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October 22, 2017
September 15, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Friday, September 15, 2017

Wrapping up all the meetings

Written by Jeff Samsonow

The EPSB’s Centre of Education, photo: WinterforceMedia

Picking up on the big agendas from earlier this week, we’ll start with stories from the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) and Edmonton City Council.

Even though the EPSB has already put in place the option for students to have Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), among other LGBTQ2S+ policies, this appears like it’s going to be one of the main issues during the election. This is in part because the provincial scene has right-leaning politicians and supporters who may or may not threaten the safety of LGBTQ2S+ students. At least one of Edmonton’s school board candidates appears to lean the same way. It’s quite a troubling turn of politics.

So, at the final meeting of the term, one of the trustees wanted an emergency motion of sorts, to re-affirm the school board’s protection of GSA students, not allowing teachers to “out” them to parents. And to ask the education minister to ban anyone in schools from pushing students toward conversion therapy.

In order for this motion to be debated without the usual amount of notice, the trustees needed to vote to allow it onto the agenda. Since the school board already stands with LGBTQ2S+ students, you’d think this would be an easy bit of political affirmation as trustees headed out to the campaign trail.

But of course not.

Three of the trustees voted against talking about this stance for privacy and protection of LGBTQ2S+ students and the extra reassurance won’t be coming before the election. (This is likely back at the first meeting after the election though.)

We can expect to hear a lot about these protections during the election. Watch for it under the heading “parental rights”, which is how it may be phrased by some on the right. This would be the “right” for parents to know if their children are taking part in GSAs. That’s the “outing” that could potentially happen if a student is LGBTQ2S+ and doesn’t feel like they can tell their parents yet, or doesn’t feel safe doing so. If a student isn’t comfortable telling their parents, but does feel comfortable taking part in GSA activities, that should be respected by teachers and school staff. (The EPSB does this currently.)

👇This thread has links to various trustee and candidate reactions.👇

Be sure to ask your school board candidates (public and Catholic) if they will support GSAs and students. Even though we’ve got some good policies in place right now, the political climate is full of right-wing rhetoric and hate, and elections are too important a time to skip over candidate platforms.

At City Hall

People seem somewhat in favour of 30 km/h speed limits around schools and playgrounds, after city council unanimously voted for that this week. (After a few changes of heart.) It will be interesting to see what Edmonton does once the province gives the city the power to change more speed limits. 30 km/h on all neighbourhood and residential roads is the safest for everyone, but that’s going to be quite the fight, I suspect.

And we all do need to slow down. As safe a driver as you think you are, simply driving the current speed limit of 50 km/h means you’re probably going to kill someone you hit. Changing speed limits, and eventually how we design our streets, is what will actually save lives.

Image: Strathcona County

Northlands is done

Well, Northlands is pretty much done. It still gets to put on K-Days for the next few years, and it can run agricultural programming. But the organization that was actually fairly powerful until not too long ago, is losing the Coliseum at the end of this year, when the City will close it down.

Certainly, Northlands lost its way after the new arena was to be built downtown, shirking horse racing and betting on a concert and fairgrounds revival to land it some government cash, all while carrying a big debt for the new Expo Centre. The City, however, has also completely whiffed on a future for Northlands, becoming completely focused on the downtown, leaving us – nearly a decade into plans and schemes for a new arena and entertainment district – without a plan for the old arena and the massive block of land around it. This didn’t sneak up on councillors.

image: Twitter

In fact, some of these councillors were around in 2008, three councils ago, when Daryl Katz bought the Oilers with a promise to build a new downtown arena. Now, neighbours are left wondering what’s going to happen with the Northlands site, and whether it will be a rush job that leaves them out of the conversation.

Big projects

If a major Edmonton project isn’t over-budget or delayed (or both), is it really a major Edmonton project? Good thing for the complete overhaul of the Stanley A. Milner Library, it’s going to cost more than planned. The new costs are being attributed to construction problems that couldn’t be examined before the building closed. The Edmonton Public Library says it can absorb the new cost overruns though. (This is actually the second time the budget’s been adjusted upward.)

As this city council shifted a decision on a big Holyrood Gardens project to the next group elected in October, it might be time to consider major multi-unit developments need more than the usual kind of process that a single building or lot would get.

NAIT is looking to follow MacEwan’s lead and consolidate its campuses in one place, taking advantage of the Blatchford development on our old city centre airport.

Since these are the last regular meetings of city council and the Edmonton Public School Board before the election, there was a lot to get to (the Edmonton Catholic School District is also winding its term down, but nothing newsworthy on the agenda this week, it appears). You can see even more stories and decisions from Headlines earlier this week.


Around the city

Edmonton and Beaumont are fighting over a section of land between the two municipalities. Beaumont annexed it from Leduc, but Edmonton wants some of it too. The town’s plans have been stopped over some technical details, but we’ll see if the political details get any better after the election (Beaumont will have a new mayor).

A little more on the thousands of Indigenous elders gathering here in Treaty 6. When the elders take a break, they’re surrounded by curated art meant to inspire and honor the elders. A meeting like this has never taken place before, and certainly not of this size.

The University of Alberta’s program to train more Indigenous teachers is expanding.

Spruce Grove RCMP is snapping photos of people behind the wheel to catch them on their phones while driving.

Alexander First Nation is heading back to the polls for a do-over election after an early election call was overturned as being improperly approved.


Good stuff on a Friday

Today, Edmonton says goodbye to a tree that has been here longer than the city, and the University of Alberta it currently calls home. Garneau’s Tree is going to be coming down, but not before the Metis community pays its respects.

In response to a bland, if not unflattering, description of our city in the Lonely Planet travel guide, an Edmonton artist is seeking your “Deep Edmonton” places and spaces for a uniquely local tourism experience. You’ll see the link in that story, and you can most definitely add your personal favourites, your secret spots, and your must-sees to the list.

YEG Youth Connect is a chance for homeless youth, and those at risk of becoming homeless, to meet with the many local groups and organizations offering support. Kids can also get a haircut, a meal and few photos at the annual event.

Edmonton’s looking for its first garbage artist-in-residence. We do claim to have world-class waste management, so why not use it as inspiration?


Public engagement

You only have this weekend to get your signatures and campaign together for Nomination Day on Monday. It’s your last chance to keep some of the candidates from being acclaimed. (One each right now for city council and the Edmonton Public School Board, two for the Edmonton Catholic School District.)

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