The Pulse: April 2, 2024

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

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  • 20°C: Mainly sunny. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 20. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for IBS Awareness Month. (details)
  • 4-1: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings on March 28. (details)
  • 6-1: The Oilers defeated the Anaheim Ducks on March 30. (details)
  • 2-3: The Oilers (45-23-5) lost to the St. Louis Blues (40-31-4) in overtime on April 1. (details)

A sign at Fort Edmonton Park.

On the agenda: Brentwood redevelopment, 2SLGBTQIA+ plan, Fort Edmonton

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, city council meets at city hall (recently re-opened to the public) to discuss the redevelopment of a large housing complex in Woodcroft, the process to create a 2SLGBTQIA+ action plan, and a loan for the Fort Edmonton Management Company.

There is a public hearing scheduled for April 2 and a city council meeting scheduled for April 3, with a continuation on April 4.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • Council is scheduled to vote on whether it should loan the Fort Edmonton Management Company money to offset what the company has to pay back to the Canadian Revenue Agency for wage subsidies it was ineligible for. In 2020, 2021, and 2022, the company that operates and manages Fort Edmonton Park received nearly $1.5 million from the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidies program, but later realized it was not eligible. If the loan is approved, Fort Edmonton said it will raise fees and introduce a new "immersive and interactive multimedia guest experience" to pay it back. The loaning bylaw is scheduled to be discussed at a council meeting on April 3. At a previous meeting, the executive committee recommended council approve the loan.
  • Brentwood Community Development Group, the non-profit that owns Brentwood Homes in the Woodcroft neighbourhood, is applying to redevelop the community's aging townhouses and apartment building. The redevelopment is expected to take approximately 15 years and add up to 500 additional housing units. The company said it charges market prices for 65% of its units and subsidizes the other 35% through its own funding. The redevelopment would consist of three-storey townhouses and mid-rise towers, with up to 850 underground parking stalls. The developer said all current residents will be offered a similar unit for a comparable rent, and that its goal is to retain all tenants. Council is scheduled to vote on the redevelopment at a public hearing on April 2.
  • The community and public services committee recommended to council that it increase the budget of the social development branch by $155,000 to fund the beginnings of a 2SLGBTQIA+ Action Plan. The funding would support engagement with community representatives to develop recommendations that would guide the creation of an advisory committee. Council is set to vote on the funding at a council meeting on April 3.
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Headlines: April 2, 2024

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • Edmonton city councillors will review a report by Explore Edmonton and Night Time Economy Solutions aimed at boosting the city's economy by encouraging nighttime activities. The report, which will be presented to executive committee on April 10, highlights the public's growing interest in late-night markets, shops, theatres, and restaurants, and emphasizes the need for improved transit and safety to increase nighttime traffic.
  • The number of housing starts in Edmonton fell 10% in 2023 compared to 2022, with work beginning on 13,184 units last year, according to the latest housing supply report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The city also saw a 14% drop in purpose-built rental unit starts in 2023, and rental vacancy fell below 3%, meaning Edmonton now feels the "supply squeeze" that was already being felt in Calgary and elsewhere.
  • A new study published in PLOS One looks at how climate change could affect the makeup of a city's wildlife. Under scenarios modelled by the researchers, Edmonton is among the Canadian cities that would see a large influx of new species. Canadian cities in general were predicted to gain more species and lose fewer species than American cities.
  • Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency physician at Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital, spoke to The Globe and Mail about the link between housing and healthcare, noting a concerning trend of homeless patients cycling through emergency rooms due to inadequate housing. To help address the cycle, Francescutti and his colleagues launched the Bridge Healing Transition Accommodation Program last year, providing transitional housing for discharged homeless patients. The program has 36 recovery rooms in three buildings in west Edmonton.
  • Edmonton Police Service Det. Thomas Hapke spoke to CTV News about the police response to gun crime in Edmonton. Hapke said the situation has changed since the Firearms Investigation Unit was created in 2019 to focus on "straw trafficking," or the illegal selling of legally purchased guns, with police now seeing an increase in 3D-printed and imported guns. The unit doubled from eight to 16 officers at the end of March with funding support from Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
  • Dozens of Edmontonians rallied outside the office of Edmonton Centre Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault on April 1 as part of a nationwide protest again the federal carbon tax increase to $80 per tonne from $65. An "Axe the Tax" rally hosted by Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre at the Edmonton EXPO Centre attracted thousands on March 27, including Premiere Danielle Smith and members of her caucus. Smith also spoke in opposition to the carbon tax increase at a House of Commons committee on March 28.
  • Hudsons Canada's Pub in Old Strathcona is facing challenges with its patio setup because of city restrictions on its placement following work to widen the sidewalk. General Manager Connor Yakabuski expressed frustration over the inability to restore their patio as it was before construction in 2021, while the city acknowledged the tension between maintaining clear sidewalks and supporting businesses. The city is expected to meet with pub management this week.
  • Chimo Animal Assisted Wellness and Learning Society has been working with the city for the past year on a pilot project called PAWSabilities. The pilot involves bringing dogs into downtown pedways and transit spaces to promote wellness and connection, and has had about 400 interactions since its launch.
  • The southbound off-ramp from the Queen Elizabeth II Highway onto 50 Street in Leduc will close on April 6 due to ongoing construction on the 65 Avenue interchange project. The ramp will remain closed until the project is completed in 2025. The project is a collaboration between the City of Leduc, Alberta Transportation, and the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority. Southbound drivers can access Leduc through the 50 Avenue or Airport Road off-ramps.
  • Several people weighed in on Premier Danielle Smith's comments last week that the province is on standby to help the City of Edmonton with its finances. Athabasca University professor Paul Kellogg said the city's finances are the result of a long-term decline in provincial funding, while Coun. Michael Janz said cities increasingly have to fill funding gaps caused by provincial cutbacks. Recent labour disputes, the city hall shooting, and the handling of encampments are also contributing to a sense of turmoil, commentators told CBC.
  • Trailblazing Edmonton broadcaster and former CFRN news director Bruce Hogle, has died at the age of 95. Hogle was celebrated for transforming news coverage, notably by introducing live coverage of legislative proceedings and advocating for women in the newsroom. His contributions extended beyond journalism, including founding the Good Neighbour Fund and being invested into the Order of Canada in 1998 for community service efforts.
  • The Royal Canadian Air Force celebrated its 100th anniversary on April 1 with a fly past over the Alberta legislature grounds by the 408 "Goose" Tactical Helicopter Squadron.
  • Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has been named the NHL's First Star of the Week after scoring three goals and assisting five more in three victories. McDavid is now just one assist away from becoming the fourth player in NHL history to achieve a 100-assist season and has contributed significantly to the team's success. The Oilers are likely to make the NHL playoffs, and playoff ticket prices have gone up for all seating areas in Rogers Place compared to 2023. Prices have increased 25-30% on average for the first round, 40-50% for the second round, 70% for the third round, and 50% for the fourth round.
  • Emails received by Premier Danielle Smith's office in response to proposed LGBT and transgender policy changes in Alberta showed divided opinions, according to emails obtained by Postmedia through a freedom of information request. According to the emails, 56% supported the changes, while 42% were opposed. The changes would ban gender reassignment surgery for minors and restrict hormone therapy and sports participation for transgender athletes.
Former city manager Andre Corbould dressed in army fatigues in the desert sands of Afghanistan

City manager's departure doesn't erase underlying challenges, podcasters assert

By Tim Querengesser

While city manager Andre Corbould's sudden departure is something of a Shakespearean melodrama — did he jump or was he pushed? — the issues at the heart of his resignation will continue to vex city hall.

"The city manager leaving is never the first action," co-host Troy Pavlek said on Episode 257 of Speaking Municipally. "It's usually the tip of an iceberg of a cavalcade of events."

What elements have created that manager-sinking iceberg, then? Pavlek and co-host Stephanie Swensrude ran through several of them, including the city's response to homeless encampments (and challenges from advocates attempting to represent homeless residents in court), as well as the contradictory statements that came out of the city's negotiations with Civic Service Union 52.

Corbould and city administration have struggled with a direction from city council to slash $60 million from the overall budget and reallocate $240 million to priorities, otherwise known as OP12. That task has only grown tougher over time, given challenging finances and a mushrooming population requiring services and infrastructure. And now, Corbould is gone.

"What (Corbould's departure) leaves on the table is a very tenuous question of what happens with OP12, which was basically due this spring," Pavlek said. "And, you know, people watching closely seemed to think it wasn't really going to deliver on the promise. Now, the chief in charge of delivering OP12 is gone. This might put council in a very difficult budgetary position."

The drama is also playing out amid growing tensions between council and the provincial government. Corbould was alleged to be friendly with the UCP and seemed to have difficulties with council's priorities on issues such as climate change. Pavlek has long suggested that made Corbould insubordinate to council, and that several councillors wanted him gone. "Mack (Male) and I have been talking for years about council's strained relationship with the city manager and how the city manager tended to undermine council," he said.

Premier Danielle Smith recently told a Postmedia columnist that she is now "concerned" about Edmonton because of Corbould's departure, and is therefore "ready to assist." Both co-hosts found Smith's sudden alarm interesting, given Edmonton's many calls for provincial help in the past have been met with lukewarm concern. "Has Edmonton ever asked the province for help?" pondered Swensrude, provoking laughs. "I can't remember if they've ever, you know, requested some funding or anything from the province."

Indeed, Pavlek framed Smith's missive as just more politicking that's aligned with the UCP government's ongoing push to inject partisan politics into the municipal level. "I think even further, it is indicative of what's to come," he said. "Municipalities now have the go-ahead from the province to bring party politics to the municipal level to do those dogfights in the middle of council chambers."

Swensrude noted it is not just Corbould who has left but several senior city leaders over the past few years, including former deputy city manager Adam Laughlin. Former Edmonton Transit head Eddie Robar has stepped in as Corbould's interim replacement, winning an unofficial game of Survivor as one of the few senior people left who could fill in, Pavlek suggested.

Hear more on Corbould, the provincial response to homelessness, heritage protections in Glenora, a move to pedestrianize 83 Avenue, and the reduction of residential parking permit zones on the March 29 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: April 2, 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.