The Pulse: Feb. 5, 2024

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

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  • -6°C: Cloudy with 30% chance of flurries. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 6. Wind chill near minus 12. (forecast)
  • White: The High Level Bridge will be lit white for White Cane Week. (details)

Five men stand beside an Edmonton Transit Service bus.

On the agenda: Wîhkwêntôwin, esports, airport link

By Stephanie Swensrude

Council is back to meeting but will do so virtually. This shift follows a week when the city cancelled all public meetings in the wake of the Jan. 23 attack on city hall. The building will be closed to the public indefinitely.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 5, an urban planning committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 6, and an executive committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 7.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • Councillors have the opportunity to move the Oliver neighbourhood's proposed new name, Wîhkwêntôwin ᐄᐧᐦᑫᐧᐣᑑᐃᐧᐣ, closer to being official at an executive committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 7. Wîhkwêntôwin, pronounced we-kwen-to-win, means "circle of friends" in nêhiyawêwin, or Cree. The city introduced a new policy in 2021 that allows communities to request to rename if the namesake's views do not reflect equity and inclusion. If a community wants to rename a neighbourhood or a significant asset, the new name must be approved by the naming committee, which is made up of citizen volunteers. If executive committee approves the Wîhkwêntôwin name on Feb. 7, it will move on to city council for final approval.
  • Game Con Canada has chosen the Edmonton Expo Centre as its venue from 2024 to 2026. A city report suggests the event could see up to 34,000 attendees who are passionate about video games and esports. The report, to be examined at the Feb. 7 executive committee meeting, outlines several ways Edmonton could advance the Alberta Esports Strategy, and attract major gaming events and investments, with one being to create a city-wide esports working group. Stakeholders said a more formalized structure to support esports is needed.
  • The Edmonton International Airport and the Edmonton Downtown Business Association support creating a direct bus link between the region's international airport and downtown Edmonton, according to a report due at a Feb. 6 urban planning committee meeting. Edmonton's council requested administration to explore cost-sharing options, as it declined to fund the service during its budget deliberations in December 2022. No organizations have formally committed to a cost-sharing model. The report said the proposed service would cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million, depending on frequency, with an upfront capital cost of between $10 million and $30 million. The city said council would need to approve funding for the route as there is no money for it in the budget. Route 747 currently runs between Century Park Transit Centre and YEG. The proposed new service would supplement the 747 route, the city said. The new route could attract more conference goers and boost the economic potential of the airport and downtown. A route could also support those who live and work near the airport, as the majority of 747 bus passengers are "regular riders" who likely work at YEG or the Premium Outlet Collection Edmonton International Airport, the city said.
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Headlines: Feb. 5, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Hundreds of Edmontonians rallied over the weekend to protest the UCP government's proposed policies affecting transgender and non-binary youth. Rowan Morris with Trans Rights YEG said the policies will harm trans youth. "What I'm feeling right now is a complete rollback on trans and queer rights," Morris said. During an announcement last week, Premier Danielle Smith said the government will introduce legislation this fall that would include restrictions on gender-affirming surgeries and therapies for minors and require parental consent for students 15 and under to change their pronouns or names at school. A proposed restriction on transgender women's participation in women's sports leagues has drawn criticism from athletes and advocates who say there is a lack of evidence for any competitive advantage. "I don't believe that the government has any place in legislating the actions of sporting leagues, beyond ensuring that they're adhering to human rights laws," said Finn St Dennis, a queer researcher and co-founder of an Edmonton climbing collective for LGBTQ people.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and some Edmonton city councillors and municipal staff will return to work at city hall on Feb. 5 after an attack in January forced the building's closure. While city hall remains closed to the public amid ongoing repairs and a security review, staff are being offered a voluntary, phased return. Council and committee meetings, which were cancelled last week, are being held online for the week of Feb. 5. No one was injured in the Jan. 23 attack, which saw a gunman fire bullets and throw a Molotov cocktail in the city hall atrium.
  • The Alberta government says the navigation and support centre it opened in downtown Edmonton has helped 145 people and facilitated more than 500 referrals to housing programs, emergency shelters, and employment services. The province opened the centre on Jan. 17 as the city grappled with its response to homelessness and increased its efforts to dismantle encampments around Edmonton. Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams and Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee highlighted the centre's success in connecting vulnerable people to supports. The province said it will do a review after 30 days to determine the centre's effectiveness.
  • EPCOR has lifted the ban on non-essential water use in Edmonton and surrounding areas after completing repairs at its E.L. Smith water treatment plant. During the ban, which began on Jan. 29, water consumption decreased by about 109 million litres from typical levels. EPCOR said it will conduct a review of the incident and plans to provide an update to city council's utility committee on March 4.
  • About 25-30% of Edmonton's population lived in tent communities more than a century ago due to a tight housing market and high prices, mirroring the current situation with the city's unhoused population. The figures were uncovered through archival research done by Harvey Voogd with the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society and reported by Postmedia. Some responses to the tent communities at the time were similar to recent actions taken in Edmonton against encampments, including evictions. Historical accounts reveal that tent living was not uncommon for early settlers in Alberta, and Voogd said that many Edmontonians today are descendants of those who once lived under such conditions.
  • Glass Bookshop, a popular independent bookstore in Edmonton's Ritchie neighbourhood, has announced its permanent closure. The bookstore was known for supporting 2SLGBTQ+ and racialized authors since its inception in 2018. "This turn of events is beyond our control and not a decision we made ourselves; we tried everything we could to keep this little bookshop going," it wrote in an online post. Customers with outstanding orders will be contacted for pick-up or delivery arrangements.
  • Edmonton's condominium market is experiencing a resurgence, with apartment-style condo sales increasing by 50% in January compared to the same time last year, according to new figures from the Realtors Association of Edmonton. The benchmark price for apartment-style condos increased by 5%, year over year, at the end of 2023 for the first time in nearly a decade, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. High interest rates are pushing buyers towards more affordable properties with Edmonton's condo prices remaining significantly lower than in other major Canadian cities, said real estate agent Sara Kalke. Interprovincial migration and rising rental costs are also driving the trend.
  • Edmontonians gathered in Churchill Square on Feb. 4 to rally in support of Palestine and to protest the Canadian government's support of Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry says 27,000 Palestinians have been killed and a significant portion of the population has been displaced due to Israel's military operations in the territory. Rally organizer Fatmeh Kalouti urged Canada to support the International Court of Justice's ruling for Israel to prevent further destruction and loss of life in Gaza. "We're calling on the Canadian government to stop the trade of weapons between Israel and to uphold human rights and justice," Kalouti said.
  • Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid won the NHL all-star skills competition Feb. 3 at Scotiabank Arena, taking home the $1-million prize. McDavid dominated the competition, winning four of eight events, including the stickhandling challenge, accuracy shooting, fastest skater, and obstacle course.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Feb. 5, 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.