Edmonton’s population rises to 899,447

The results of Edmonton’s first ever paperless municipal census were released at City Hall today, revealing that Edmonton’s population has grown by 2.5% since 2014 from 877,926 to 899,447. That is much more modest growth than we saw in the period between 2012 and 2014 when our city’s population grew by 7.4%. From today’s news release:

“The impact of the recent economic slowdown and higher unemployment in Alberta and Edmonton is evident in the stable population growth figures recorded over the past two years,” said John Rose, Chief Economist for the City of Edmonton.

The slowdown mirrors to some extent what is happening provincially and federally. Estimates put Alberta’s growth rate at 3.9% from 2014 to 2016, down from 6.5% between 2012 to 2014, and Canada’s growth rate at 2.0% from 2014 to 2016, down from 2.3% between 2012 and 2014.

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The update to the Capital Region Board’s Growth Plan projects that Edmonton’s population will grow to at least 1.3 million people by 2044, which we’ll achieve if we can grow at an average of 1.8% per year.

“Although we saw more moderate growth these past two years, Edmonton’s population has increased by 117,000 since 2009. When you add to that the growth of neighbouring municipalities, it highlights the need for us to combine our efforts to ensure effective use of land and smart infrastructure planning.” said Mayor Iveson. “We need to work together and leverage our resources as well as those of the provincial and federal governments to ensure an ongoing strong and growing region, one that continues to attract and retain people and investments.”

Regional cooperation is especially important because it looks like Edmonton is getting even more suburban. Ward 6, which includes Downtown, Oliver, and other central neighbourhoods, saw its population decrease 5.0% from 2014 with a loss of 3,769 people. In fact, the centrally-located wards (6, 7, 8, 10, 11) all saw their populations decrease by anywhere from 2.2% to 5.0% while the outer wards (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 12) all saw their populations increase by anywhere from 1.1% to 12.1%. This is a big shift from the 2014 Municipal Census in which every ward grew.

2016 census by neighbourhood

It’s disappointing to me to see “population loss in a number of core and mature neighbourhoods” while the developing neighbourhoods like Walker, Laurel, Summerside, Chappelle, Windermere, and McConachie all show strong population gains. A decrease of 1,012 people in Oliver and 380 people in Downtown is cause for concern. Inglewood, Central McDougall, and Strathcona were some of the other central neighbourhoods that saw their populations decrease. We are continuing to grow out when we really need to be growing up.

You can see a comparison of census results from 2016, 2014, 2012, and 2009 in PDF here. There are 201 datasets related to Edmonton’s municipal census in the Open Data Catalogue with more to come. You can also access the latest results in PDF here. And here’s my post about the 2014 Municipal Census.

Your Guide to Summer Festivals & Events in Edmonton: 2016 Edition!

It looks like summer is here to stay, and that means it’s time for my listing of summer festivals & events, powered by ShareEdmonton. Below you’ll find dozens of events with a website, dates, and links to social media for each. You’ll also find a link to the event at ShareEdmonton and a link to an iCal for the event. I hope you find this listing as useful as I do.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Festivals

Here’s my list of 50+ festivals and events you can look forward to this summer in and around Edmonton!

Event Dates Links
NUOVA Opera & Music Theatre Festival May 21 – July 3 SE  
TALES Storytelling Festival May 26-29 SE
What the Truck?! May 28/29 & more! SE
Edmonton International Cat Festival May 28 SE
Oliver Community Festival May 28 SE
International Children’s Festival May 31 – June 4 SE
Bikeology Festival (Bike Month) June 1-30 SE
NextGen Month June 1-30 SE
Nextfest June 2-12 SE
Park After Dark June 3 – September 2 SE
Edmonton Craft Beer Festival June 3-4 SE
Edmonton Pride Festival June 3-12 SE
100In1Day Edmonton June 4 SE
Edmonton Pride Parade June 4 @ 11am SE
Bonnie Fest June 4 SE
eek! Comic & Pop Culture Fest June 4-5 SE
Heart of the City Festival June 4-5 SE
Sprouts New Play Festival for Kids June 4-5 SE
Edmonton Filipino Fiesta June 11-12 SE
Improvaganza June 15-25 SE
Latitude 53 Patio Series June 16 – August 25 SE
Mercer Summer Super Party June 17 SE
Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival June 17-19 SE
Porkapalooza BBQ Festival June 17-19 SE
Highlandia Festival June 18 SE
Summer Solstice Festival June 20-28 SE
Freewill Shakespeare Festival June 21 – July 17 SE
Slide the City June 23 SE
The Works Art & Design Festival June 23 – July 5 SE
Found Festival June 23-26 SE
Edmonton International Jazz Festival June 24 – July 3 SE
Feats Festival of Dance June 27 – July 10 SE
Canada Day July 1 SE
Sand on Whyte July 1-10 SE
Historic Festival & Doors Open Edmonton July 3-10 SE
Lawn Summer Nights July 7-28 SE
Whyte Avenue Art Walk July 8-10 SE
Edmonton International Street Performers Festival July 8-17 SE
Seven Music Festival July 9 SE
Taste of Edmonton July 21-30 SE
Canadian Food Championships July 22-24 SE
Interstellar Rodeo July 22-24 SE
K-Days July 22-31 SE
K-Days Parade July 22 @ 10am SE
Servus Heritage Festival July 30 – August 1 SE
Rock’n August August 2-6 SE
Edmonton Folk Music Festival August 4-7 SE
Animethon August 5-7 SE
Cariwest August 5-7 SE
Cariwest Parade August 6 @ 12pm SE
Edmonton Airshow August 6-7 SE
Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival August 11-21 SE
Edmonton Rock Music Festival August 12-13 SE
Edmonton Latin Festival August 13-14 SE
Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival August 19-21 SE
Edmonton Blues Festival August 19-21 SE
Symphony Under the Sky August 26-28 SE
Viva Italia Viva Edmonton August 28 SE
Tour of Alberta September 1-5 SE
SONiC BOOM September 3-4 SE
Kaleido Family Arts Festival September 9-11 SE
Strathearn Art Walk September 10 SE
Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo September 23-25 SE
Edmonton Oktoberfest Sept 30 – Oct 1 SE

You can check out a calendar view of festivals here or you can download the iCal feed for your own apps.

Markets

This year I have also decided to include a listing of the many markets you can find around Edmonton! Some are open year-round, but many are just open for the summer, usually from late May/early June to late September/early October.

Event Dates Links
Beverly Towne Farmers’ Market Tuesdays, 4-8pm SE
Miller Crossing Farmers’ Market Tuesdays, 4-8pm
Sundays, 10am-3pm
SE
Callingwood Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, 2-6pm
Sundays, 10am-3pm
SE
Castle Downs Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, 4-8pm SE
Sherwood Park Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, 4-8pm SE
Southwest Edmonton Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, 4-7:30pm SE
124 Street Grand Market Thursdays, 4-8pm SE
Millwoods Farmers’ Market Thursdays, 5-8pm SE
Salisbury Farmers’ Market Thursdays, 4-7:30pm SE
Westmount Farmers’ Market Thursdays, 10am-4pm SE
Night Market Edmonton Fridays, 7-11pm SE
YEG Market District Fridays, 4-8pm SE
City Market Downtown Saturdays, 9am-3pm SE
Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market Saturdays, 8am-3pm SE
South Common Farmers’ Market Sat & Sun, 10am-4pm SE
St. Albert Farmers’ Market Saturdays, 10am-3pm SE
Century Park Market Sundays, 10am-3pm SE
French Quarter Grand Market Sundays, 11am-3pm SE

Alberta Strong

Summer came early this year, but the lack of moisture from a relatively mild winter has meant very dry conditions and we have seen some devastating wildfires around the province already. That is very likely to continue throughout the summer (you can get updates here), so you can be sure that many of the summer festivals will be accepting donations to try to help out. We’ll be accepting donations for the food bank at all What the Truck?! events this year, for instance. Check the festival websites before you attend to see how you can contribute.

Of course, a monetary donation is always a great way to help out! You can donate to the Red Cross here to help those affected by wildfires. Or consider donating directly to Edmonton’s Food Bank or to Edmonton Emergency Relief Services. Also be sure to check out the Province’s tips for donating to charities.

Happy Summer in Edmonton

There are of course many more events listed in the ShareEdmonton calendar, so check it out! Have I missed something that should be included? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it.

Happy summer!

Federal Budget 2016, Sprawling Edmonton, Riverview Name Debate

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

Federal Budget 2016

The Government of Canada introduced Budget 2016 today, saying it is “a plan that takes important steps to revitalize the Canadian economy, and delivers real change for the middle class and those working hard to join it.” The budget projects a $29.4 billion deficit. Here’s a video titled Restoring Hope for the Middle Class that highlights some of the budget commitments:

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) called the budget “a big win for Canadians” and says it will “transform the way we build cities and communities and marks a new era of federal-municipal partnership.” They like the investments the government is making in housing, transit, and green infrastructure, as well as the “new cost-sharing funding model” that will have a shorter-term impact while longer-term funding agreements are worked out.

Mayor Don Iveson is the Chair of FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus. Here’s what he had to say:

“This budget and the new, stronger working relationship between the federal government and municipalities really marks a new way of getting things done for Canadians. This introduces a new era of collaboration which will see us build stronger cities and a stronger Canada.”

The budget outlines a five-year, $11.9 billion infrastructure spending plan. There’s a focus on public transit, with $3.4 billion over three years being invested according to each province’s share of national ridership. For Alberta, with 10.28% of Canada’s public transit ridership, that works out to just over $347 million. There’s also an increase in eligible costs for public transit projects up to 50% which is a big improvement. Another $2.3 billion of the infrastructure plan will go to affordable housing over two years, $739 million of which is for investments in housing for First Nations, Inuit, and Norther Communities. About $112 million of the affordable housing allocation is to help cities tackle homelessness.

Budget 2016 extends EI regular benefits by 5 weeks, but only in three of Alberta’s four EI regions – not in Edmonton. That’s because we did not experience a large enough increase in our unemployment rate between March 2015 and February 2016. Provincially the changes could be worth about $380 million.

Like all cities, Edmonton faces major challenges around the maintenance and replacement of aging infrastructure. Budget 2016 includes funding of $50 million for infrastructure management and measurement, which should help cities collect the data required to inform decision-making. Getting a better handle on the project will be a good thing.

Sprawling Edmonton

As mentioned a couple of days ago, Council is revisiting the discussion about sprawl in our city thanks to a report that projects the City will face a $1.4 billion shortfall after building out the three Urban Growth Areas. On top of this, another $8.3 billion in non-residential assessment growth is needed to maintain the current ratio of residential to non-residential tax assessment. That’s the real reason the City is pursuing annexation, though you won’t find it in the “three reasons for annexation”.

Edmonton from Above
Edmonton from Above, photo by Dave Cournoyer

In an editorial this week, the Journal wrote:

“Now is not the time to add to chills in the development industry, but the status quo is not a good option either.”

We need to stop worrying about the development industry and worry instead about Edmonton. Mayor Iveson put it like this in a recent blog post:

“This is a critical conversation happening in cities all across Canada; I intentionally use the word ‘critical’ because Edmonton is simply not financially sustainable under our current growth model.”

The word “sprawl” is carefully avoided in both the editorial and the mayor’s post. But that’s what it is.

Riverview Name Debate

One of the three Urban Growth Areas is Riverview, where planning for neighbourhoods is well underway. Names were proposed for five neighbourhoods, and both the developers and the Naming Committee agreed on two: Grandisle and White Birch. The other three names proposed were “The Uplands”, “Red Willow”, and “River’s Edge” but the Naming Committee went with “Balsam Woods”, “Golden Willow”, and “River Alder” instead. The developers appealed, which is how the issue came before Council today.

Paula Simons wrote about the issue with her signature brand of wit:

“If the developer’s chosen names are poor, the city’s aren’t much better. Balsam Wood sounds like something you use to build model airplanes. River Alder doesn’t trip off the tongue and west Edmonton already has an Aldergrove. It’s hard to take sides in this fight when both sets of names are so depressingly bland.”

We already have The Uplands of Mactaggart too.

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Today, after an amusing debate, Council approved the developers’ proposed names. In discussing the importance of names, Councillor Loken said:

“If someone doesn’t like the name of a neighbourhood, they’re probably not going to live there…But Red Willow, Golden Willow? I don’t know.”

Maybe that’s how we can solve our sprawl problem!

Recap: Edmonton’s Economic Impact Luncheon 2016

EEDC hosted its annual Impact Luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre on Tuesday. Last year’s event featured Premier Jim Prentice and took place during a more positive time for Alberta’s economy – looking back now it seems like so long ago. A lot has happened over the last year, and to say the landscape in Alberta today is different would be a major understatement.

I think EEDC CEO Brad Ferguson showed great leadership during Council’s budget deliberations a couple months ago, requesting a 2% cut to EEDC’s budget. “Going into 2016, it could be one of the hardest years in Edmonton’s history,” he said at the time. No City-owned organization or branch had ever requested a decrease.


Photo by Brad Ferguson

Board Chair Barry Travers welcomed everyone to the event, and said that EEDC is “committed to doing more with less.” He reiterated that EEDC is focused on achieving $175 million in economic impact. After lunch, emcee Carrie Doll read a story about Edmonton. “Amidst a year of economic headwinds, this resilient city pushed forward once again,” she read. The story was full of feel-good statements like “this is a city of beauty, a city that’s engaged, a city that is alive 52 weeks a year.” I think many in the room felt it was inspirational, but it was perplexing to me. “It’s time to say goodbye to the Edmonton that once was, and hello to the Edmonton that now is.” What does that even mean?

In delivering his keynote address, I thought Brad did a great job of balancing the necessary realism of the current economic situation with the upbeat cheerleading that goes along with being CEO of the City’s economic development organization. He acknowledged that the next 2-3 years are going to be difficult for everyone, then continued:

“But in three years, if we are united and do this properly, this city and province will emerge even stronger than it’s been in the past, an economic powerhouse for our country, an incredible place for the next generation of Albertans to be born into, and a place where everyone will again want to come in search of an abundance of opportunity.”

Brad started globally and worked his way to the local context. “The world around us has lost its compass,” Brad said, explaining that the current period of time is unique because of high debt levels, the fast pace of technological change, and geopolitical tensions. He noted that “using debt to stimulate growth is incredibly addictive for politicians” but that it is citizens who end up paying the price. Global growth has stalled, he said, and that means “demand for commodities grinds to a halt.” He touched on oil, saying that the supply at the moment seems endless. And he talked about “an incredible time of volatility and anxiety, all around the world.”

Next Brad turned his attention to Canada. Though he again scolded politicians for being addicted to debt, he talked about how personal debt has escalated in recent years, despite the fact that middle income wages “have been relatively stagnant since 1995.” This has led to the “Age of Anxiety” as Brad called it, in which “people and families are doing everything possible and are still unable to make ends meet.”

Although he criticized some of the Province’s recent decisions, including “a delayed royalty review and a substantial amount of new provincial debt and new interest payments”, Brad said he wasn’t blaming Rachel Notley or her government. “They inherited 10 years of drunken-sailor euphoria that came after the Klein years,” he said, “which was the last time we made hard decisions about size of government, debt repayment and government program spending.”

More importantly, Brad placed blame on himself and everyone in the room, “We…didn’t do our job over the past 10 years of euphoria and we didn’t hold our government to account.” Regardless of who’s in power, Albertans need to question their political leaders and get more involved. But he didn’t let the current government completely off the hook. “It doesn’t matter what political ideology was campaigned on, our government has a responsibility to steward this province forward for the best interest of Albertans and future Albertans.”


Photo by Carrie Doll

Last year, Brad highlighted ten themes “that would strengthen our economy over the long term.” This year, he highlighted five calls to action:

  1. Entrepreneurship
  2. Export & Trade
  3. Energy Innovation
  4. Tourism, Conferences, and Major Events
  5. Leadership in Public Service

On entrepreneurship, Brad said “the most important thing we can do is continue to invest in talent.” He said the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Edmonton is “working exceptionally well” but noted that health innovation, agrifood, and a shared maker space are all areas that we could improve upon.

“Export & Trade are essential parts of the wealth creation formula,” Brad said. He encouraged local business leaders to speak up about the TPP, saying “we generate about $50 billion per year from TPP countries.” He also talked about pipelines and logistics and said “everyone has a role in making these opportunities come to life.”

“Our energy future is all about innovation,” Brad said, highlighting five challenges that we should be focusing on: CO2-Free Emissions, Enhanced Oil Recovery, Carbon Capture & Storage, Clean Coal, Safest Pipelines in the World. He said it doesn’t make sense to shut down or phase out one of our competitive strengths in exchange for “making green infrastructure investments in which we have no competitive advantage.”

Though he noted that EEDC has been working with Northlands to “end the 30-year old discussion of how we can best market the city under one banner,” most of what Brad said about major events and tourism was a repeat of last year. “Major events create an energy, rhythm and pulse in a city” he said, repeating last year’s message nearly word-for-word. It seems to be that civic leaders love to talk about Edmonton’s major events strategy, yet I have never seen one articulated.

“In this country we have three levels of government with the risk of introducing a fourth at the regional level,” he said. I assume he’s talking about regional government, and he argued effectively against it. “We can barely afford the multi-tiered system that we have, and we certainly cannot afford it becoming more engorged.” He talked about government becoming more efficient and less bureaucratic.

My favorite part of his remarks came when Brad talked about the complicated system of economic development and innovation organizations, saying “the level of duplication and inefficiencies is astonishing, with no overall leadership, coordination in planning or true accountability for results.” He called for an overhaul of the system, and extended an invitation to work with the other organizations to “reshape the economic development and innovation system to what is needed for our future, and leave behind the ineffective systems and structures of our past.” I hope Brad’s colleagues take him up on the offer.

Brad finished with this: “I believe this province will regain its potential, and out of this extended period of darkness, better days will come.”

Overall I think he delivered a thoughtful speech. With clear calls to action, some thought-provoking statements, and a personal touch, I think Brad had a big impact on everyone who listened. Let’s hope that other civic leaders follow his lead and do their part to help Edmonton emerge stronger from the downturn that is ahead.

A look ahead at 2016 for City Council and the City of Edmonton

This year is going to be a difficult one. “While technically it won’t be a recession, for many people it’s going to feel like one,” said City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose. Our economy is expected to grow by just 1% with unemployment rising, perhaps as high as 7%. We’re less energy-dependent than the rest of the Province, but low oil prices are still going to hurt many.

Angles on Clouds
Angles on Clouds, photo by Dave Sutherland

While the economy seems certain to dominate the headlines this year, there are plenty of other topics that will come up throughout the year. Here are some key things that City Council and the City of Edmonton are going to have to deal with in 2016 that we should keep an eye on:

New City Manager

With the firing of City Manager Simon Farbrother back in September, City Council will need to select a replacement this year.

I think this will be the single most impactful decision that Council will make in 2016 – who is the right person to lead the City in the years ahead? Council has already indicated they are looking for someone who is more involved in the day-to-day, “someone who can meet the aspirations of this city head-on.” The job posting further specifies that the successful candidate will be “a community-minded relationship builder and a consummate communicator who can advance an effective culture through accountability and ingenuity.” I think interim City Manager Linda Cochrane is doing a fine job, and she certainly has the knowledge, experience, abilities, and relationships that are critical to succeed in the role. But I don’t think Council will go with an insider. I think they’re looking for a fresh perspective.

A new City Manager will no doubt want to make changes to the organization, so expect more dominoes to fall this year.

Ward 12 By-Election

With Amarjeet Sohi being elected as MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods in October’s federal election, residents in Ward 12 are currently without a representative on Council. The by-election to fill his seat will take place on Monday, February 22 and there are already 29 declared candidates. That’s an incredible number of candidates, and it means voters in Ward 12 are going to have quite a difficult job deciding who should succeed Sohi. During the 2013 municipal election, Amarjeet Sohi raised more than $130,000 and spent more than $85,000 to win his seat. On average, the winning councillors spent $73,000. I don’t think we’ll see sums that large this time, however.

This is City Council’s first by-election in more than two decades. The new Councillor will need to get up-to-speed quickly, and won’t have much time to have an impact before we find ourselves in another municipal election.

With Amarjeet Sohi being named Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, I think Edmonton is very well-represented in the current federal government. Furthermore, we have a minister responsible for infrastructure in this country who knows first-hand the challenges faced by big cities like Edmonton. That bodes well for our city’s relationship with the federal government and for our interests.

LRT (Metro Line, Valley Line, Future Expansion) & Transit Strategy

Last year was not a great year for LRT in Edmonton, so I’m sure the City and Council will be hoping for a much-more train-friendly 2016.

The Metro Line LRT still has issues, of course. The City still hasn’t accepted the safety certification of Thales, and the line continues to run more slowly than planned (and seems to break down awfully frequently). The City says it wants to reach “Plan A”, which would be full operation using the computer-based train control system, but is currently at “Plan B-” (seriously? this is Plan C guys), which is reduced speeds and “line of sight” operations. The middle step, “Plan B”, is full speeds but using the new system only between Churchill and NAIT. It seems there’s still a long way to go.

Brad Smid, who “managed the planning, design and construction of the $700 Million Metro Line Stage 1 (North LRT Extension) from Downtown to NAIT” was just this month named Director of the Valley Line LRT Design & Construction. That could be good or bad, depending on your point-of-view. Some argue that Smid is a very capable manager who spotted issues with the Metro Line LRT early on and was instrumental in getting the project constructed under budget. But he didn’t do himself any favors this summer when he downplayed the issues with the Metro Line LRT. Saying that the project was completed “on time and on budget” from a design & construction point-of-view doesn’t mean much to taxpayers who ultimately ended up with less than they were promised. Maybe Smid is the right guy to lead the Valley Line LRT project, but he’ll have to earn the trust of Council and the public.

On the Valley Line LRT, things are looking better though. The City selected TransEd Partners late last year to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance the first stage of the project. The first task in 2016 will be to finalize the contract, which is expected to be complete in February. Construction will begin shortly thereafter (preparations have already been underway, of course). We’re promised that this line will be different, because it’s a P3. We’ll see about that.

A couple of reports on future LRT expansion were postponed from 2015 to this year, so we should see Council consider a long term funding plan for the LRT, a communications plan on LRT funding, and an “interdepartmental approach” for investing in transit and LRT, among other things. There’s also the ongoing work to create a new Transit Strategy that kicked off over the summer. The strategy won’t be complete until early 2017, but the bulk of the work will take place this year, and is an opportunity for Edmontonians to provide input on “how transit can best support the city we want to live in ten years from now.”

City Charter, MGA Review, Edmonton Region

Discussions about the City Charter will continue this year. Mayor Iveson was careful to set expectations last month that he doesn’t anticipate a charter being in place until the end of the current Council term, but we may see elements of it move forward in the year ahead. Both Mayor Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi see the charter as a critical step forward for Alberta’s big cities, bringing fewer restrictions, a new relationship with the Province, and long-term sustainable funding.

Also ongoing this year is the effort to modernize the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the legislation that guides how municipalities in Alberta operate. The MGA review began in 2014 and made progress last year with Bill 20 being approved by the Legislature. Additional changes will now be considered, with a goal of competing everything in time for the next municipal election in 2017. The City of Edmonton has put forward some key principles and considerations that it would like to see reflected in the new MGA. I expect a new set of recommendations will come to Council for approval this year.

Council will also need to continue pushing ahead with its regional partners. The focus for the Capital Region Board this year is to finalize its Growth Plan 2.0. It is a 30-year strategy for managing growth in the region that was originally developed in 2010 and is now getting its first major update. The current plan is for the CRB to approve the final plan in September so that it can be submitted to the Province in October (roughly a year behind schedule). Also, while a decision likely won’t be made this year, the City’s annexation plans will continue to be a focal point for regional discussion.

Last year saw the launch of the Metro Mayors Alliance and “a blue ribbon panel on improving the competitiveness of the Edmonton Metro region.” I expect we’ll hear much more from that group in 2016.

Northlands & Rexall Place

Back in April, the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee (which I was a member of) released its final report and recommendations, which were accepted by the Northlands Board in May. Since then, Northlands has been hard at work on completing its Strategic Plan. That work is now complete, and it will be presented to Council in the next month or two. A report on enhancing the Coliseum LRT Station and perhaps building a pedway to the Edmonton Expo Centre was put on hold in 2015 while Northlands worked to sort out its strategy, so that could all come up this year too.

Some aspects of the plan have already begun to leak out, including repurposing the entire 160 acres of land, the oft-discussed possibility of joining Northlands and EEDC, and perhaps even the end of horse racing at Northlands Park. I understand we’ll also learn more about a potential agreement between Northlands and the Oilers Entertainment Group (outright competition would be detrimental to both).

This could prove to be one of the most difficult issues for Council in 2016. The fallout of previous decisions – to build Rogers Place, to keep Northlands out of the discussion about the new arena, to build the expensive Edmonton Expo Centre – all of that will need to be dealt with this year. In a worst case scenario, Northlands goes away and the City is left with debt and expensive, problematic assets on its hands. In a best case scenario, a new vision for that area of the city is agreed upon and led by Northlands. Either way, the City is going to have to contibute taxpayer dollars, so Council will need to determine how it wants to spend its limited money.

Blatchford

Blatchford is a long-term project, but this will be a critical year for the development of the future community. Late last year Council decided to cut the large lake from the vision, the latest in a number of features that have been cancelled. On the plus side for Blatchford, the cost of environmental remediation has been far lower than anticipated.

A report is expected in the first quarter addressing the District Energy Sharing System that has been proposed for Blatchford. Administration will be preparing “a comprehensive business case” for the implementation of such a system, plus a “detailed rate setting analysis”. Council will need to determine if the district energy system is critical or if it too will be cut. There are some other big decisions coming up as well, so it should be an interesting year.

The City is still planning to sell fully serviced lots at Blatchford to builders this year, if all goes well.

Walterdale Bridge, 102 Avenue Bridge over Groat Road

Both the Walterdale Bridge and the 102 Avenue Bridge experienced major setbacks in 2015.

The $155 million Walterdale Bridge remains on budget according to the City, even with the year-long delay. The completed bridge will span 206 metres and will be 54 metres tall. All of the arch steel is now on site, the heaviest piece of which weighs 125 tonnes. The current plan is for the new bridge to open by the end of the year, with the old bridge slated to be removed in 2017.

The best date we have for the completion of the new 102 Avenue Bridge over Groat Road is “fall 2016” but for a project that has already faced a number of delays, that’s not very reassuring. The installation of steel girders in March was a disaster, with three of them buckling (#girdergate). It was determined that “the spacing braces failed upon crane release of the second last girder, resulting in the buckling of three girders.” They were repaired off-site and have since been reinstalled.

The City can’t afford anymore delays with these two important projects. Apparently a new integrated infrastructure services department has been created to try to avoid issues like the ones faced by the bridge projects. Let’s hope it helps and that they’re completed successfully this year.

Affordable Housing

This is an issue that Mayor Iveson has made clear on numerous occasions he’d like to make progress on. But as he wrote back in December, while “City Council remains strongly committed to supporting affordable housing projects in Edmonton” they believe funding needs to come from other orders of government. “There has to be a better way, one that is fairer to city taxpayers,” the mayor said.

Affordable housing was most recently discussed by Council at the October 27 Executive Committee Meeting. In addition to having Mayor Iveson approach the other orders of government to help advance the Londonderry Regeneration Project, Council asked for a report to come back in April outlining “how a Community Development Corporation could be established” and to address “the role of current housing provides in the Edmonton Metro and the possibility for better integrating and coordinating their work.” Council is also expecting a report to come back in March addressing affordable housing at Blatchford.

Municipal Development Corporation

Over the last year or so Council has been investigating the creation of an arms-length development company. The idea is that a Municipal Development Corporation (MDC) could be used for city building and could even pay a dividend to the City. UDI Edmonton sent a letter to Council back in June offering support for Council’s desire to develop City-owned land assets more efficiently, but expressing “serious concerns” with doing so through an MDC. They don’t want to compete against the City, understandably.

Despite that opposition, Council seems keen to move forward. They approved a motion at the November 26 Executive Committee meeting to have Administration return with a report on April 12 that outlines how to get a Municipal Development Corporation up and running with the preferred “super light” model, and that includes identifying which lands “would be more suitable for primarily profit-motivated development” that the MDC could activate.

An alternative to creating an MDC could be to establish an advisory board made up of existing developers, but I think they’re likely going to go ahead with the corporation this year.

Infill

Last year wasn’t a great year for infill. We’re nowhere close to meeting the 25% target for infill development, and there was a lot of frustration shared by communities as some projects started to move ahead. Still, Council and the City have committed to infill as a critical component of building a sustainable city, so they need to find a way to keep it moving forward.

Infill was most recently discussed at the October 5/6/7 Executive Committee meeting. Council is expecting a report by March that addresses how to deal with infill sites in mature neighbourhoods. Among other things, Council is looking for “options to create an integrated inspection and enforcement team” and “options to implement a performance bond/letter of credit and/or liability insurance, and/or warranty programs to provide security for the adjacent City and private property.” Hopefully some of those options will provide a way past the negative headlines that seemed to dominate the last year.

Following that meeting, Mayor Iveson wrote that infill “is about creating more housing options for Edmontonians and their families, which is important for the social sustainability of our community over the short and long term.” He promised to “assist the communities where this important development will occur.”

Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap identified 23 actions, and roughly half of those have been completed so far. The remaining actions will be completed this year, but it’s not quite clear what will come next. The Mature Neighbourhood Reinvestment Report is to be released in the spring with numbers on the infill taking place around the city.

The Quarters, Rossdale

The Quarters project suffered a setback in 2015 when the deal between the City and BCM Homes to develop a 28-storey residential tower at Five Corners fell through. I went by the giant hole in the ground the other day and discovered it has become home to dozens of pigeons. Apparently just one interested party came forward to look at taking over the site, but no announcements have been made yet. With $56 million in infrastructure upgrades and new construction going into The Quarters, the City desperately needs private partners to come on board to help build out the area. Not to mention the City’s first CRL project at Fort Road has not been very successful, and it would be a shame to see The Quarters follow in its footsteps.

In December, Council voted to sell some land in West Rossdale to the Province for $13 million. Mayor Iveson said there will be plenty of discussion about the impact of this decision on the West Rossdale project in the year ahead. “I think we have signalled an intent we want to work with them and just want to work out some of the details,” he said. The West Rossdale Urban Design Plan was first approved in 2011, so it would be great to see some progress in the year head.

Uber, Taxis, Bike Lanes

After a year of illegal operation and some very heated debates, we should finally get a resolution on the Uber issue in 2016. Proposed changes to the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw were discussed by Council in November, but they deferred a decision until later this month. I remain a fan and happy Uber customer, and I have no doubt that Council will provide a way for Uber to operate legally in Edmonton and I’m confident they will remain here.

The other aspect of the Uber debate is what to do with taxis, if anything. Back in March Council asked for an independent study on Edmonton’s taxi service levels, and that is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2016. The taxi companies won’t be happy about Uber, but additional changes could be on the way for their operations too.

The other contentious transportation issue that Council will need to deal with this year is bike lanes. They voted over the summer to remove bike lanes on both 95 Avenue and 40 Avenue, with an argument that doing so would pave the way for better bike infrastructure going forward. Well, now they need to prove that. As Mayor Iveson wrote in July, “Council’s statements about implementing the next generation of spaces must be quickly followed with action.”

New Civic Tower

Rogers Place isn’t the only major downtown project expected to open this year. The City of Edmonton’s new office tower is also slated wrap up construction later this year. Featuring 29 storeys the tower will stand 129.8 m tall, putting it in the top five (until the other towers in the arena district are built). The City has signed a 20 year lease for roughly 60% of the tower and has an option on naming rights too. The currently approved name is simply “Edmonton Tower”.

Council will remain at City Hall of course, but the new tower will no doubt have a large positive impact on the culture of the City, putting thousands of colleagues under one roof for the first time. With two-thirds of the City’s downtown employees moving to the tower, it will also have a potentially negative impact on other downtown buildings, creating a lot of vacant space very quickly. The City of Edmonton’s leases at the CN Tower, HSBC Building, and Scotia Place all expire in March.

And that’s just scratching the surface

There’s no shortage of issues for Council to consider throughout the year, as the list above demonstrates. But those are just the big items. Some of the other issues that will come up this year include:

  • Proposed changes to the Public Hearing process
  • An update on efforts to protect & preserve the McDougall United Church
  • An update on the City’s Image, Brand and Reputation Strategy
  • Managing the availability of Park & Ride facilities and a Gorman Park & Ride Strategy
  • Options for Alley Rehabilitation and Renewal
  • An update on the Traffic Management Pilot in Prince Charles and Pleasantview
  • An Electrical Bus Pilot
  • EFCL’s 100th Anniversary Project
  • The proposed Lewis Farms Recreation Centre
  • Funding for the Milner Library Renewal & Upgrades
  • An update on the Urban Beekeeping Program
  • An update on the Urban Hens Pilot Project
  • Plenty of Zoning Bylaw Changes (including reduced parking requirements in three pilot areas and around eating & drinking establishments)
  • An update on the proposed Galleria project
  • The 2016 Municipal Census

This is going to be a busy, difficult year. Get ready!

Your Guide to Winter 2015/2016 Festivals & Events in Edmonton

UPDATE: Check out my 2016/2017 listing here!

Here’s my listing of winter festivals & events for 2015/2016, powered by ShareEdmonton. Below you’ll find dozens of events with a website, dates, and links to social media for each. You’ll also find a link to the event at ShareEdmonton and a link to an iCal for the event. I hope you find this listing as useful as I do.

High Level Bridge

Festivals & Events

For winter, I’m generally looking at events that take place from mid-November through March. Those with a winter or holiday theme are more likely to be included. Here’s the listing for 2015/2016:

Event Dates Links
Christmas on the Square Holiday Light Up November 14 SE 
Hazeldean Christmas Craft Sale November 14-15 SE  
Leduc Festival of Trees November 14-15 SE  
Santa’s Little Helpers Shopping Extravaganza November 15 SE  
Indie Handmade November 20-22 SE    
All is Bright on 124 Street November 21 SE    
Santa’s Parade of Lights November 21 SE    
The Vixens of Vintage Holiday Market November 21-22 SE  
Royal Glenora Club Christmas Gift Show November 22 SE   
Festival of Trees November 26-28 SE    
Make It Edmonton November 26-29 SE     
Royal Bison Craft & Art Fair Nov 27-29 & Dec 4-6 SE    
Winterfest at Snow Valley November 27-29 SE    
Hand2Hand Christmas Market November 28 SE  
Silver Bells Winter Market November 28 SE   
A Christmas Carol Nov 28 – Dec 23 SE     
Butterdome Craft Sale December 3-6 SE    
The Legislature Light-up December 3 SE    
So This Is Christmas December 4-6 SE  
Celebrate the Season December 4-23 SE    
Festival of Light December 4-13 SE    
A Festive Mosaic December 5 SE 
A Christmas Karol: The Karol Wojtyla Nativity Play December 5 SE 
Luminaria December 5-6 SE   
Old Strathcona Horse-Drawn Sleigh Shuttle Dec 5, 12, 19 SE     
The Many Moods of Christmas December 7 SE 
Holiday Magic at City Hall December 7-11 SE 
Candy Cane Lane Dec 11 – Jan 3 SE    
Christmas Reflections Dec 11-30 SE     
Southeast Winter Fun Festival December 12 SE   
Leefield Community’s Gift & Craft Sale December 12 SE  
Snowflake Sunday December 13 SE  
The Culture Collective Holiday Arts Market December 17 SE    
A River City Christmas December 17 SE   
Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree December 17-20 SE     
Shumka presents Clara’s Dream! December 29-30 SE   
New Year’s Eve Downtown December 31 SE    
Swing ‘n Skate Sundays Jan 3 – Feb 28 SE 
Deep Freeze: Byzantine Winter Festival January 9-10 SE   
Ice Castles Jan 9 – Mar 14 SE   
Edmonton Whisky Festival January 13 SE 
World Snow Day January 17 SE     
Ice on Whyte Jan 21-24 & Jan 28-31 SE    
Winter Walk Day February 3 SE   
The Flying Canoe Adventure February 5-6 SE   
Hypothermic Half Marathon Feb 7 & Feb 21 SE   
Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival February 12-13 SE   
Silver Skate Festival February 12-21 SE   
winterfête: Family Day at the Alberta Legislature February 15 SE    
SkirtsAFire Festival March 10-13 SE  
Winter Warrior Challenge March 12 SE   
Western Canada Fashion Week March 24-31 SE   

You can check out a calendar view of festivals here or you can download the iCal feed for your own apps.

Winter in Edmonton

Edmonton is a winter city, and we’re working hard to reclaim the joy of winter and embrace the season! You can learn all about the WinterCity strategy and associated events and ideas here. Stay tuned for a new Winter Signature Drink contest and the For the Love of Winter Fashion Design Competition. Also taking place sometime this winter (depending on when the snow comes) is #YEGSNOWFIGHT – stay tuned!

Quite a few events took place last year that aren’t happening this year, like Red Bull Crashed Ice and the Winter Cities Shake-Up. Hopefully some others will return, like illumiNITE, and if they do I’ll add them to the list above.

Happy New Year 2015!
Fireworks welcomed 2015!

For some in our community, this time of year is anything but merry. Lots of organizations do great work on behalf of the less fortunate, but two in particular are celebrating big milestones this year. Santas Anonymous is marking 60 years of delivering toys to less fortunate children in Edmonton and the Christmas Bureau is marking 75 years of providing a festive meal to Edmontonians in need. You can learn more about both and get involved here.

There are of course many more events listed in the ShareEdmonton calendar, so check it out! Have I missed something that should be included? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it.

Happy winter!