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December 10, 2017
September 18, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Monday, September 18, 2017

Finally!

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Well, how do you start today anywhere but the most amazing, most momentous, most coincidental timing, opening of the long-delayed Walterdale Bridge. Yes, it’s actually opening Monday!

I say coincidental timing because Monday is also Nomination Day for our municipal elections, and incumbent councillors and the mayor will surely be glad the bridge isn’t still closed while they door-knock and campaign. While this city council didn’t approve or sign contracts on all of the major projects we’ve seen delayed (and are still waiting on) it’s certainly been a rough couple of years which requires changes to how a lot of City processes are done.

Of course, like the Metro Line we’re still waiting on for full capacity, there’s some fine print with this Walterdale Bridge opening. It’s just two of the three lanes, not the multi-use trail (so nobody can walk or bike across the bridge yet), and it really won’t fully connected on both sides of the river, including to the Kinsmen Centre, until next year.

But, still, yay!


Nomination Day

As mentioned, candidates for city council, mayor and both of Edmonton’s school boards have until noon Monday to get down to the City Hall and file their official nomination papers, which require a small number of signatures and a $100 deposit (slightly more signatures and $500 to run for mayor).

As is usually the case, a few school board trustees will likely be acclaimed (looks like one for Edmonton Public and two for Edmonton Catholic). Going back through Edmonton’s election history there is almost always at least one trustee acclaimed every election from either the Public or Catholic school board (or both). Way back when, entire boards of trustees were even acclaimed some years.

Interesting to see that nobody appears to be running against councillor Andrew Knack in Ward 1. Edmonton has never seen a councillor acclaimed under the ward system (which began in 1971). This could be a historic moment if nobody shows up to challenge Knack. We’ll know by the end of lunch on Monday.

Prior to the ward system, we did appear to have some councillor acclamations (known as Aldermen back then), in 1895, 1898, 1899, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1906, the first of two elections in 1912 (this was after Edmonton and Strathcona amalgamated into a combined city) and 1913. Some of those years don’t have all the official records, so my apologies if I’m off on one or two of them.

Edmonton actually had a number of mayors acclaimed in its first few decades as a town and city too. The most recent uncontested elections were for William Hawrelak, acclaimed as mayor in 1953 and 1955 (when Edmonton voted every two years). Hawrelak won the mayoralty against two opponents in 1951 but didn’t face another challenger until 1957, when he won again. (William Hawrelak was a massively popular mayor, even winning after resigning once and being removed from office another time for a variety of scams, schemes and dirty dealings. He eventually died in office after another sweeping victory.)

A couple of links you’re going to see pushed a lot in the next month will be the official Edmonton Elections page, where you can find out which ward you live in and where to vote, and Dave Cournoyer’s (very handy) full list of every candidate’s website and social media profiles.

City Hall, image: Edmonton Elections


Questions of racial profiling

Edmonton Police questioned a family on their way to the national gathering of Indigenous elders and it’s raising some questions about potential racial profiling. This is a real shame to come near the end of an unprecedented event that saw thousands of Indigenous elders and leaders come from around the country to meet in Edmonton.

It connects to other stories this summer, however, of Edmonton’s halting steps toward reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples.

Our city’s police force was exposed as having systemic bias toward stopping people of colour and Indigenous individuals. The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) data from the last five years showed officers were many more times likely to stop BIPOC Edmontonians and ask them for ID and other personal information. The information gathered by these street checks is known as carding, and it’s now being reviewed by the Edmonton Police Commission and Alberta Government. (City council and the mayor had very little to say about this.)

The calls came again this year to have Edmonton’s football team change its name. The CFL team has no interest in doing that, and city councillors and the mayor don’t appear to have much of an opinion on it either.

We are now also hearing much louder questions being asked about who we’ve chosen to publicly praise with their names recognized on schools, parks and even neighbourhoods. Frank Oliver is the face of this discussion right now, with a lot of commemoration heaped on a man who pushed racist and anti-immigration policies as a politician and newspaper publisher, and had a role in stripping the Papaschase of their land. (Showing that you can remember our history while still honouring people that deserve it, St. Albert opened a large healing garden on the weekend. The garden is a place to pay respects to Indigenous peoples who suffered in two residential schools on land St. Albert now occupies.)

As it relates to our civic election, ask your candidates where they stand on these issues of reconciliation and racism, because the next city council is likely going to need to actually make some public decisions on one or more of these items.

*

Back to the national gathering of Indigenous elders for one more story. There were some items for sale that may have been inspired by Indigenous art, but certainly don’t appear to be made by anyone here on Turtle Island.


Around the city

One of the new Valley Line station designs. image: City of Edmonton

The province’s carbon tax is now tied to the Edmonton LRT’s Valley Line. A loan to help build the southeast extension has been converted to straight funding, freeing up some City money for the western leg of the project.

The City also picked up some extra money by opting out of buying a portion of Edmonton Tower.

Edmonton continues to add electric buses to the fleet. Meanwhile… the city hosted an electric vehicle expo on the weekend. And the host location of that event, Southgate Centre, added charging stations to its parking lot.

The love affair between Iceland and Edmonton (and, perhaps, Iceland and Canada) has cooled a bit and winter flights will be canceled.

Many Metis, Garneuas and Edmontonians gathered on Friday to say goodbye to a tree that has stood tall longer than any of us have been around. Garneau’s Tree was cut down before the weekend was finished.

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