The Pulse: Jan. 23, 2024

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

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  • -6°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Fog patches dissipating late in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 6. Wind chill minus 16 in the morning and minus 8 in the afternoon. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (26-15-1) host the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-22-9) at Rogers Place. (details)

A person stands at a microphone while there is a sign that reads "Edmonton Unlimited" behind them.

Catherine Warren ousted from Edmonton Unlimited

By Tim Querengesser

The board of Edmonton's innovation agency has decided to part ways with its founding CEO three years into her term.

Edmonton Unlimited said Catherine Warren is no longer with the organization as of Jan. 22. She will be replaced by Launa Aspeslet, who will serve as interim CEO. Aspeslet, an executive with Hepion Pharmaceuticals, has been a director on Edmonton Unlimited's board but will pause in that role until a permanent CEO is found.

Edmonton Unlimited board chair Lindsay Dodd, who is also CEO of Cashco Financial, told Taproot the organization's board was re-constituted in the spring of 2023, with seven of its nine members coming in fresh. It decided Edmonton Unlimited needed someone new at the helm.

"The board came to the conclusion that we wanted a new set of leadership skills and experience to take Edmonton Unlimited to the next level of growth and success in the community," Dodd said. "Catherine did absolutely nothing wrong."

Dodd said Warren built Edmonton Unlimited "from nothing" by integrating the remnants of Startup Edmonton and several other organizations into a new entity. She oversaw the creation of the agency's headquarters, which opened at Jasper Avenue and 101 Street in May 2023, and she worked to attract $50 million in program funding, he added.

Dodd also said Edmonton Unlimited is healthy and has found its place in Edmonton. "Catherine's made great connections at all three levels of government," Dodd said. "Now's the time to build onto that foundation. How do we get Edmonton innovators onto the world stage and being successful in growing companies here?"

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Headlines: Jan. 23, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The City of Edmonton has declared a Phase 1 parking ban for all major roads beginning at 7am on Jan. 23 and expected to last 48 hours, though it could be extended for three to five days. During the ban, parking is not permitted on arterial roads, collector roads, bus routes, and in business improvement areas, but residents can still park on cleared residential streets. Vehicles violating the ban may be ticketed and towed. You can sign up for parking ban notifications online.
  • Edmonton's utility committee unanimously agreed to increase the fees for certain single-use items during its Jan. 22 meeting. Beginning July 1, paper bags will cost 25 cents, up from 15 cents, and reusable bags will rise from $1 to $2. An online survey conducted by the city indicated that while Edmontonians often bring reusable bags for their grocery shopping, they're less likely to do that at food service businesses. The city is working on a waste study due in 2025 for more detailed insights.
  • Seniors in the Edmonton region can now sign up for the Arc electronic fare payment system by creating a senior profile online. Complimentary Arc cards are being distributed at various locations, and instructions on how to transition to the new system are available on the Arc website, through the call centre, or in person at service centres. The City of Edmonton said it will work with seniors residences and community centres to deliver presentations on Arc and help seniors become more comfortable with the system. Paper tickets and passes can still be used until the end of 2024.
  • More than 6,000 members of Civic Service Union 52 employed by the City of Edmonton are preparing for a strike vote after contract negotiations reached an impasse. Union president Lanny Chudyk criticized the city's offer of a 7.25% wage increase over five years as insufficient, especially given recent pay increases for city council and a 7% retroactive raise for Edmonton police officers. The members haven't had a wage increase since 2018, Chudyk noted. The strike vote, which can't happen until after a two-week cooling-off period ends Jan. 30, would authorize job action with 72 hours' notice within a 120-day window.
  • Members of Edmonton's South Asian community are expressing frustration over a lack of response from elected officials following a series of arsons and shootings linked to an extortion scheme targeting local homebuilders. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has released public statements about the crimes, including one recently calling for a coordinated response form the federal government, and said he is expecting an update on the issue from city administration during a council meeting next week. However, some community members say more direct action is needed. "They need to at least sit down or have some conversations with these builders, these businesses, these individuals," local realtor Nam Kular said. The Edmonton Police Service, which has so far connected five extortions, seven firearms offences, and 15 arsons to the scheme, is planning a community town hall meeting.
  • Edmonton will host the International Federation of American Football championship from June 20 to June 30, as Canada seeks to defend its world junior football title following the tournament's six-year pause due to the pandemic. The Canadian team will compete against seven other countries. During the 2018 championship, Canada beat Mexico in front of a crowd of more than 35,000 spectators.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have collaborated with local designers Lance Cardinal, Pete Nguyen, AJA Louden, and Sunny Nerval, to create cultural celebration logos featuring Indigenous, Lunar New Year, Black history, and South Asian cultures. The logos will be featured on special Oilers jerseys and limited-edition merchandise, with a portion of the proceeds supporting community organizations chosen by each designer. The merchandise is available for purchase at the Ice District Authentics Oilers Team Store and online.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have confirmed they signed free-agent forward Corey Perry to a one-year contract with an average annual value of $775,000 and performance bonuses. Perry, a veteran right-winger, has scored 421 goals and 471 assists in his 1,273-game NHL career.
  • Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has asked all cities and towns to provide a list of all existing municipal-federal agreements. A government spokesperson said it's possible future legislation could be introduced that "requires the federal government to engage in negotiations with our province, rather than side-stepping us by engaging only with municipalities." Municipalities have until Jan. 31 to comply with the request.
A photo of Edmonton's City Hall.

Municipal and provincial leaders reduce homeless visibility

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Aggressive encampment removals and a triage centre to connect evicted campers with supports may decrease visible homelessness for now, but much work remains to deal with the problem that prompted Edmonton's city council to declare a housing and houselessness emergency.

The declaration was followed by motions to meet with other levels of government and create a task force, seeded by $3.5 million from the city. But the hosts of Taproot's civic affairs podcast had hoped for more creativity than they saw from provincial and municipal leaders on this file.

"We know that … the more root-cause solution is for all of those folks to have a home," co-host Male Male told Episode 247 of Speaking Municipally. "And if we can't do that, what can we do in the meantime to both ensure they're safe and meet people where they are and … not take away the only sort of possessions or dignity they might have?"

As Taproot reported, disagreements remain on whether there is indeed enough shelter space for all those who need it and whether that space is preferable to living outside, even in the coldest conditions. Now that the lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction on encampment clearings has been dismissed, Chief Dale McFee is intent on removing them, notwithstanding criticism voiced to the Edmonton Police Commission.

Others might be satisfied, however, to have fewer encampments in their line of sight, said podcast co-host Troy Pavlek.

"For the average citizen of Edmonton, that might be a big checkmark. That might be mission accomplished," Pavlek said. "We're sweeping the issue under the rug, but if we have a broad base of support for sweeping it under the rug, the provincial funding might be to buy more rugs."

Hear much more about the politics of council's declaration as well as new appointments to the Edmonton Police Commission and more on the Jan. 19 episode of Speaking Municipally.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Jan. 23, 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.