Budget 2016-2018 approved, Best Bar None 2015, Edmonton Journal Power 30 for 2015

I’m trying something new, where 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. I’ll organize them here. Have feedback? Let me know!

Budget 2016 approved

City Council unanimously passed Edmonton’s first multi-year Operating Budget today, with a tax increase of 3.4% in each of 2016 and 2017, and 4.8% in 2018. For a “typical home valued at $401,000” that’ll work out to an extra $76 next year, according to the City.

“We made fiscally responsible decisions to control cost increases in certain areas, find reductions, and to reallocate existing funds to civic services that residents told us are their top priorities,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “Edmontonians expected us to show restraint. We delivered, while enhancing the services that are needed for our growing city, such as more police officers, firefighters and traffic safety measures.”

Roughly 2.6% of the increase is to cover population growth and inflation, and 0.8% is for the Valley Line LRT. The 0.1% decrease for 2018 comes from the $1.2 million that was leftover when all of the requests were decided upon. A small gesture, but still.

It’s probably not as much fiscal restraint as some would have liked, but Council did make some important decisions to reduce the increase down from the originally proposed 4.9%. First, they cut the 1.5% for neighbourhood renewal in 2016 and 2017, leaving the decision about 2018 to the next Council. Second, they finally did something about the ballooning police budget, capping increases to population growth and inflation. And third, they stood firm on affordable housing and the low-income transit pass, saying they are important initiatives but need funding from the other orders of government. Whether or not they get any additional funds remains to be seen.

One thing Council is planning to spend money on is the full service review, a process that could take three years and cost up to $3.75 million. They approved the preliminary terms of reference for the project today.

Props to Elise Stolte for all her live budget coverage on Twitter over the last week! Check out her list of budget winners and losers here.

Best Bar None 2015

The 6th annual Best Bar None awards took place last week. The awards recognized 67 bars, clubs, pubs, and lounges “for their commitment to high service and safety standards.” This year’s winners included:

  • Bar/Lounge: OTR Kitchen + Bar
  • Hotel Bar: The Lion’s Head Pub – Radisson Edmonton South
  • Restaurant and Bar: Teddy’s Palace
  • Pub: Hudsons Canadian Tap House (Whyte Avenue)
  • Large Pub: O’Byrne’s Irish Pub
  • Club: The Ranch Roadhouse
  • Campus: The Nest Taphouse Grill
  • Casino: River Cree Resort and Casino

Best Bar None 2015
Photo by Sticks & Stones, courtesy of AGLC

A new category, Event Venue, was introduced this year too so next year there’ll be one more award. I wasn’t able to make it this year, but I did attend last year and enjoyed learning more about the program. In addition to competing for the awards, venues receive accreditation for meeting specific standards related to safe operation and responsible management.

“The value of Best Bar None lies in the fact that those bars that meet stringent standards have demonstrated that they are responsibly managed, and that they are committed to ensuring their patrons can socialize in a clean, safe, well-managed establishment,“ said Brian Simpson, Deputy Chief, Edmonton Police Service.

You can see the full list of accredited venues for Edmonton here. Congrats to all!

Edmonton Journal Power 30

The Edmonton Journal released its Power 30 list for 2015 on Saturday, and so begins the season of lists.

“Sometimes it feels like a game of rock-paper-scissors, playing who ‘tops’ whom. Sometimes it’s very much a reality check, tracking a lack of diversity or gender balance. But most of all, it’s a reflection of this community and a snapshot of the year that was.”

There’s nothing particular surprising about the list. Premier Rachel Notley at number 1 was easily predicted, and Amarjeet Sohi at number 2 is hard to argue with. I’d say my eyebrows went up seeing Daryl Katz at number 3, ahead of Mayor Don Iveson at number 4. I think Mike Nickel at number 8 (the only Councillor on the list) is a great choice – he’s been a pleasant surprise on Council this term. I would have expected to see Police Chief Rod Knecht higher than 25 and Bob Nicholson lower than 11. Great to see Andrew Leach on the list at 15.

Many were quick to criticize the lack of gender and racial diversity, but the list doesn’t show who should be considered powerful, but who actually is.

“We define “power” as this: well-connected, well-known individuals with the means, influence, vision and leadership skills to get things done. They have a little celebrity, certain skills and/or work ethic, and sometimes, just enough luck to land in the community’s spotlight.”

By that definition, it’s not surprising that many of the people on the list are there just because of the positions they hold. Like, um, Connor McDavid. He’s got celebrity and the spotlight, but really? And at number 10?!

Edmonton in 2014

I think it’s safe to say that 2014 was an exciting year for Edmonton. One measure of that? Look at all the construction cranes! There are about 18 cranes up currently in Edmonton’s core (city-wide there are 39 cranes up), and by the summer of 2015, that’s expected to grow to at least 30. There are projects big and small underway in Edmonton – everywhere you look, things are changing.

Edmonton in a New Light

Of course, cities are about more than buildings, and it’s the people that truly made 2014 a great year for Edmonton. Whether it was coming together to tackle the incredible challenge of ending poverty in a generation, getting engaged in a community initiative or Make Something Edmonton project, or simply moving here and being counted, Edmontonians did some incredible things in 2014.

Below you’ll find monthly recaps from the past year. What I decided to do was read back through my Edmonton Notes for 2014 to pick out the highlights from each month. Below that, you’ll find links to all of the other Edmonton-related lists and reviews that have been popping up around the web. And finally, you’ll find some links to 2015 resolutions and goals for Edmonton. If I have missed a link, let me know!


There was a lot of economic news to start the year as we learned that one of every ten jobs created in Canada throughout 2013 was created in Edmonton. Potholes were also being discussed thanks to lots of snow and warm weather. Two other topics seemed to dominate the discussion in January: Premier Redford’s unwillingness to step up to the plate on LRT funding, and the ongoing lack of success for the Oilers. At the end of the month, Northlands President & CEO Richard Andersen announced his resignation.

Sunset over Whyte Avenue

Notes: January 5, January 12, January 19, January 26


The big announcements this month were related to the arena: the guaranteed maximum price was met enabling construction to begin, and the City and the Katz Group reached an agreement on a new civic office tower in the arena district. Ground was broken on the new Royal Alberta Museum, the Neon Sign Museum opened, the EPL Makerspace opened, and in anticipation of the High Level Bridge lights, ATB lit its downtown tower whenever Team Canada scored at the Sochi Olympics. The Mayor launched a social media campaign to build support for LRT funding called #yeg4LRT. Controversial topics discussed included the proposed Galleria, including a $40 million pedway, and bike lanes.

Royal Alberta Museum Construction

Notes: February 2, February 9, February 16, February 23


After lots of pressure, the Province finally agreed to commit the necessary funding for the Valley Line LRT extension. The Redford government delivered its Throne Speech, but faced increasing scrutiny over the travel expense scandal and later “penthousegate”. Just a couple of weeks later, Premier Redford resigned and Deputy Premier Dave Hancock was sworn in as interim premier. Construction on the downtown arena began on schedule, but the City announced that the opening of the Metro Line LRT to NAIT would be delayed until the end of 2014. Edmonton was named Canada’s Earth Hour Capital City for 2014. University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera announced she would not seek a third term. Mayor Iveson hosted a Symposium on Poverty to kick off his new task force to eliminate poverty in Edmonton. The month closed with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Alberta national event.

TRC Walk of Reconciliation

Notes: March 2, March 9, March 16, March 23, March 30


The City announced plans to bid on hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The 2014 municipal census began this month, with online collection for the first time ever. Potholes were again in the news. Ryan Smyth played his final game. City Council reluctantly agreed to support the Galleria project to some extent, and the U of A made its support for the project clear. The Downtown CRL was officially approved by the Province.

Edmonton Wayfinding

Notes: April 6, April 13, April 27


Mayor Iveson called on the federal government to develop a national housing plan. Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason announced plans to step down. Work began on the Molson Brewery site, and Walterdale Hill was closed to accommodate construction of the new Walterdale Bridge. Plans to demolish the Paramount Theatre were announced and then shelved. Door-to-door collection for the municipal census took place throughout the month. The Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup. Council pushed ahead with the Blatchford redevelopment, and the U of A announced plans to create a land trust.

What the Truck?! on 104 Street

Notes: May 4, May 11, May 18, May 25


The federal government added another $150 million to the Valley Line LRT extension, and the new Kingsway/Royal Alex Transit Centre opened (for bus riders). The Edmonton Public Library was named the 2014 Library of the Year, the first Canadian library to receive the award. TEC Edmonton was named Incubator of the Year by Startup Canada. The City released its four-year Bike Lane Infrastructure Plan and the Blatchford redevelopment plan was approved by Council. The City broke ground on its new office tower in the arena district. Former mayor Stephen Mandel and his wife Lynn were inducted into the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame. The Oilers brought in Bob Nicholson, traded Sam Gagner, and selected Leon Draisaitl in the draft. The world’s first industrial-scale facility to produce biofuels from municipal solid waste opened in Edmonton. At the end of the month, the new Edmonton Insight Community launched.

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014

Notes: June 1, June 8, June 15, June 22, June 29


On Canada Day, the High Level Bridge was lit. Alongside the excitement of that project, there was lots of downtown-related news in July! Stantec announced it would stay downtown, Brad Lamb announced the Jasper House and North condo projects, and Earth’s General Store opened on 104 Street. The 102 Avenue Bridge over Groat Road closed, and Walterdale Hill reopened. The City announced plans to move ahead with electronic parking meters, replacing all 3,000 existing ones. The idea of an outer ring road resurfaced. The Province launched new license plate options and encouraged Albertans to vote online. They also announced support for Edmonton’s Commonwealth Games bid. Council approved a pilot project for urban beekeeping.

Canada Day 2014

Notes: July 6, July 13, July 20, July 27


The census results were released, revealing Edmonton’s population has grown to 877,926. Stantec unveiled its new 62-storey tower in the heart of the arena district. The Art Gallery of Alberta celebrated its 90th anniversary. Alison Redford resigned as MLA for Calgary-Elbow. United Airlines announced it would end its flight from Edmonton to New York. Mosquitoes attacked Edmontonians. The Oilers got on board the analytics trend hiring blogger and stats guru Tyler Dellow. The 2014 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup took place in our city, and the Fringe Festival celebrated another record-breaking year. Uber met with the City, Smart Bus technology expanded to another four bus routes, and the Province rejected a proposal to fund a regional transit smart card. Council approved a backyard hen pilot project.

Symphony in the City

Notes: August 10, August 17, August 24, August 31


Jim Prentice won the leadership of the PC party, and interim premier Dave Hancock announced his retirement. The Alberta Legislature was prorogued after the new lineup of cabinet ministers was unveiled. The license plate redesign was cancelled. Slower speed limits around elementary schools took effect. The upcoming park at 105 Street and 102 Avenue was officially named after Alex Decoteau, Canada’s first aboriginal police officer. The City announced it aims to acquire 40 acres of land from Sturgeon County. We got our first taste of snow this month, but it didn’t last.

At the end of the month, I married my best friend!

Downtown Edmonton

Notes: September 7, September 14, September 21


The Oilers hosted a 30th anniversary celebration of the 1984 championship team. Avenue Edmonton unveiled its latest Top 40 Under 40. Three new independent coffee shops opened in the core, including Burrow in the Central LRT Station. Council approved a full smoking ban on Churchill Square. Former mayor Stephen Mandel easily won his seat in the Edmonton-Whitemud by-election. The RFP for the Valley Line LRT was released and ETS launched a brand new Control Centre. The proposed 2015 operating and capital budgets were released. Edmonton Public Library CEO Linda Cook announced she would retire in mid-2015 after 18 years leading the organization.

I was away most of the month in Asia on my honeymoon!

Rough Around the Edges
Photo by Jeff Wallace

Notes: October 26


Northlands kicked off its Arena Strategy Committee, tasked with making a recommendation on the future of Rexall Place. The City became the first municipality to receive the Most Admired Corporate Culture award. KLM added a new route between Edmonton and Amsterdam, with service beginning in May 2015. David Turpin was named the new president of the University of Alberta. Mayor Iveson hosted a City Building Summit, to put pressure on the Province to better support Edmonton’s rapid growth. NorQuest launched its largest fundraising initiative ever. Janet Riopel was named incoming President & CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, and Johanna Ko became the first ever student trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board. The month closed with our first big snowfall of the season.

Mayor Don Iveson

Notes: November 2, November 9, November 16, November 23, November 30


The other big political story of the year took place just a couple of weeks ago: Danielle Smith and eight other Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor to join the PCs. At the municipal level, Council approved a 5.7% tax increase in approving both the 2015 Operating and 2015-2018 Capital budgets. City of Edmonton CFO Lorna Rosen announced she would be leaving her position to become Alberta’s deputy minister of education. After saying no changes were on the horizon, the Oilers fired head coach Dallas Eakins. The team finished 2014 dead last. The new Meadows recreation centre and public library opened in the south east. Uber launched in Edmonton, and was immediately branded “bandit taxis” by the City.

Alberta Legislature

Notes: December 7, December 14, December 21

Other 2014 Recaps

Here are a collection of other year-in-review articles and posts. I’ll keep adding to the list as I find more:

The Mayor did a series of year-end reviews with the local media. He told the Edmonton Sun he is “pleased” with how the effort to end poverty in Edmonton has come together. He talked about the property tax debate, arena district, transportation, and more with Global Edmonton. He told CBC Edmonton that being called “your worship” is awkward.

Happy New Year 2014!

If you’re looking for lists beyond YEG, check out Gawker’s List of Year-End Lists or BuzzFeed’s Best of 2014.

Looking ahead to 2015

Here are some resolutions and other lists for Edmonton in 2015:

I would like for Edmonton in 2015 to capitalize on the energy and momentum that we all can sense in our city. Maybe it needs a bit of structure, maybe it needs a bit of shepherding, or maybe we simply need to better define what “it” is, but whatever approach we take, we cannot let this opportunity pass us by!

Have I missed anything? Let me know and I’ll add a link! You can take a look at my 2013 recap here.

Edmonton in 2013

Happy New Year! In case you missed the celebration, here was my view of the countdown to 2014 in Churchill Square:

Here’s a collection of some Edmonton-related lists and year-in-review articles for 2013. I’ll keep adding to the list as I find more, so let me know what I have missed.

Happy New Year Edmonton!

You can take a look at the 2012 list here. Looking ahead to 2014? Here’s a list of things to watch for from the Journal. From Omar, here are five bad Edmonton habits to break in 2014.

Edmonton in 2012

It’s that time of year when pretty much all the news being published is in list form! I figured I’d try once again to pull some Edmonton lists and year-in-review articles together into a single place. I’ll keep adding to it as I find more, so let me know what I have missed!

The Edmonton Journal also did a 2012 Year-in-Review video:

Here are some other links related to Edmonton in 2012:

Fireworks 5
Fireworks downtown for New Year’s Eve 2011 by Blair Haggerty

Happy New Year!

Edmonton in 2010

Over the last few weeks I’ve been gathering links to articles, blog posts, and more related to Edmonton in 2010. I did something similar in 2009 and 2008. I’ll keep adding to this list as new stuff comes up.

Here are the articles and posts that I have found so far. Where it makes sense to do so, I have included an archive link:

Here are some other links related to Edmonton in 2010:

If you have another link to add to either list, let me know!

Edmonton in 2009

Last year I did a recap post called Edmonton in 2008. You can’t recap something as large as an entire city, but I did find the post useful to refer back to. I thought I’d do the same kind of post again this year, for the same reason. Over the last few weeks I’ve been gathering links to articles, statistics, and more related to Edmonton in 2009. I’ll update this post as I find more.

News Articles for 2009

Other Recaps for 2009

Facts & Figures for 2009

  • Population of Edmonton: 782,439 (source)
  • Number of calls to EPS reporting suspected impaired drivers: 9,201 (source)
  • Home sales: 19,139 (source)
  • Average single-family house price: $364,032 (source)
  • Average condo price: $240,322 (source)
  • YTD Passengers at EIA as of November 2009: 5,561,131 (source)
  • 2009 CFR Attendance: 83,904 (source)
  • 2009 Capital EX Attendance: 717,966 (source)
  • 2009 Edmonton Fringe Ticket Sales: 92,279 (source)

Leave a comment if you’ve got something else I should add to the list – thanks!

Edmonton Twittersphere: #yeg’s 25 Most Listed

In the December issue of Avenue Edmonton magazine there’s an article on Twitter, written by @Persepolian with photography by @bruceclarke. I was interviewed for the piece, and was asked by Avenue to supply a list of local users I’d recommend that newbies follow. There are so many great local users so it was quite a challenge! I think following the #yeg hashtag is probably more useful anyway.

Now that Twitter has had the Lists feature for about a month, I thought it would be interesting to see which users appear on the most lists. Let’s see who the community thinks you should follow! Here are Edmonton’s 25 most listed:

  1. dragonage (399)
  2. redneckmommy (379)
  3. revtrev (314)
  4. NHL_Oilers (293)
  5. wearestereos (200)
  6. gsiemens (199)
  7. lealea (179)
  8. edmontonjournal (164)
  9. cleversimon (159)
  10. patkSTEREOS (155)
  11. mastermaq (149)
  12. paradepro (148)
  13. Pat_Lorna (146)
  14. MilesSTEREOS (136)
  15. britl (124)
  16. CBCEdmonton (120)
  17. ctvedmonton (118)
  18. melanienathan (113)
  19. motherpucker (113)
  20. lyndasteele (112)
  21. CityofEdmonton (109)
  22. dancinginlife (101)
  23. Gen22 (97)
  24. GlobalEdmonton (97)
  25. pixelens (95)

This is based on a dataset of 3732 users, which is the number of users who posted at least 10 tweets from October 1st to November 25th (late last night). Of those, 1999 or 53.6% are members of at least one list, 561 or 15.0% have created at least one list, and 341 or 9.1% subscribe to at least one list. On average, local users are members of 10 lists, have created 3 lists, and subscribe to 3 lists. No one has created more than 20 lists, and just three users subscribe to more than 20 lists.

Two caveats: this only reflects public lists (I have no access to private lists obviously) and it reflects the entire Twitter community (dragonage is on 399 lists, many of which may have been created by non-local users). I hope to have some more detailed stats for the next State of the Edmonton Twittersphere (you can see October’s stats here).

As a total aside, I also looked at the new geo support that Twitter recently launched. You have to go into your Settings to enable it. Turns out just 40 users or 1.1% of the dataset have done that.

Stay tuned for more stats in the next couple weeks!

Edmonton in 2008

What do you remember most about the past year in Edmonton? I think I’ll look back on 2008 as the year that I started to fully appreciate everything that our city has to offer. I learned a lot about Edmonton this year, and I look forward to learning even more in the years to come. Hopefully I can have a positive impact on the city as well!

Edmonton Skyline

Obviously a topic as large as an entire city is impossible to recap, but that doesn’t stop everyone from trying. Makes for interesting reading, right?

Here are some Edmonton-related year in review articles from around the web:

Know of another list or article that I missed? Leave a comment or email me and I’ll add it.

Now for a list of my own! Here are the 5 most popular Edmonton-related posts on my blog from the past year:

  1. Big Earl 96.3 is now Capital FM
  2. The Apple Store opens in West Edmonton Mall
  3. Edmonton is home to the future of Future Shop, and very close behind that, A look at Edmonton’s new Future Shop
  4. Use Google Maps to find Edmonton Transit schedules and trip plans
  5. New Concept for Edmonton Arena in The Quarters Downtown

All of those posts were written in 2008. If I had included the popular ones written in 2007 and earlier, four of the five would be related to Edmonton radio stations. Work at a radio station, particularly a NewCap radio station? You need to improve your web presence!

These three were close to making the list also:

Finally, here are some facts and figures from 2008 that I’ll likely want to refer to again at some point:

  • Population of Edmonton: 752,412 (source)
  • Edmonton Oilers record (calendar year): 42-31-5
  • Capital EX attendance: 743,374 (source)
  • Homeless Count: 3079 (source)
  • Number of homicides: 35 (source)

If you have another fact or figure for the list, leave a comment or email me.

I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2009, thanks for reading!

Suggestions for getting started with Twitter

twitter As a fan of Twitter, I often find myself telling others about the service (you might argue that me being a fan is not as relevant as me being addicted). I do my best to explain that you can’t really explain Twitter. It’s one of those things that you have to experience before you get it. Michael Martine does a good job of describing this in his post Twitter is like sex.

I also try to offer some advice on how to get started. The most important thing I mention is actually #8 on this list, but I wanted to approach it from the perspective of just registering for the site.

Here are my top ten suggestions for getting started with Twitter:

  1. Pick a good username. If you already have a username you tend to use around the web, stick with that. If you’re coming up with something new, make it easy to type and to say verbally. Try to avoid names that might look “spammy”, such as “john351” or something like that.
  2. Keep your tweets public. I’m not really sure what the point of joining Twitter is if you’re just going to keep everything private. Besides, Twitter truly shines when it can aggregate everyone’s tweets together, and it can only do that with public tweets.
  3. Change the default background/theme. I see that there are a bunch of new defaults, but I still think it’s a good idea to personalize your profile a little. It makes a difference when others are looking at your page deciding whether or not to follow you. Don’t go overboard here though. Some services let you create a background full of text and other information, but I think those look messy.
  4. Enter your website URL if you have one. One of the first things I’ll do when looking at a new profile is click the web link. It’s a great way to learn more about the person. It won’t drive a ton of traffic to your site, but it doesn’t hurt either.
  5. Set your location correctly. It might seem funny to set your location to something random like “my room” but setting your location properly makes it easier for others to find you. I think the format “city, state/province, country” works best because then others can search by all three criteria.
  6. Post some tweets before you follow others. Shortly after you follow someone, they’ll likely be looking at your profile. If it is empty or contains only a tweet or two, chances are they won’t follow you back.
  7. Go easy on the following at first. If you try to follow hundreds of people all at once, you’ll likely be flagged as a spammer by Twitter. Even if you aren’t, it looks bad to be following 500 people without any followers of your own.
  8. Follow users who live where you do. This is my favorite suggestion, because I think it’s the quickest way to get value out of Twitter. People often complain that a tweet like “Calgary Trail is a parking lot” seems mundane, but to others in the area it can be really useful (that’s a busy road here in Edmonton). By following other locals, you’ll reduce the number of tweets that seem mundane.
  9. Learn the lingo and etiquette. It’s quite simple really. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, an update is called a tweet. If you start your tweet with @username, then it’s a reply and it’ll show up on the replies tab for that user. Something like #yeg is called a hashtag, and it’s basically a way of categorizing your tweets. If someone tweets something that you’d like to reshare, start your tweet with RT @username (or you can use “retweet” instead of “RT” if you like).
  10. Start using Twitter Search right away. I can’t stress this enough – Twitter Search is what really makes Twitter useful. I always have a tab open with a search for “mastermaq”, so that I can see any tweets that reference me. I also use it to find out what people think of the latest movie, or to find links on a topic I’m interested in. Make Twitter Search your best friend – you won’t regret it!

Those are my suggestions. The only other thing I would mention is to be interesting, but that’s harder to define. I think the most interesting users on Twitter post a combination of random tweets, replies, and links. As with anything else, you can learn a lot by simply paying attention and observing others.

Have I missed anything? What are your suggestions? Let me know!

Happy Tweeting 🙂

How do you keep track of things?

post it notesI’m a bit of a scatterbrain at times, I’ll admit that. I generally need to write something down if I want to have any hope of remembering it later. If an event is not in my calendar, I’ll almost certainly miss it. I also find that I’m terrible at keeping track of paper, so I try to avoid post-it notes whenever possible. Here are some of the tools I currently use to help me keep track of things (tasks, ideas, events, etc):

As you can see, it’s not a small list. You might think that there’d be quite a bit of overlap between these, but there isn’t really. For instance, I use RTM for tasks, things I actually need to do something about. In contrast, I mainly use OneNote for brainstorming.

For the most part, this toolset helps me keep track of things. It’s not the most efficient system in the world though, and I wonder if there’s something better? For a creative person such as myself, who loves to read and has a million thoughts and ideas a day, what tools exist to help keep track of it all? It’s like I need something to help annotate my life.

Maybe a new tool isn’t the solution. I don’t regularly review the items in each of the tools above, which might be something I should start doing.