The Pulse: Feb. 9, 2024

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  • -4°C: Clearing early in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 4. Wind chill minus 14 in the morning and minus 8 in the afternoon. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for the Silver Skate Festival, which runs Feb. 9-19 in Laurier Park. (details)
  • 8pm: The Edmonton Oilers (29-16-1) play the Anaheim Ducks (18-30-2) at Honda Center, Anaheim. (details)
  • 8pm, Feb. 10: The Oilers (29-16-1) play the Los Angeles Kings (23-15-10) at Arena. (details)

A person stands behind a podium on stage surrounded by greenery. The podium includes a crest and text that includes, "St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce" and "City of St. Albert."

Edmonton Global hopes to listen its way to harmony

By Colin Gallant

Edmonton Global is hiring two consultants as it embarks on a roughly six-month "listening tour" to gather concerns from its 14 member municipalities and consider how it might convince those who want to leave to change their minds.

The organization's move follows decisions late last year by Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Parkland County, Strathcona County, and Sturgeon County to state their intentions to leave the regional economic development body. The earliest those decisions can take effect is 2025.

An Edmonton Global spokesperson told Taproot via email that the listening tour is "process driven rather than time driven," though the members have requested updates by June.

Ozone Advisory Group Inc. will work with the stakeholders and chief administrative officers in each of Global's 14 member municipalities. Meanwhile, Christopher Steele of Boston-based EBP US will meet with their economic development teams. Details about the engagements are confidential but could result in recommendations for Edmonton Global's board and shareholders.

"Part of this listening tour is really trying to figure out what is the crux of the concerns from those five member municipalities," Edmonton Global CEO Malcolm Bruce told Taproot. "I also think it's important to highlight that the remaining nine municipalities are always looking for continuous improvement, but they're quite happy with the structure, too."

Edmonton Global is an organization that seeks to find foreign direct investment for the region. It was created in 2017.

During a Jan. 25 in-camera meeting among the organization's municipalities, the mayors of Edmonton, St. Albert, Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan, Gibbons, Morinville, and Strathcona County formed a new subcommittee. Details of the meeting are confidential, even to Edmonton Global's board and staff, though board chair Enzo Barichello gave attendees an opening presentation.

The subcommittee includes urban and rural mayors; two of them represent municipalities that voted to depart Edmonton Global — Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County. Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma acts as the new subcommittee's chair. Its first meeting was Feb. 5. St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said the subcommittee will meet every three weeks, and has said since it formed that changing Edmonton Global's fee structure could create a path towards harmony.

"It's not a main part of it, it's just something that's on the table," Heron told Taproot. "One of the things I suggested at our first little working group is to find those mayors that were around the table back in 2016 and '17 when this was all really starting — they must have explored governance structures and fee structures — and ask them why they settled on the one they did. I've already had drinks with (former Edmonton mayor Don) Iveson to talk to him about it."

Member municipalities set Edmonton Global's fees and these are based on population and tax base. Sturgeon County has contributed $600,000 since Global's formation in 2017; Strathcona County, meanwhile, pays around $500,000 annually. An Edmonton Global spokesperson said it receives $5 million yearly from members, up from $500,000 in 2017, and that there are no plans to increase fees.

Heron said that making Edmonton Global better for all members involves discussions within the subcommittee about diverging investment opportunities that interest its urban and rural members. Counties have much more land for industrial development; towns and cities, on the other hand, are best suited for housing investments.

"There's been hesitation about how it's never fair that the counties get all the heavy industrial with high investment dollars and very little servicing fees," Heron said. "It's like winning the lottery for a county, and the cities just don't have that opportunity."

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Headlines: Feb. 9, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

  • The City of Edmonton is seeking to recover $25,000 in legal costs from the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights, the advocacy group that unsuccessfully sued the city over its encampment removals, to partially cover the city's $42,626 legal bill. In new documents filed in the Court of King's Bench, the city said the request is fair and that it balances its substantial costs with the fact the plaintiff is a non-profit organization. The coalition's case was dismissed in January after the court ruled it lacks public interest standing. In the new documents, the city said parties "with no genuine interest in the outcome should not be encouraged to attempt litigation by knowing that they can always seek cost relief if standing is denied." The coalition is expected to challenge the city's court action.
  • Bell Media made cuts to programming across Canada after its parent company, BCE Inc., announced widespread layoffs and the sale of 45 of its 103 regional radio stations. An internal memo from company executives said Bell Media will end weekday noon newscasts at all CTV stations, except in Toronto, and all 6pm and 11pm weekday newscasts at CTV and CTV2 stations, except in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. The memo also said news correspondents and technicians who report to CTV National News in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada will be replaced with "multi-skilled journalists." Sources told Daily Hive that CTV Edmonton has ended its noon broadcasts, effective immediately, and CTV National's Alberta bureau chief Bill Fortier was laid off.
  • The Edmonton Police Service held a town hall on Feb. 8 to address concerns around a series of extortion attempts targeting South Asian home builders. Police are investigating 27 incidents related to the extortion scheme that have happened in the Edmonton area since October, including 15 arsons, seven firearms offences, and five extortions. Last month, police said they are seeking information from the community to aid investigations into the scheme, which is believed to be linked to a criminal network in India. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi wrote a letter to Canada's public safety minister last month calling for a coordinated response.
  • Edmonton saw record population growth in 2023 driven by interprovincial and international migration, according to new numbers from the Conference Board of Canada. About 18,700 people arrived in Edmonton from other provinces and 47,100 from other countries in 2023, compared to about 4,000 and 33,400 in 2022. The report estimates population growth for 2023 at about 4.5%, and predicts 4.4% growth in 2024 and 3.3% growth in 2025. It also predicts unemployment will rise from about 5.9% in 2023 to 6.3% in 2024 before dropping slightly in 2025.
  • Spruce Grove has will name its new community arena after Const. Brett Ryan, one of two Edmonton Police Service officers killed while responding to a call in Edmonton last March. Ryan lived in Spruce Grove with his family, and he played hockey and refereed in the community. The arena is part of a civic centre being constructed north of Westwind Drive, which is expected to open in 2025.
  • NHL icon and former Edmonton Oilers star Mark Messier will appear in a Lay's potato chips commercial during the NFL Super Bowl on Feb. 11. The advertisement is a reboot of the company's "Betcha Can't Pick Just One" commercial from the 1990s. Messier's former teammate Wayne Gretzky is also starring in a commercial with former NFL quarterback Tom Brady and actor Vince Vaughn.
  • Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi is the third candidate to launch a leadership bid for the Alberta NDP, joining Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman and Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley in the race. NDP members will choose a new leader to replace Rachel Notley on June 22.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Feb. 9-11, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening this weekend 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.