The Pulse: March 4, 2024

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

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  • -15°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h late in the morning. High minus 15. Wind chill minus 35 in the morning and minus 24 in the afternoon. Risk of frostbite. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue/White: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and white for Fraud Prevention Month. (details)
  • 2-1: The Edmonton Oilers (36-20-2) defeated the Seattle Kraken (26-23-11) on March 2. (details)
  • 6-1 The Oilers (37-20-2) defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins (27-24-8) on March 3 in the team's fourth straight win. (details)

Edmonton waste sorting bins.

On the agenda: EPCOR scrutiny, organics processing, advisory boards

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, council is scheduled to meet to discuss the January equipment failure at EPCOR's E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant, processing organic waste, and annual reports from several advisory boards.

There is a utility committee meeting scheduled for March 4 and a non-regular city council meeting scheduled for March 5. There is also an urban planning committee meeting scheduled for March 6, a community and public services committee meeting scheduled for March 6, and an executive committee meeting scheduled for March 8.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • EPCOR officials are expected to appear at a utility committee meeting on March 4 to update council about the equipment failure at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant that forced a non-essential water ban across the region in late January. Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell, chair of the utility committee, requested the EPCOR update, so officials can publicly explain what happened and what they are doing to prevent a similar failure in the future. An EPCOR update posted on its website said a high-voltage cable that feeds two pumps at the plant came into contact with water, resulting in electrical gear failure and damage to other components. EPCOR was working on planned improvements at the Rossdale Water Treatment Plant when the failure happened at E.L. Smith. Though EPCOR stopped working on Rossdale and put it back into full service, the second plant was unable to meet the region's water demand without EPCOR imposing restrictions. E.L. Smith was taken offline and crews worked through the night to repair the equipment. The non-essential water ban ended on Feb. 2.
  • An updated organics processing program is needed to manage an expected 36% increase in material once apartments and condos are involved in organics collection, a city report said. The city forecasts an additional 30,000 tonnes of organics will come from apartments and condos once the program is fully in place by 2027. One option to improve processing capacity is to invest further into the city's high solids anaerobic digestion facility, which is underperforming and requires upgrades to reliably generate green electricity, the city said. The report, which was prepared for a utility committee meeting on March 4, said city staff will return later in the year with four options that are efficient on cost, environmentally friendly, and comply with regulations.
  • Several of the committees and boards that advise city council are scheduled to report on their progress over the last year and what's in store for 2024. The Accessibility Advisory Committee, Community Services Advisory Board, Edmonton Design Committee, Naming Committee, and Women's Advisory Voice of Edmonton Committee are among the groups scheduled to present to a non-regular city council meeting on March 5.
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Headlines: March 4, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The City of Edmonton is exploring an urban farming program to use public land for growing food, raising chickens, or beekeeping. While people can currently apply for permits to urban farm on private land, the new program would allow commercial and non-profit applicants to use parks, urban spaces, rooftops, and other facilities, said Nicole Fraser with the city. The public can provide feedback through an online survey until March 10.
  • Prosecutors have dropped the obstruction charge against Edmonton journalist Brandi Morin, who was arrested and jailed for five hours on Jan. 10 while reporting on the dismantling of a homeless encampment. Morin, an Indigenous journalist who works for Ricochet Media, posted an update calling it a "huge win for press freedom," and thanked the people and organizations who campaigned for the charge against her to be dropped. A spokesperson for the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service said it decided to drop the charge after further assessment determined there was no public interest in pursuing the case.
  • The Alberta government announced construction will begin on 10 new schools across the province this year, including a new public school in south Edmonton for grades 7 to 12 and a new K to 9 Catholic school in Rundle Heights. The 2024 provincial budget includes $2.1 billion over three years for building and modernizing schools, with 14 projects in the Edmonton area, including funding to begin planning a new francophone school for grades 7 to 9 in the city's west end. However, with the rapid enrolment growth in the city, there is still a pressing need for more schools, said Edmonton Public School Board chair Julie Kusiek.
  • The Newcomer Entrepreneur Forum, which supports new Albertans with their business ventures, happened at the Edmonton Expo Centre on March 2. The event, hosted by the non-profit organization Business Link, features panels and workshops on topics such as provincial regulations and financing. Jezryl Austria, an immigrant from the Philippines and founder of the apparel business North Rage, said the support from Business Link was instrumental in launching his clothing line.
  • Edmonton ski enthusiasts got a chance to hit the slopes and trails thanks to a recent snowfall, after warm weather made for a challenging start to the season. "The snow is here, we're so happy to have snow," said Jim Rickett, president of the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club, which earlier had to resort to snow farming to maintain its tracks. The Edmonton Ski Club said it hopes to keep the slopes open until the end of March.
  • Edmonton woman Irene Lantz celebrated her 110th birthday on March 2, making her one of the city's oldest citizens. Lantz was born in Saskatchewan and moved to Edmonton in the 1950s. She stayed in her own home until she was 104 and has been living at the Canterbury Foundation since 2018. Her family attributes her long life to an active lifestyle, a healthy diet, and a positive outlook.
  • Michaella Montana, a journalist from Frog Lake First Nation and Edmonton, has made history as eTalk's first Indigenous full-time host. Montana has advocated for Indigenous visibility in media, actively promoting Indigenous stories and perspectives. "Since I've been working with eTalk we've covered so many Indigenous stories and TV shows and movies. We didn't have anything like that growing up," Montana said.
  • A new $5-million pedestrian bridge on the Trans Canada Trail has opened, connecting Fort Saskatchewan to Sturgeon County near Edmonton. The bridge was a major infrastructure project by the River Valley Alliance and was funded by Sturgeon County and Fort Saskatchewan, along with the provincial and federal governments.
  • Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi recalled the role of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in advocating for Sohi's release from an Indian prison in 1988. Mulroney, who died on Feb. 29 at the age of 84, was instrumental in freeing Sohi and helping him return from India, where he had been imprisoned due to his political activism as a student in Canada. "He said, 'Look Amarjeet, we discussed your case at the cabinet table, and we knew that what we are doing is the right thing to do to bring you back home.' And that was pretty touching," Sohi recalled.
  • A new $200 electric vehicle registration tax introduced in the 2024 Alberta budget is being criticized by electric vehicle owners and advocacy groups. The province says the tax will support road maintenance and also accounts for the fact that electric vehicle owners don't pay fuel tax. However, Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta president William York argued the tax is unfair because it applies regardless of a vehicle's weight or distance driven, and could discourage Albertans from buying electric vehicles.
Former mayor Don Iveson addresses reporters in 2014.

Podcasters discuss the end of EndPovertyEdmonton

By Colin Gallant

Though poverty hasn't ended, the City of Edmonton is nonetheless slowly retiring EndPovertyEdmonton by throttling down the money it provides, said the hosts of Episode 253 of Speaking Municipally.

"One of the specific ways (council has) cut back is $600,000 to EndPovertyEdmonton this year, ramping further and further down until EndPoverty is completely out of city-funded money (in 2027)," co-host Troy Pavlek said. "This is a kind way of saying the city has completely shuttered EndPovertyEdmonton as an organization."

The delayed news that the city quietly decided to cut the organization's funding in a December meeting arrived at the same time as news that Erick Ambtman, EndPovertyEdmonton's former executive director, has left. "How — cloak and dagger," Ambtman told Postmedia after the city's decision made news in February. "I was hurt (by the decision), and then angry, because I just thought this is a really poor decision, and the manner in which it's been done is even worse."

Hear more on the end of EndPovertyEdmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's housing announcement, reflections on a slow week at council, what a national urban park could mean, labour actions by city staff, and how organic waste is managed in the March 1 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: March 4, 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.