The Pulse: Sept. 18, 2023

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

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  • 17°C: Mainly sunny. Hazy. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning. High 17. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Blue/Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and red for Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month. (details)
  • 36-27: The Edmonton Elks defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sept. 15. (details)

Vehicles parked in a gravel surface parking lot with towers in the background

On the agenda: Surface parking lots, Metro Line to Blatchford, and funding transit growth

By Mack Male

This week, community and public services committee meets on Sept. 18, urban planning committee meets on Sept. 19, executive committee meets on Sept. 20, and audit committee meets on Sept. 22.

Here are some of the key items on the agenda:

  • Administration says just 30 of 275 surface parking lots in Centre City (which includes Downtown, The Quarters, North Edge, Chinatown, and Oliver) have a current development permit. A "high number" of lots are both underused and do not meet regulatory requirements. About 85% of the lots "appear to have existed before 2010" when the Capital City Downtown Plan was developed, which administration suggests is evidence that "overarching policies are effective" for limiting the expansion of surface parking lots. Puneeta McBryan of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association said the lots have to be better. "We cannot tolerate this level of disrepair, eyesores and frankly safety issues too — some of these lots are in conditions where you can break an ankle walking across with the potholes and the poor maintenance," she told Global News. Council will consider several options for enforcement, but administration cautions that closing surface parking lots creates vacant land, "which could then be subjected to social disorder."
  • Construction on the Metro Line LRT extension to Blatchford is expected to be completed this year, with service beginning in the first quarter of 2024. Operating the full extension to Blatchford Gate station would require $4.23 million per year, while deferring the opening of that station "until service is warranted" and operating the line just to the new permanent NAIT station would cost $2.43 million per year. The existing temporary NAIT station will be decommissioned in 2024 after the extension enters service. Council previously deferred a decision on funding operations for the extension.
  • Increasing transit service hours from 2024 to 2033 would require $692.5 million in capital funding for 415 new buses, and $174 million in operational funding to put them into service. Maintaining 2022 service levels per capita over the same timeframe would require $180.7 million in capital funding for 110 new buses, and $70 million in operational funding to put them into service. Administration has evaluated several tools to fund the growth, including a 10-year dedicated tax levy that could generate $247.1 million through a 1% annual tax or $123.5 million through a 0.5% annual tax. Other tools considered include property taxes, local improvement taxes, user fees, development charges, and off-site levies. Additionally, administration says "continued advocacy to other orders of government for transit funding support and additional revenue-generating authorities is required."
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Headlines: Sept. 18, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is promoting hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles as the province's solution for zero-emission vehicles. In an article for CBC News, reporter Jason Markusoff noted Smith's government has prioritized hydrogen, including a directive to the minister of Service Alberta to explore the potential for adding hydrogen fuelling stations across the province. The province is also exploring the possibility of converting its vehicle fleet to hydrogen. Edmonton Transit Service is testing a hydrogen-powered bus as part of the Alberta Zero Emission Hydrogen Transit initiative, while the world's largest hydrogen plant is being built in northeast Edmonton.
  • Edmonton Police Service Const. David Ahlstrom, who was fired after repeatedly stealing cash while on duty, will get to keep his job after the Alberta Court of Appeal declined to hear Chief Dale McFee's appeal to reinstate his firing. Ahlstrom pleaded guilty to three counts of theft, and was later fired after a police disciplinary hearing. He appealed to the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB), which found that the presiding officer made errors when deciding his punishment. Instead, the board, citing the officer's mental health issues, concluded that a two-year reduction in rank was appropriate. While Court of Appeal Justice Jolaine Antonio found problems with the LERB's ruling, she said the chief's appeal did not raise a "significant question of law."
  • The Edmonton Corn Maze hosted an RCMP-themed event on Sept. 16 to commemorate the force's 150th anniversary. The maze, shaped like a saluting Mountie, attracted controversy earlier this year due to the force's colonial roots, leading organizers to issue an apology. "It's the history that they've had, but we like the good work they're doing," maze owner Jesse Kraay said at the event, which included RCMP officers from various teams, along with recruiters. The maze will remain open until Oct. 22, or later if weather permits.
  • The Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo attracted fans and cosplayers to the Edmonton EXPO Centre over the weekend, with dozens of celebrities, voice actors, and comic creators on hand for appearances, autograph signings and photo ops.
  • Edmonton's 162 community leagues held events across the city on Sept. 16 as part of Community League Day in an effort to recruit younger volunteers. Among the events were a community-wide yard sale in Oliver, an outdoor carnival in Belmead, a dog show in Avonmore, and a kite-making course in Brookview. The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues highlighted the contributions of local leagues, including more than $500 million in infrastructure such as ice rinks, basketball courts, and community gardens, and noted that last year, volunteers gave 297,535 hours to support their community leagues.
  • Buffalo Airways and Edmonton International Airport announced a new cargo-only route between Edmonton and Yellowknife. The service will run weekdays on a customized Boeing 737-300SF, and will transport necessities such as pharmaceuticals, health-care supplies, food and drinks, and automotive parts. The service is intended to provide better access to affordable essential goods for residents in Northern Canada, said airport president and CEO Myron Keehn.
  • The Somaliland Cultural Association of Edmonton celebrated its 20th anniversary with an event on Sept. 16 at the St. John Cultural Centre. The event included a live musical performance from event organizer Abdullahi Mohamed, who goes by the name Captain Abdul. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but is still considered part of Somalia by most of the international community.
  • Maria Restaurant in downtown Edmonton hosted a two-day celebration over the weekend for Mexican Independence Day. The festivities included live music, dancing, art, and Mexican vendors, and a fundraiser to support people affected by wildfires in the Northwest Territories.
  • Edmonton track and field athlete Marco Arop set a new Canadian record for the men's 800 metres at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League Final in Eugene, Oregon. Arop finished in second place with a time of 1:42.85 seconds, beating Brandon McBride's previous national time, set in 2018. Arop is currently ranked second in the world.
A smiling woman in a floppy hat and denim dress sits beside some flowers

Coming up this week: Sept. 18-22, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

Events this week include an AI discussion for board directors, a peek at tech ideas in development, a film festival's opening night, an exploration of some wild history, and a focus on Black-owned businesses in Western Canada.

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

Photo: Lauren Markewicz (pictured), Miranda Jimmy, and Mack Male will join Let's Find Out podcast host Chris Chang-Yen Phillips in a live recording exploring the new urban national park in Edmonton's river valley. (Let's Find Out)