The Pulse: June 29, 2023

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  • 29°C: Sunny in the morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 30% chance of showers in the afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. High 29. Humidex 32. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • 7:30pm: The Edmonton Stingers play the Scarborough Shooting Stars at the Edmonton EXPO Centre. (details)

Six people sit on upholstered chairs on a stage, flanked by screens that read "The Economic Argument for a More Equitable Edmonton"

Mayor's panel argues for economic benefits of equity

By Colin Gallant

The economic argument for subsidized childcare helped transform it from an ideal to a reality. Now, a panel asks, can we do the same for housing?

"We were able to move the needle on affordable, quality childcare when business started understanding the value of quality, affordable childcare," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said following a State of the City event on June 28. "I think that's what we need to do on housing. That's what we need to do on mental health. That's what we need to do on some of the challenges related to (the) opioid crisis."

The panel discussion, entitled The Economic Argument for a More Equitable Edmonton, is part of a series of conversations organized by the mayor's office to further explore issues Sohi raised in his State of the City address. Before a sold-out crowd at MacEwan University's Allard Hall, Sohi and his fellow panellists argued that social equity has economic benefits, and framing the situation in that way will help lead to positive change.

Panellist Scott Crockatt, the vice-president of communications and external relations for the Business Council of Alberta, said he's seen data on the federal program providing $10-per-day childcare that shows it led to more new people entering the workforce in Alberta than in any other province.

"That shows you that there were more people being kept on the sidelines because they couldn't afford childcare in Alberta than anywhere else in the country," he said. "That's been a tremendous economic benefit to creating a more equitable society and wonderful local economy, where those parents… can participate more actively in the economy."

Sohi said an economic argument for affordable housing can be found in a data point from an economic multiplier survey done by the province that says every $1 invested in affordable housing creates $1.74 dollars in total economic output.

"How could you be productive at your job if you worry about if you're going back to a safe place? (To) housing that is decent enough, that is meeting your needs?" Sohi asked.

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Headlines: June 29, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city announced several organizational changes as part of ongoing efforts by city manager Andre Corbould to find $60 million in savings over four years and reallocate $240 million to core services and council's priorities. Several leadership positions were eliminated, including three branch manager positions, and the former Employee Services and Communications and Engagement departments will be absorbed by the city manager's office. The city is also creating new management positions, including a Chief People Officer, Chief Climate Officer, and a Chief Communications Officer. The number of front-line staff remains the same. Council directed Corbould to find savings during last year's budget talks through an amendment known as OP12.
  • The results of an independent audit found that the city spent $39 million on overtime pay for city staff in 2022, which is about $17 million higher than in 2018. At least 20 staff recorded more than 600 hours of overtime last year. The audit also found issues with monitoring staff absences, overtime, and earned days off within the Employee Services department. City staff told council's audit committee on June 27 that much of the overtime was among transit workers and the fire department due to staffing issues and delayed training after COVID-19. The audit did not analyze police spending, but the Edmonton Police Service separately reported that overtime increased from $10.3 million in 2021 to $15.9 million in 2022.
  • Hope Terrace, a supportive housing complex in the King Edward Park neighbourhood owned by Homeward Trust and run by the Bissell Centre, has opened a new multi-sensory space that uses light, colour, sounds, and scents to help people who are living with developmental disabilities to self-regulate. The space, which is a Snoezelen Multi-Sensory Environment, cost $34,000 and was funded by the Edmonton Fetal Alcohol Network. "We often talk about how supportive housing is tailored to meet the needs of people who call it home," said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, "and this is exactly what we mean."
  • The city's subdivision and development appeal board heard arguments from residents and business owners who are opposed to a health hub and overdose prevention site planned in the Ritchie neighbourhood. Opponents to the development, which will be run by Boyle Street Community Services, told the appeal board during a two-day hearing this week that they are concerned it will create increased social disorder and crime in the neighbourhood. The appeal board also heard from supporters of the project, located at 10119 81 Avenue NW, who argued the area was chosen in response to increased drug poisonings and a need to support vulnerable people in the community. The city approved the development permit for the project in March. The appeal board is expected to deliver its decision within 15 days.
  • Coun. Tim Cartmell appeared on Global News to discuss the latest setback to the Valley Line Southeast LRT due to oxidized copper signalling cables, which was announced on June 26. Cartmell spoke to a sense of waning credibility and a tendency of TransEd to communicate "out" via press releases while being "not great" at "communicating up." In response to questions about $1.8 billion in public money invested in the project, Cartmell emphasized that the "buck stops" with council, which must figure out the ongoing issues and push administration to ask TransEd key questions about the project.
  • Edmonton drag performer Felicia Grayson spoke to CityNews about recent hostility toward queer people and Pride events across Canada and Alberta, such as a vandalized Pride crosswalk in Okotoks, a Pride flag burning in Calgary, and a resident derailing a Leduc council meeting with a transphobic tirade. Grayson was reading at the Stanley A. Milner Library last summer when a group protested the drag story time event. Earlier in June, the RCMP called on Albertans to report hate incidents and crimes after a spike in cases targeting LGBTQ2S+ people during Pride month.
  • Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton held a Pride parade on June 27 outside the Edmonton Garrison to promote diversity and inclusion and improve the military's relationship with LGBTQ members. In 2022, CFB Edmonton became the first Canadian military base to host Pride celebrations. Last year also marked the 30th anniversary of the end of a period known as the LGBT purge, which saw systemic discrimination and intimidation against LGBTQ people in the federal public service, military, and RCMP.
  • The University of Alberta ranked 111th in the world and fourth in Canada in the 2024 QS World University Rankings. The institution ranked 68th worldwide in the international research network category, a new measure that looks at the number and diversity of productive research partnerships with other universities around the world.
Council's urban planning committee and residents in council chambers discussing the draft zoning bylaw

Calls for public engagement: Edmonton zoning and Fort Sask forest

By Kevin Holowack

Here are some opportunities to offer your input on various civic issues, including Edmonton's zoning bylaw renewal and Fort Saskatchewan's urban forest plan. (Please ensure you live in the affected area before answering surveys.)

Upcoming events

More input opportunities

Photo: Dozens of Edmontonians signed up to share their thoughts on the Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative before council's urban planning committee on June 20. (City of Edmonton/Twitter)