Edmonton Notes for October 4, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Mayor Iveson pledges to end homelessness this fall

Mayor Don Iveson amped up his messaging around ending homelessness this week, saying that city council is "all in" and that he would do "whatever it takes" to deliver dignified shelter for all people by the end of the month.

While the ambition to end homelessness is nothing new, the urgency certainly seems to be. Five years ago, the mayor was talking about eliminating poverty "within a generation." While EndPovertyEdmonton is about much more than housing, that is a big part of it.

Now we’re talking about less than a month. That’s no doubt because of the throne speech, which included "an historic commitment ‘completely eliminate chronic homelessness’" in Canada. The promise of federal money seems to have opened the door, and COVID-19 has made it potentially more affordable (the pandemic has also compounded Canada’s housing crisis, as FCM states, better exposing the problem).

Not that cost has ever really been a barrier. As a society we’ve long had the ability to completely eliminate chronic homelessness, but instead of spending less upfront to prevent the problem we’ve spent more after the fact to manage it. That’s true at all levels of government.

Here in Edmonton, we spend well over $400 million every year on policing. It’s perhaps the single largest line-item in the municipal budget. This summer, the suggestion that we take some of that money and spend it on housing instead came up repeatedly. Councillor Michael Walters had something really interesting to say about this in the latest episode of Speaking Municipally (around the 38 minute mark):

"It could go to housing, we could do that, that makes sense to me," he said. "But then we’re into this jurisdictional problem where the more we take on with our property tax base when its provincial jurisdiction, that’s the money we’re never going to get from the Province, ever…that’s the challenge."

There’s a window of opportunity now to address this important challenge with support from the federal government, avoiding the issue Walters mentioned with the provincial government. Just in time too, as the temperature continues to drop.

Other recent headlines

  • The Edmonton City as Museum Project hosted an "ECAMPing Trip" on Thursday focused on Edmonton’s identities. The entire video is full of interesting information, including the connection to rail in the reason why EIA’s airport code is YEG and not YED. The section on YEG starts around 1 hour, 4 minutes and includes a shoutout to me for the first #YEG tweet.
  • The Association for Canadian Studies suggests that of six Canadian urban centres survey, Edmonton is seeing the most people avoiding downtown. That’s concerning for lots of reasons, though it’s not clear why more people are avoiding downtown here. Lots of folks are working from home, and many businesses downtown remain closed. I think all the construction probably doesn’t help.
  • Speaking of downtown, The Works has setup a multi-site exhibit called Context is Everything featuring about 1,600 handmade dandelions inside different buildings and behind windows. "The dandelion is such a great symbol of strength and perseverance and resilience — and not yielding because it doesn’t care where it goes," said Saskatoon artist Monique Martin. The exhibit is up for the rest of the month, so that’s a good reason to explore.

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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