The Pulse: July 9, 2024

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

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  • 34°C: Sunny. High 34. Humidex 36. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • Purple/Gold/Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple, gold, and red for IGNITE Canada for the Canadian Paralympic Team. (details)

A file shot of Edmonton city council

Podcasters consider council's code of conduct

By Ben Roth

Edmonton city council's decision to say no to updates that city administration proposed for its code of conduct bylaw caught the attention of the co-hosts of Episode 271 of Speaking Municipally.

The co-hosts noted administration's recommended changes to the bylaw were different from what councillors had expected, specifically the proposal that councillor misconduct would potentially be kept private by default. "Of course, that seems like a bad idea," said co-host Mack Male. "I think it is better for transparency for people to know when a council member breaks the code of conduct."

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said at council that he didn't know how keeping things private was in the interest of transparency. But co-host Troy Pavlek showed sympathy for the recommended change. "The code of conduct bylaw, ostensibly, is about council itself," Pavlek said. "It is council's self policing and they've never really chosen to exercise any of those (powers), even when there were egregious violations of the code of conduct bylaw."

Pavlek said almost every recommendation council gets to apply the bylaw boils down to the need for a social media policy, as violations usually "come down to some level of using Twitter bad." The code of conduct has also been invoked by councillors attending political party events and complaints from the Edmonton Police Commission, and the current bylaw ensures that those actions are public knowledge.

The proposed bylaw amendments could have put councillors in an uncomfortable political situation, as they would have required council to vote to make any misconduct reports public, forcing councillors to decide to air a colleague's dirty laundry. Under the current bylaw, the reports are public by default and the decision to sanction doesn't fall to councillors but instead to the integrity commissioner.

That current state might seem more transparent but Pavlek said it might be less democratic. "It ends up feeling a lot like an unelected bureaucrat is the final arbiter on what councillors can or cannot do when they're representing their constituents," he said. Pavlek also speculated that the proposed change could have been like the council acting as a jury against itself, but that still wasn't an ideal option.

Male said another positive part of the proposed amendments was to make it a code of conduct violation to discuss violations that council had voted to keep private. He said this could protect the integrity of the process so that it would only be used for serious violations.

The podcast co-hosts also discussed the new Centennial Plaza, just south of the Stanley A. Milner library. Neither thought the $17-million project lives up to the city's description of a gathering space that encourages kids to play. "I couldn't help but think that this is bad," Pavlek said. "I felt like someone is trying to sell me a bridge. And they're obviously scamming me." Male joked that it might be the city lowering the bar for Warehouse Park, whenever it might be completed.

Listen for more about Edmonton's food truck scene, a conversation about traffic safety and the city's Vision Zero plan, a restriction on bear spray sales, and an update from the Taproot newsroom from managing editor Tim Querengesser.

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Headlines: July 9, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Edmonton set a new daily record high temperature of 32.3°C on July 8, as a heat wave hit Western Canada. Temperatures are expected to drop out of the 30s later in the week but remain warmer than average, with highs in the upper 20s. People attending outdoor events are advised to take precautions, including staying hydrated and seeking shade. The heat is expected to increase the wildfire risk, particularly in the north. Little Red River Cree Nation issued a wildfire alert on July 8 for Garden River residents, advising them to prepare for a possible evacuation due to an out-of-control wildfire near the community.
  • Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein published a piece examining Edmonton city council's recent discussion of the "substantial completion" policy, which mandates finishing current suburban developments before starting new ones to curb urban sprawl. The policy aims to achieve climate and cost sustainability, though developers argue it could harm housing affordability and competitiveness. Council unanimously decided to delay major decisions to conduct further research on the policy's impacts and benefits. The research is expected to take two years, which passes the decision to the next council.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi appeared on Global News for its monthly Civic Matters segment to discuss housing challenges in Edmonton. Sohi said residential growth needs to be smart and coordinated to avoid continued sprawl, which is "very expensive for taxpayers." He added that the city needs to attract more industrial and commercial growth to shift the burden away from the residential tax base.
  • Margo Long will step down as president and CEO of Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) on Sept. 15, after seven years in the role. Corey Mowles, currently the chief operating officer, will succeed her as CEO. Mowles said in a statement he is committed to YESS's strategic plan to establish 24/7 youth support centres in the region.
  • Edmonton's overall office vacancy rate stands at 20.6%, with downtown at 22.3% and suburban areas at 17.9%, according to the latest report from CBRE. Vacancy rates are higher in lower-quality buildings, while buildings with better amenities are seeing more leasing activity, the report says. The suburban office market is performing well, particularly in areas like South Henday, where vacancy rates are as low as 5.6%.
  • St. Albert native Matt Savoie is excited about being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. Savoie, who was originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 2022, said he looks forward to contributing to the team he grew up cheering for. The Oilers have also re-signed forward Raphael Lavoie to a one-year, two-way contract.
  • CBC published an overview of the various provincial programs that cover dental care as the Alberta government says it will withdraw from the federal Canadian Dental Care Plan by 2026. Premier Danielle Smith argues dental care is the responsibility of the province, and said her government will instead negotiate for Alberta's share of federal funding to enhance its own programs. The federal government says its plan complements existing provincial programs and fills coverage gaps, with more than 100,000 Albertans already enrolled.
  • The Edmonton Elks have signed five new players, including notable additions Shawn Oakman and Derrick Moncrief, while releasing three others. Oakman, a defensive lineman, previously played for the Toronto Argonauts, and has a Grey Cup win and multiple All-Star selections. The team's next game is on July 14 against the Ottawa Redblacks at Commonwealth Stadium.
  • Dwight Lodeweges, a former Edmonton Drillers player and FC Edmonton coach, is an assistant coach with the Dutch national team at the UEFA Euro 2024. Lodeweges has had a diverse soccer career, including stints in Japan, Abu Dhabi, and multiple teams in Holland. The Netherlands recently advanced to the Euro Cup semi-finals and Lodeweges is optimistic about their chances against England.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: July 9, 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.