The Pulse: Jan. 15, 2024

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

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  • -20°C: Sunny. Ice fog patches dissipating near noon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 20. Wind chill minus 41 in the morning and minus 24 in the afternoon. Frostbite in minutes. (forecast)
  • 2-1: The Edmonton Oilers (23-15-1) defeated the Montréal Canadiens (17-18-7) in overtime on Jan. 13. It was the team's 10th straight win. (details)

A flowchart showing how the City of Edmonton and its partners respond to encampments on public land.

On the agenda: Homelessness emergency, redevelopment, clean energy

By Stephanie Swensrude

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has called for a special city council meeting to discuss declaring a housing and houselessness crisis. Other items as council returns from its holiday break include land sales at the Exhibition Lands redevelopment and a permanent program to incentivize clean energy projects.

A community and public services committee meeting is scheduled for the morning of Jan. 15, followed by the special city council meeting in the afternoon. An urban planning committee meeting is set for Jan. 16, and an executive committee meeting is on Jan. 17.

Here are some key items on the agenda:

  • Sohi released a statement on Jan. 11 saying he will make a motion to declare a housing and houselessness emergency at a special city council meeting on Jan. 15. Sohi said if council approves the declaration, he will seek emergency meetings with the provincial and federal ministers in charge of housing as well as Cody Thomas, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. "I know that declaring an emergency on housing and houselessness will be useless without fast and meaningful action," Sohi said in a release. "We need coordination of planning, immediate increase in investments, and human-centred and reconciliation-focused action." Front-line staff have tried to dismantle encampments with compassion under difficult circumstances, Sohi said, but "recent actions at encampment clearances may not be in line with our commitments to upholding (Indigenous) reconciliation, and our obligation of care in communities across the city." Jason Nixon, Alberta's minister of seniors, community, and social services, said on Jan. 12 that he would not attend an emergency meeting, calling Sohi's statement "a complete political stunt."
  • Following interviews, city administration has chosen a single potential buyer for the first two land parcels for the Edmonton Exhibition Lands redevelopment project. The market value sale requires approval from councillors at an executive committee meeting on Jan. 17. The potential buyer will remain private until the sales are finalized. The city said the proponent intends for all housing built on the parcels to be constructed to a net-zero-ready standard, allowing for renewable energy systems to be installed.
  • Executive committee will look at a bylaw that would establish a permanent Clean Energy Improvement Program. The program to finance clean energy retrofits and installations has been popular in Edmonton, with funding often running out ahead of schedule (and in one instance, in just one day). Committee can recommend that council votes on the bylaw, and if the bylaw is approved, applicants can receive loans of up to $50,000 for residential projects and $1 million for commercial projects that would then be repaid through property taxes. The program is estimated to cost the city about $20 million in the next four years.
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Headlines: Jan. 15, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • As severe cold continues in Edmonton, the city is reminding residents how to stay safe and help vulnerable people outdoors, including recognizing signs of hypothermia and calling 211 for non-emergency support. The Edmonton Valley Zoo is closed from Jan. 12 to 14 because of the extreme weather conditions, and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services is encouraging people to practice winter fire safety, such as ensuring space around heating equipment and checking for carbon monoxide leaks. Crews are working around the clock to clear roads and pathways following the recent snowfall, and residents can sign up for parking ban notifications online. Edmonton's extreme weather response remains in effect and includes additional support services, including a winter shuttle service bus to transport vulnerable people to shelters.
  • Edmonton experienced record-breaking cold on Jan. 13 and 14, reaching lows of -45.9°C and -45°C respectively. The weather strained the electricity grid, leading the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to issue an alert on Jan. 13 for the risk of rotating power outages, urging residents to conserve electricity. The Royal Alexandra Hospital was forced to divert some patients the morning of Jan. 12 because of a heating issue in its emergency department. The cold also led to a spike in demand for services at the Bissell Centre, which accommodated 187 people overnight on Jan. 13 despite a maximum capacity of 135. The Alberta Motor Association reported extended wait times for roadside assistance, and some flights out of the Edmonton International Airport were cancelled. Temperatures are expected to improve on Jan. 16, with a forecast high of -18°C.
  • An emergency alert warning Albertans of potential rotating power outages amidst a severe cold snap highlights challenges in transitioning to renewable energy sources on the prairies, according to University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach. Leach said the incident shows the need for flexibility in Ottawa's Clean Energy Regulations, noting that renewable sources such as solar and wind would not have closed the power gap during peak demand in the province. "A solution relying exclusively on wind power, solar power and trade isn't going to get you through a really cold, dark night in Alberta," Leach said.
  • Postmedia published an interview with Alberta Electric System Operator spokesperson Leif Sollid in the wake of an unprecedented emergency alert asking Albertans to reduce electricity demand on Jan. 13. Sollid said the province experienced a record demand of 12,384 megawatts on Jan. 11, but demand caused by severe cold put pressure on the grid on Jan. 13 because of very little wind. Despite an emergency call for imports from other jurisdictions, there was a "significant risk" of rotating outages, which prompted the emergency alert. Sollid said the alert worked, with a 200 megawatt drop in demand within minutes, allowing the system to get through the peak period without outages. Albertans are asked to continue conserving power through the peak period of 4pm to 7pm as cold weather continues to drive high demand.
  • Advocates are calling for comprehensive solutions as Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is expected to declare a housing and homelessness emergency during a meeting on Jan. 15 in response to the city's struggle with sheltering people during frigid conditions and the recent clearing of high-risk encampments. The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness said in a release that while it supports declaring an emergency, any measures that don't include more social and supportive housing, along with mental health supports, will only be bandages. If Sohi's motion is successful, he is expected to call a meeting with provincial, federal, and Indigenous representatives to discuss long-term measures. However, Alberta's minister of seniors, community and social services, Jason Nixon, said he is not interested in "political games" and won't attend the meeting.
  • Despite clear signs warning of its low clearance, trucks continue to get stuck at Edmonton's High Level Bridge. With a clearance of just 3.2 metres, the one-way bridge presents a challenge for some truck drivers despite mandatory entry-level training that includes instruction on height restrictions. The Edmonton Police Service said there were six reports of a truck hitting the bridge in 2023, though not all incidents involved a truck getting stuck. The bridge's structural integrity remains intact, but each incident leads to traffic disruptions and potential consequences for drivers and their companies, including licence loss and insurance rate increases.
  • The Edmonton Oilers set a team record on Jan. 13 with a 10-game winning streak, defeating the Montréal Canadiens 2-1. Leon Draisaitl scored the equalizer in the third period, and Evan Bouchard got the game-winning goal during a power play in overtime. The Oilers, now with a 23-15-1 record, are set to host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Place on Jan. 16.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Jan. 15, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.