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October 18, 2017
June 27, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The right kind of moves

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Seniors and Housing minister Lori Sigurdson makes the affordable housing announcement, with Edmonton mayor Don Iveson to her left. photo: Government of Alberta

The Alberta government is starting to roll out the details of its billion-dollar investment in affordable housing.

Some of the details were part of budget announcements in the spring, so Edmonton already had an idea of some money coming its way. That included funding the planning stage of a number of building projects, a $50M replacement of social housing units in the Londonderry/Kilkenny area of north Edmonton and money to help house more Indigenous people moving to cities and towns.

The money is going to help upgrade and update thousands of the current 70,000 affordable housing units. It’s also going to build another 4,000 by 2021. This is all overdue, since Alberta was one of just two provinces without any kind of strategy and affordable housing was not only falling into disrepair but sorely lacking. This new investment in affordable housing and related social programs is coming at the same time as the federal government has announced its own re-investment in the same kinds of needs.

More interesting than fixing and building homes is that part of the new strategy includes some changes to help people get into housing, stay in their homes and build up ways to transition out of government housing.

These changes mean we can begin to break the cycle of poverty.

These are the kinds of moves that could actually help lift people out of poverty. At last report, Edmonton had more than 100,000 people living with low-income, most of them below the poverty line. The same Profile of Poverty in Edmonton report highlighted government assistance and rebates, like the provincial and federal Child Benefits and Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit enhancements, as helpful to low-income households. Not throwing people in jail for unpaid tickets is another good idea.

The new affordable housing units are good news, but it’s ultimately systemic changes that widen the social safety net that will truly help keep people from living on the edge of homelessness.


The Grandin Tower. image: Skyrise Cities

Around the city

Planning staff at the City of Edmonton aren’t backing a proposed 30-storey tower in the Oliver neighbourhood. This isn’t just about height though, as the Oliver tower would take up a lot more space than other towers recently built in and around the neighbourhood, so it would crowd in on buildings beside it and the sidewalk. That being said, Oliver could take on something with more density at the location, maybe just something a little smaller or fit to scale. (City Council could still approve the building this week though.)

Another development moving ahead, not without its own controversy, is a potential new community out in Strathcona County, north of Sherwood Park. The Bremner subdivision plan is off to the Capital Region Board for approval, even though many still feel that it was the less desirable place to develop, with the Colchester area southwest of Sherwood Park preferred. At issue is how both areas will now develop, in terms of the loss of agricultural land and wetlands, and potential density and even a future annexation by the City of Edmonton.

Legendary University of Alberta men’s hockey coach Clare Drake is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In some Edmonton neighbourhoods you have to watch for poems at your feet.

We hope that Ramadan was joyous and peaceful for anyone celebrating. We know this is a difficult time for a lot of Edmonton’s Muslim neighbours, so it’s important to highlight this annual tradition. There is a community-wide celebration coming up on Saturday too, at Rundle Park.


Provincial issues

As bikes begin to become a larger part of people’s regular transportation options, the Alberta government is looking at standard rules for all cities (and all users of our roads).

The “wild west” of money and donations between Alberta’s elections has supporters on the right throwing money into political action committees (or PACs) to fund leadership runs, potential leadership runs, ads and marketing, events, and anything else our election laws don’t outright forbid. This is, of course, a way for members and supporters of the Progressive Conservatives, Wildrose Party and Jason Kenney-fleeing conservatives to prop up various efforts and skirt election fundraising rules. The NDP government brought in new rules and restrictions for donations after it won the 2015 election.

David Khan. photo: Alberta Liberal Party

New Alberta Liberal leader David Khan has been all over the issue. He’s calling for rules similar to those of election and party financing with donation limits, spending limits and public disclosures. I’d go a step further and say they should be banned in Alberta. People can support candidates and parties, so we don’t need a multitude of other ways for people with deeper pockets to subvert the system creating a money-driven mess of polarized anger and special interest politics like the U.S. has with its PACs and super-PACs.

The answer to court backlogs is not just to add more crown prosecutors and judges. As Alberta, and all provinces, deal with new trial timelines set by the Supreme Court of Canada, some charges should be resolved in ways that don’t include trial, including plea deals or alternatives like drug court and mental health court. Some charges may also need to be dropped as the new normal sets in. Another thing to consider is raising the threshold for laying some kinds of criminal charges or pursuing trails, keeping some minor offences from clogging up the system in the first place.


Public engagement

City Council begins their meeting today, at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. The meeting will stream live from Council Chambers.

There’s an open house about the Oleskiw River Valley Park Master Plan, 5 – 8 p.m., at the Westridge Wolf Willow Country Club Community League.

There’s a public consultation tonight at Kilkenny Park 1, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. related to the Kilkenny neighbourhood renewal, and potential upgrades to a pocket park in Kilkenny.

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