The Pulse: March 26, 2024

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

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  • 2°C: Increasing cloudiness early in the morning. 30% chance of flurries in the afternoon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 2. Wind chill minus 12 in the morning. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for Purple Day. (details)
  • 6pm: The Edmonton Oilers (42-23-4) play the Winnipeg Jets (44-22-5) at Canada Life Centre. (details)

A building with windows and a sign that reads "Bellevue" is pictured next to a tree and a vehicle.

Spiking insurance costs and requirements dampen community leagues

By Colin Gallant

The Bellevue Community League is surmounting insurance challenges to open a toy library, but many other leagues across the city are struggling with insurance costs that have spiked by as much as 25%.

"Getting insurance approved took several months, but we have received the go-ahead," Bellevue Community League president Fraser Hayes told Taproot in an email about the toy library. "Apparently, because community members will be taking these items off-site, this fell outside of our normal 'program' insurance coverage."

The library will be a collection of toys that can be booked out for kids up to 12 years old. Hayes doesn't know when it will open. His colleague, treasurer Brian Finley, told Taproot that the league's most recent annual insurance bill was $10,600.

The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues uses broker NFP to help leagues secure appropriate coverage at competitive rates, though last fall premiums rose by between 15% and 25%. The city requires leagues to have no less than $5 million in liability coverage.

"Our broker that we work with knows the world of leagues very, very well," Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, executive director of the EFCL, told Taproot. "Their role is really to advocate to the insurance company to make sure that these great things can still happen."

Still, insurance is why the Riverdale Community League had to cease its popular snow angels program, as it was unable to insure liability for off-site services. Treasurer Kevin Minaker said the city and EFCL instructed the league to end the program, which once saw neighbours shovel each other's sidewalks as an official program. The problem was that the angels or league could be sued if someone got injured on an improperly cleared sidewalk.

"I believe we still do some voluntary shovelling — it's just not an organized program of the league, so we can't be held liable for any accidents," Minaker told Taproot in an email.

Cunningham-Shpeley said another insurance issue facing Edmonton's 163 community leagues is skyrocketing deductibles. These grew from $1,000 to $25,000 last fall due to a rash of property damage at league facilities.

She added that EFCL does what it can to alleviate the insurance burden for leagues. Beyond organizing a brokerage service, the organization lobbied the city to approve a hold on $250,000 of the EFCL's funds to cover the new deductibles. Should leagues need to file a claim, they can apply for EFCL to cover the deductible.

"We knew this would have big impacts on leagues if they were going to have to pay a $25,000 deductible," Cunningham-Shpeley said. "It just shows you that insurance companies and the state that they are in. No insurance company wants to lose money. Nobody wants to lose money."

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Headlines: March 26, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Civic Service Union 52 members who work for the City of Edmonton have accepted a new four-year contract, ending prolonged negotiations. Union members had been expected to strike earlier in March, but a last-minute deal with the city averted the action, which would have impacted city services and forced the closure of some municipal facilities. The agreement, which includes wage increases and a retroactive lump-sum payment, passed with 83.5% of participating members voting in favour. Edmonton Public Library employees represented by the union received the same deal. The results of their ratification vote are expected this week.
  • A City of Edmonton report obtained by CBC found that the construction of the Castledowns Pointe condo building did not follow design drawings, confirming engineers' findings from last year. The building's residents were forced to evacuate in September due to structural issues discovered after a fire. The city's report, stemming from an inquiry into the design and construction phases of the 83-unit building, highlighted a failure to comply with building codes. It makes several recommendations to improve public safety, including better communication of roles under the Safety Codes Act and the development of investigation training for safety codes officers.
  • Edmonton city hall officially reopened to the public on March 25, two months after a shooting attack prompted its closure and new security protocols. Visitors must now undergo security screening before entering the City Room, stairwells are locked except for emergencies, and elevators require a City of Edmonton pass. Visitors can freely enter the Hallway Café, City Hall School, and south corridor, but the building's parkade remains closed. Bezhani Sarvar, 28, faces several charges in connection with the January attack.
  • Two Edmonton bridges are being renamed in honour of Edmonton Police Service Constables Travis Jordan and Brett Ryan, who were killed in the line of duty last March. Memorial signs with the names of each officer will be posted at the end of each bridge, which are located over the North Saskatchewan River between Terwillegar Drive and Maskekosihk Trail.
  • The City of Edmonton is expected to be finalizing the severance for outgoing city manager Andre Corbould, Global News reported, citing political analyst John Brennan. While the city would not confirm whether Corbould was hired for a set term, Brennan suggested it would have been about five years. Corbould, whose departure comes a little more than three years into his tenure, was hired in January 2021 at an annual salary of $350,267.94. Brennan said it could take about six months for the city to complete its search for a new city manager. Corbould's last day in the role will be April 3. He is the seventh high-ranking manager to leave the city in less than a year.
  • Sherwood Park Goodwill is auctioning off a donated guitar signed by members of Guns N' Roses. The organization received two donated guitars, and staff recognized the autographs on one as belonging to the legendary rock group. The other is suspected to be autographed by Van Halen, but it hasn't yet been authenticated. Goodwill said it will hold a silent auction for the Guns N' Roses guitar at its Sherwood Park location because so many interested buyers have already reached out with offers. The auction runs until April 1.
  • The Edmonton Elks will celebrate the team's 75th season with several festivities and a special logo featuring Edmonton's skyline and Commonwealth Stadium, where the team has played since 1978. Events include an alumni dinner at the Edmonton Convention Centre, a public autograph session, and expanded pre-game activities at Elks Fan Park, all leading up to the team's home opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 8.
Chris Kallal and Kaitlyn Scaber

Wild + Pine creates nature-based assets for global climate leaders


The "Trade Heroes" series highlights Edmonton region companies who have 'EXPORT-itude' — the mindset and commitment to think globally when it comes to their business. It's brought to you by Edmonton Global.

Wild + Pine is redefining the world's approach to carbon removal by creating nature-based assets for global climate leaders. Founded by Chris Kallal, the company focuses on the development of verified carbon removal projects, primarily through the restoration of Alberta's forests.

Unlike traditional carbon offsetting initiatives, Wild + Pine operates not as a broker but as a direct partner and project operator, ensuring that the carbon offsets generated are exclusively allocated to its clients, enhancing transparency and accountability in the carbon market.

"The vertical integration of our business model really allows us to deploy these projects with a high degree of transparency, but also a high degree of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, because we're not hiring out all these different individual services," Kallal said. "Clients essentially come to us for a one-stop shop to generate those carbon removals over time."

Drawing from extensive restoration experience in the forestry and energy sectors within Alberta, Wild + Pine's unique model has sparked interest from international clients and from a diverse range of sectors, including airports, architects, construction companies, and even insurance firms. In 2022, Wild + Pine expanded its reach beyond Alberta and in December 2023, global insurance giant Aviva committed $6.2 million to benefit biodiversity and remove carbon in Wild + Pine's StoneWoods Forest Carbon project.

"It's really special to be the steward of those dollars, and to deploy that capital, within and across our communities," Kallal said.

Aviva chose Wild + Pine to contribute to its ambition to reach net-zero by 2040, in part because of the attractive investment landscape in Canada and Alberta. Kallal said a stable government, rigorous environmental standards, and favourable currency exchange rates were all important factors in Aviva's decision to invest.

In higher population regions, organizations can sometimes struggle to develop nature-based assets because of the scarcity of available land. Kallal said he expects several more international companies to look to Alberta for carbon removal projects for similar reasons. "It's a trend that we're going continue to see at a much greater pace," he said. "We're really serving a global marketplace, and there isn't an area or jurisdiction (where) we haven't been able to have a conversation."

Kallal credits the strength of the ecosystem in the Edmonton region — the supply of skilled labour, sound and strong governance, access to resources — for helping his company attract international investment. "When we look at how (the Edmonton region) and Alberta can serve a global marketplace, we have an incredibly strong case to be made."

Kallal's vision for Wild + Pine extends beyond the corporate realm, aiming to eventually engage smaller entities and individuals in their carbon removal work. "I really hope that in the years to come we can serve the coffee shops on the corner, and at the household level as well, because that's where we're going to truly see the power of collective action and moving the needle on climate change," he said.

For now, the company is focused on how Alberta is positioned to be a leader in climate action, and Kallal believes that solutions to the climate crisis will be found in the small business community with companies like Wild + Pine leading the way.

"The thing that we're excited about most is that our process (of) building assets on behalf of sophisticated climate leaders — building intergenerational forest carbon removal projects — is being recognized by the international business community. And it's being acted upon."

Photo: Chris Kallal, Wild + Pine's founder and CEO, with Kaitlyn Scaber, director of projects and sustainability. (Supplied)

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: March 26, 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.