efficiency Capital leverages strategic partnerships with banks, impact investors, community foundations, and other organizations to access project funding for the retrofits. Between Efficiency's funding platform and Alberta Ecotrust's climate innovation fund, there's more than $140 million to invest in such projects.

Retrofitting a multi-unit residential building might include replacing windows or elements of the exterior building envelope like cladding or insulation. It can also just involve updating electrical systems and appliances like washers or dryers. For a project to meet Alberta Ecotrust's eligibility requirements, buildings should have a potential carbon reduction of at least 30%.

The retrofit process can be an easier sell for long-term building owners, who see the value in reducing carbon emissions and costs over a series of decades, than it is for building owners who purchase and sell properties often, said Zipchen.

"But there's a lot of tools and incentives in the marketplace that we're getting them to start pricing in and thinking about the climate-change impact, whether it's the carbon tax, whether it's preferred mortgage pricing because you have GHG reductions," he said.

The owner of the west Edmonton buildings reached out to Alberta Ecotrust as part of a retrofit accelerator program. The two residences were built in 2004 and share a property. For the most part, tenants were able to stay put during the retrofitting process.

Photo: Mike Mellross of the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and Matt Zipchen of Efficiency Capital are working to bring affordable climate solutions to multi-unit buildings. (Shayne Giles)


Headlines: June 21, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • Seventy-six people signed up to share feedback about the Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative at city council's urban planning committee meeting on June 20. Postmedia reported that the meeting was "tense at times" as speakers discussed climate change, housing affordability, and a lack of meaningful public engagement about the issue. However, several speakers from the development industry spoke positively of city's engagement efforts. The room was asked to maintain decorum as Coun. Ashley Salvador sought to contextualize the results of a survey commissioned by a group of concerned residents during an exchange with former MLA Kevin Taft, who represents the group. Meanwhile, city manager Andre Corbould wrote a letter to Postmedia suggesting some concern about the proposed zoning bylaw, including comments Taft made in his June 15 opinion piece on the issue, are rooted in misinformation. "Long story short — a highrise is not moving in next door," wrote Corbould, who encouraged Edmontonians to visit the city's website to learn more about the changes and share their thoughts.
  • Edmonton is experiencing the wettest June in the past 20 years, with about 81 millimetres of rain since June 18. From June 1-12, there was only 0.5 millimetres of rain. The average rainfall for June in Edmonton is 78 millimetres. The wet conditions prompted the city to issue a warning about North Saskatchewan River levels last week and also led to trail closures in parts of the city.
  • Edmontonians can expect an increase in mosquitoes when warmer weather sets in after the rain, which has created perfect conditions for mosquito eggs, according to Sarah McPike from the city's pest management lab. "I anticipate that we will see noticeable mosquito activity in two weeks-ish depending on the weather," said McPike. She is encouraging Edmontonians to empty standing water in their yards periodically to prevent the spread of the Northern House Mosquito (Culex Pipiens), a species that is a known vector of West Nile Virus and recently discovered in Edmonton, although McPike said it has not been identified as a vector in Edmonton specifically.
  • Officials have provided no clear timeline or cost for the removal of an excavator that got wedged under the overpass at Whitemud Drive and Anthony Henday Drive on June 16. The crash, which caused extensive structural damage to the overpass, happened just before 10am when a semi carrying the machinery was exiting the Henday at the Whitemud exit ramp. Alberta Transportation said it is working to set up a shoring tower to support the overpass before the vehicle is removed.
  • The Town of Whitecourt, about 100 kilometres northeast of Edson, declared a state of local emergency on June 20 due to flooding, which has impacted areas across Yellowhead County. Some residents with properties along the McLeod River and Athabasca River were ordered to evacuate, while the hamlet of Peers was ordered to shelter in place. Rain also fell overnight in Edson, which declared a local state of emergency on June 19. Mayor Kevin Zahara said his town has experienced extensive flooding of homes and businesses. Edson's chief administrative officer, Christine Beveridge, said 135 millimetres of rain has fallen in the town in the past week, adding that local emergency efforts will again be focused on wildfires once floodwaters recede.
  • Premier Danielle Smith has apologized for breaching ethics rules as detailed in ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler's May 18 report. "Although I had no ill intent, the ethics commissioner found it was improper for me to contact the minister of justice in the way I did," Smith said on June 20 in front of all 87 MLAs, who were gathered in the legislative chamber to elect a Speaker of the House and deputy Speaker, which followed the swearing-in of the UCP caucus. Smith also said she accepts Trussler's recommendations, which include training new MLAs about the roles of the three branches of government. Shortly before Smith's apology, the NDP sent a letter to the RCMP asking for an investigation of Smith over potential violations of the Criminal Code, which were beyond the mandate of Trussler's investigation. "You don't get to apologize your way out of breaking the law," NDP Leader Rachel Notley said to reporters.
An image of a map from the City of Edmonton archives. Long, skinny lots along the river are visible

Podcast explores intersection of river lots and parks

By Shayne Giles

Edmonton's river valley is a cherished nature getaway for many Edmontonians. Canada's largest contiguous area of urban parkland didn't come about by accident, however.

As Episode 65 of Let's Find Out demonstrates, it was the product of generations of like-minded Edmontonians banding together to preserve a piece of beauty in a time of rapid industrial and residential development. In the case of Borden Park and Coronation Park, it required putting down some serious cash without knowing whether it would pay off.

"I think the story of these two parks is worth telling," said Dylan Reade, a documentary filmmaker and researcher called in by podcast host Chris Chang-Yen Phillips to help answer a question from Zulima Acuña about how and why some of Edmonton's river lots became parks.

When the land was surveyed in 1882, the map formalized 44 long, skinny lots along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, conforming to the practices of the largely Métis population at that time, wrote Connor Thompson, who was also enlisted to answer Acuña's question.

By 1900, almost all the land that makes up what is now Edmonton's downtown core had been purchased by investors, families, and businesses. Soon, what had been a small settlement surrounded by parkland was now a growing urban area in which people were rapidly buying up whatever natural space remained. By 1907, citizens and landscape architects such as Frederick Todd were advocating for the preservation of what was left in the river valley as part of the City Beautiful Movement.

At one point, two major properties came up for sale: the Bouchard estate and the Kirkness estate. But the mayor and several council members were in Winnipeg on holiday, Reade said, and given the rapid pace of real estate transactions at that time, they wouldn't be back soon enough to authorize the City to put down a bid. So the aldermen who were still in town ponied up the cash themselves and purchased the land in the hopes that city council would agree with their decision upon their return.

Their gamble paid off. The Kirkness estate would become the East End Park, which eventually became known as Borden Park. And the Bouchard estate begat the West End Park, later Coronation Park.

"It's because of those aldermen that those parks exist now," Reade said.

This land transfer is just one moment in an expansive tale explored in the June episode of the podcast, which answers questions about Edmonton's history.

Continue reading