The Pulse: Feb. 27, 2024

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

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  • -15°C: Clearing in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 15. Wind chill minus 26 in the morning and minus 19 in the afternoon. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • 4-2: The Edmonton Oilers (34-20-2) defeated the Los Angeles Kings (29-18-10) on Feb. 26. (details)

A photo of a city sidewalk with snow cleared from most of it and a portion left unshovelled

Calgary outdigs Edmonton in accessing funds to help seniors shovel

By Tim Querengesser

As a fresh dump of snow blankets the city, an advocacy group says Edmonton is not doing as well as Calgary at helping low-income seniors access $1,300 per household in provincial funds to help pay for snow removal and similar services.

It's a question of coordination, not favouritism, said Sheila Hallett, executive director of the Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council, noting the effectiveness of Calgary's Fair Entry program, which helps qualified seniors access the provincial Special Needs Assistance program.

"The way it works in Calgary, they'll help the person access that pot of money and they get the snow, or (lawn) mowing, or housekeeping organized," Hallett told Taproot. "If the snow-removal company goes to the senior's house, they clear the snow, there's no interaction between the senior and the company, the senior just knows someone's showing up, they're getting their walks cleaned, and out of that $1,300 (provincial pot), however much they're needing to pay for that, goes right to the city to pay the company. And if there's any overage charges, the city covers it."

A low-income senior in Edmonton must do all of this organizing, paying, and applying for reimbursement themselves, Hallett said. Though the provincial money is open to anyone who qualifies due to age and income, Hallett has seen internal Calgary research that shows 51% of the dollars go to Calgary residents, 27% to the rest of Alberta, and just 22% to Edmonton residents.

"It seems like because they've got this program in Calgary, it really does get more people accessing that benefit," Hallett said.

Efforts and discussions are ongoing to change this in Edmonton. But the pathway to success looks challenging due, in part, to a council directive known as OP12 calling on administration to cut $60 million from the budget and reallocate a further $240 million to core services.

Coun. Erin Rutherford told Taproot she put forward a motion in November to fund a two-year pilot of snow clearing programs for seniors, as well as those with long-term disabilities and temporary mobility challenges. "Unfortunately … it was not funded and I personally feel that this is a big miss," Rutherford said in an email.

Rutherford also noted recent discussions about OP12 have made such a program even less likely. "That being said, I still want to see this advance," she said. "We need to do better on this issue … This kind of program is a great example of ensuring we are leveraging resources from other orders of government for community benefit and leaves no one behind as we progress our city."

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Headlines: Feb. 27, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The City of Edmonton reiterated its "best and final offer" to CSU52 members, which includes a 7.25% wage increase with retroactive pay, hybrid work options, and other benefits. The city also launched a page on its website outlining the "key terms" of its offer, as the parties remain at an impasse with the potential for a strike or lockout looming. The city says its offer balances the needs of its employees and the public as it faces a projected $50 million year-end deficit and financial challenges for the 2024-2026 budgets. Union president Lanny Chudyk said the city's offer doesn't include anything new after 18 months of bargaining and questioned why city workers should have to face the consequences of budget constraints. "We have a council, to put it bluntly, that hasn't budgeted for labour increases in their budgets for a number of years," he said.
  • A Phase 1 parking ban on major roads is in effect for Edmonton after a blast of wintry weather and frigid temperatures swept into the city. As much as 30 centimetres of snow fell in Edmonton over an 18-hour period, leading to many collisions. The Phase 1 parking ban is expected to last about 48 hours and prohibits parking on arterial roads, collector roads, bus routes, and within business improvement areas as crews work to clear snow and ice. Any vehicles not moved from Phase 1 routes may be ticketed or towed. Residents can check the Roadways Snow Clearing Map for updates.
  • A new City of Edmonton report projects the city's organic waste volumes will increase to 121,000 tonnes by 2027, more than eight times the 13,700 tonnes processed in 2020. The increase is attributed to the success of the city's green cart program, which was introduced to single-family homes in 2021. The report, which will be discussed at council's utility committee on March 4, proposes three options to deal with the increased waste: building a new outdoor composting facility, further investing in the trash digester, or outsourcing to meet the future demand. Council is expected to review more detailed options in September.
  • Members of Edmonton's Black community are collecting stories and oral histories as part of the Jasper Place Community History Project in west Edmonton, which was launched in 2020 with support from the city and province. Community member Donna Coombs-Montrose, who came to Canada from the Caribbean in the 1960s, is working with a team of contributors collecting stories, videos and photos about the people who have made Jasper Place their home. "It speaks to my being, it speaks to my community and people wanting to see themselves in the history of Canada," Coombs-Montrose said.
  • Erick Ambtman, who was the executive director of EndPovertyEdmonton until recently, said he believes city council's decision to slash the organization's budget will effectively force it to close. "Functionally, that is shuttering the organization. That's closing us," he said. Council made the decision to cut the organization's budget by $600,000 this year in private. Coun. Michael Janz said there has been progress on issues the organization was meant to address, including childcare and public transit. "It was a question of, should we be spending millions of dollars on this vehicle, on this committee?" he said.
  • The Yellowhead Tribal College in Edmonton has introduced a program that trains students in identifying wildfires using drone technology. The certificate program, which is free to Indigenous applicants, aims at enhancing early detection and response to forest fires. The Alberta government recently declared an early start to the 2024 wildfire season due to warm and dry conditions.
  • The Alberta government announced changes to daycare grant funding, a move aimed at easing the transition to a $10-a-day system. Starting in March, daycare operators will receive 80% of their affordability grants and subsidies at the beginning of the month, addressing a major complaint about delayed payments. In late January, daycare operators started rolling closures to protest the delayed payments.
  • The Calgary Chamber of Volunteer Organizations (CCVO) released its Alberta Nonprofit State of the Sector 2023 report, titled Facing the Storm. The report notes that while revenues stabilized, increased expenses put pressure on communities and organizations. It also reported struggles with recruitment, retention, and staff burnout, with 63% of Alberta non-profits finding it challenging or very challenging to meet demand. The CCVO is holding online events to inform its policy priorities and budget requests.
  • Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is on track to become the first NHL player in 35 years to achieve more than 100 assists in a single season, following Wayne Gretzky. McDavid is leading the league with 68 assists through 53 games. Across the NHL, his 89 points put him third, behind Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon's 96 points and Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov's 102 points.
A painted bike lane alongside a road in winter.

Edmonton's slow progress on $100M bike infrastructure commitment scrutinized

By Colin Gallant

Edmonton has announced the first 10 projects as part of its $100 million investment in active transportation infrastructure. But while this news is positive, the overall project's slow progress deserves scrutiny, hosts said in Episode 252 of Speaking Municipally.

Co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Stephanie Swensrude discussed the latter's reporting on the new routes. Swensrude reported that the new bike lanes, to be built this year, will cover just 17 kilometres of the 678-kilometre total intended for the $100 million investment, which council endorsed back in 2022.

"This was supposed to be a very, very fast process," Pavlek said. "And while I'm glad to have some stuff, it's striking me as sort of anything but fast. It does make me worry (about) the ability to complete this connected network in just an additional two years, (if) this is all we can do after one and a half, two years."

Both hosts were optimistic about these new routes, but were skeptical about what the small distances say about progress for a project that spans 678 kilometres, intended to be complete by 2026.

"At the end of 2026, if we only have just over 45 kilometres of bike infrastructure, that's not going to look good to anyone," Swensrude said. "It's a bit of an anti-climactic achievement."

Each of the 10 routes to be built in 2024 will be a shared pathway, rather than only a bike lane. Pavlek called these routes, often in places where the roadways are wide and sidewalks do not currently exist, "low-hanging fruit," and wondered what roadblocks the city could face when more complicated areas emerge.

"We're going to get a lot more difficult problems, places in the core area where we have to start thinking about reducing lanes, and dealing with traffic congestion, and complex intersections," he said. "That's when I expect this discussion to get a little bit spicy."

Hear more about bike lanes, as well as e-scooters, OP12, rezonings, and the George Spady Society on the Feb. 23 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Feb. 27, 2024


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.