Edmonton Notes for December 13, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Council approves first property tax freeze since 1997

Edmonton’s city council has finished its work for the year, approving a 0% tax increase for 2021, the first property tax freeze since 1997. I followed the budget discussion fairly closely and wrote about their decisions twice for Taproot:

We also touched on the budget in the latest episode of Speaking Municipally.

At the beginning of the week, council gave final approval to the City Plan. It’s an important document, and its adoption caps off a successful run at the City of Edmonton for Kalen Anderson.

But the budget is where council’s true priorities are revealed. It’s one thing to put an initiative in the plan and quite another to fund it. The mayor took pains to connect the passing of the budget adjustments to City Plan. While I agree the budget council passed managed to fund a number of important projects given the ongoing pandemic, there’s a lot more to do to actually bring City Plan to life.

Mayor Don Iveson

Speaking of the mayor, you should check out Emily Rendell-Watson’s year-end interview with him. I was glad to see him highlight his work on the regional file.

Other recent headlines

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

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Edmonton Notes for November 29, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Mayor Don Iveson won’t seek re-election

On Monday, Mayor Don Iveson announced that he would not seek re-election in next year’s municipal election. In the post, he talked once again about cities being perpetually unfinished.

"This complex, ever-evolving work demands thoughtful, compassionate and constructive civic leadership — which is why next fall’s election will be pivotal and why I feel it’s important to give people who may be considering a run, time and notice to make their plans," Iveson wrote.

Mayor Don Iveson

While I am not entirely surprised by Iveson’s decision, I will be sad to see him go. I was proud to support Don back in 2013 when he first ran for mayor. I think he has done incredible work on behalf of Edmontonians, and I think our city is that much better for having had him in the mayor’s chair for two terms.

Many people think of transit when they think of Iveson, for better or worse. I think when we look back though, we’ll actually remember him more for his work on the regional file, which began immediately after he took office. We call it the Edmonton region today, rather than the bland and nondescript "capital region," thanks in large part to his leadership.

Thank you Don, and best wishes in whatever you choose to tackle next!

Other recent headlines

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

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Edmonton Notes for November 1, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

City Hall School goes virtual

As a big fan of Linda Hut and City Hall School I was glad to see that it has continued this year, virtually. I know it’s not the same as being in the same room together, but it’s wonderful that so many students will still get the chance to learn more about their city.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with two classes recently about local media, both times over Google Meet. The first time each student had their own device so there were a couple dozen videos and a very lively chat. The second time there was just one device for the room, which was a little closer to being in the room and seeing everyone in front of you. Both groups of students had great questions and were very engaged.

Thank you Mrs. Hut for the invitation and opportunity to participate!

Other recent headlines

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

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Edmonton Notes for October 25, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Taproot Edmonton Presents: Igniting Innovation

Our new podcast, Taproot Edmonton Presents, launched this week with Igniting Innovation, a six-part series exploring how startups and investors are coming together in Edmonton’s tech innovation sector. Here’s the trailer.

The first episode features Zack Storms, founder and chief organizer of Startup TNT, and his wife, Keren Tang, an angel investor with the Startup TNT Investment Summit. They share stories about building and fostering relationships with entrepreneurs and investors in Edmonton’s tech innovation sector, plus discuss diversity and the challenges the community is facing.

We’re releasing new episode every week through to the Investment Summit on Nov. 19. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

Ice district Edmonton Alberta October 2020
Construction continues at Ice District, photo by Jason Woodhead

Lined up for Little Brick

Sharon and I went to Little Brick this afternoon for coffee and a cookie and to check out their winterized patio. We found a long line but decided to wait. It took 45 minutes from arrival to having our coffee in hand.

While Little Brick is a great example of a winter patio, with shelter from the wind, heaters, and fireplaces, few are going to wait that long when it’s colder. A lineup isn’t something I had considered when talking about winter patios on Speaking Municipally recently.

It’s a great sign that so many people are wanting to support local businesses though, and I hope that demand continues (and can be met) throughout the winter.

Other recent headlines

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

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Edmonton Notes for October 18, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

One year until the municipal election

Edmonton’s next municipal election is exactly one year away: Oct. 18, 2021. And while it does feel early to be talking about the horse race, that gates have opened nonetheless. A number of candidates have announced their intention to run for mayor.

Among them is Councillor Andrew Knack. "Yes, considering it but recognizing there might be some really excellent people that I think would be even better mayors who are considering it right now," he told CTV News.

I think Councillor Knack is a wonderful councillor and I can absolutely see how he’d make a great mayor someday. Perhaps that is why Councillor Mike Nickel continues to attack him online. They couldn’t be more opposite.

I was very happy to see so many Edmontonians from across the city chime in on Twitter to defend Councillor Knack this weekend. And I have to imagine that most of council is wishing they could redo the sanction hearing.

Ward 1 Councillor Andrew Knack
Councillor Andrew Knack, photo by Dave Cournoyer

Other recent headlines

  • I’m glad to see the temporary patio program has been extended until March 31, 2021. Who knows whether Edmontonians will be willing to eat outside in the cold, but at least now restaurants that want to find out can try. Well, except in situations when the City denies fantastic ideas like Tiramisu Bistro’s proposed igloos. Troy and I talked about this on the podcast and I ranted a bit about winter patios. Heaters are helpful, but protection from the wind is what is what we really need!
  • The City has begun installing new bus stop signs in anticipation of the new bus network that will launch in April. They feature improved accessibility and "indicate a significant and exciting transit change is coming." I look forward to seeing them in person.
  • A brand new LEGO store is set to open in Phase IV at West Edmonton Mall in November. I’m sure plans were underway well before the pandemic but still this must have a challenging time to launch an "experiential" store.
  • The Whitemud Creek Coal Mine, located near Snow Valley, was Edmonton’s last. It operated from 1952 to 1970. "In the hundred years of coal mining in Edmonton, 160 mines and prospects covered 3260 acres and produced 15 million tons of coal."

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

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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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Edmonton Notes for September 27, 2020

Thanks for the feedback on the new format last week. I’m going to stick with it for now.

A big week for Taproot Edmonton

Last week was a big one for us at Taproot Edmonton. Emily Rendell-Watson started as managing editor, our first full-time hire. We’re so glad to have her on the team! Emily will be taking over the Council and Tech Roundups, leading much of our People’s Agenda work, and tackling many other upcoming editorial projects. As Karen said, it feels good to have created a job in journalism, especially given the constant stream of layoffs at mainstream newsrooms in our city.

Our growth has been made possible in part by our B2B service, and this week we were named a finalist for "Business Idea of the Year" in the 2020 LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers Awards for that effort. It’s a welcome bit of validation for us.

We capped the week off with the 100th episode of Speaking Municipally. It has been more than two years now since our first episode, but in a lot of ways it feels like we’re just getting started. I know that’s a cliché, but downloads continue to rise, we’re incorporating new voices into the show, and we have a municipal election coming up in a year.

Beautiful colors in the river valley

Winter is coming, but hopefully not too soon. I took this photo today in the Mill Creek Ravine near the Shamrock Curling Club.

Fall in Edmonton

It’s a beautiful time of year to be in Edmonton!

Other recent headlines

  • I’m thrilled that city council endorsed Indigenous names for the city’s wards. Assuming the names receive final approval by the end of the year, they’ll be in use for next year’s municipal election. My ward will be called "O-day’min" from the Anishinaabe language which means "Strawberry or Heart-berry (The heart through which the North Saskatchewan River runs)." It’ll take some practice for the rest of the names, but I will learn how to say them all.
  • Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) is now Explore Edmonton Co. rather than Edmonton Tourism as had been anticipated. The Explore Edmonton campaign has been fantastic, so I can see why they’d want to build on that. Not to mention that exploring your own city is going to be increasingly important as the pandemic continues to restrict tourism from elsewhere.
  • GLC Medical (a subsidiary of Edmonton-based Graphene Leaders Canada) will run clinical trials at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) for a new COVID-19 test that can produce results in less than a minute. This is very exciting and I have my fingers crossed!
  • From the saw-that-coming-a-mile-away department: the NHL bubble hasn’t done anything for local businesses. “We haven’t really seen much, to be honest with you,” said Scott Krebs with Kelly’s Pub.

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Edmonton Notes for September 20, 2020

Trying a different format this week!

Stanley Milner library reopens downtown

The Stanley A. Milner library downtown reopened this week after nearly four years of revitalization work. Capacity was limited for the grand opening weekend, but we booked a timeslot for Saturday and were able to visit. The inside is beautiful, and I look forward to spending a lot of time there post-pandemic. Emily had lots of fun exploring the children’s library, and I was very happy to see so much seating (all with power oulets) throughout the building. I didn’t have a chance to explore the new Makerspace, but I did write a little about that in the Tech Roundup.

EPL Stanley Milner Reopening

While the inside of the library looks great, I still think the outside is ugly. Saying "you can’t judge a book by its cover" or "it’s what’s on the inside that counts" are just nice ways of saying what is plainly true – the outside of the library is a big disappointment. Edmonton deserves better.

I hope the gigantic air vent outside the main entrance of the library is temporary (maybe it is particularly loud right now because of LRT construction). It sounds like a jet engine. You simply cannot have a conversation with someone anywhere near the front door. The beautiful central library in Calgary literally has a train running through it and I don’t remember any uncomfortable or unpleasant noise during any of my many visits.

Other recent headlines

  • City Council’s Audit Committee has directed Administration to look at reducing the number of supervisors in the City of Edmonton’s workforce. That’s the right call. The excuse that the numbers are off because the City hired more technical people in-house to help make sure projects would be delivered on-time and on-budget feels anachronistic to me. That said, tens of millions of dollars on a few too many City staff is better than hundreds of millions of dollars on far too many consultants, so I guess we’re making progress.
  • I am very excited about our city’s new Indigenous ward names and I look forward to learning the correct pronunciation of each. If you’re worried about that, check out Councillor Paquette’s tweet!
  • Edmonton will host the 2021 world junior hockey championship from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 without fans in attendance. I hope the bubble is smaller than it has been for the NHL playoffs. I want to be able to cross 102 Street again without needing to make a huge detour. If it must be closed for the bubble, maybe we can get a walkway installed to allow pedestrians to cross over top of the fencing? I mean, if we can spend more than $100 million to save 3 minutes for drivers on Terwillegar Drive, surely we can put up some temporary stairs for pedestrians downtown.
  • The Edmonton Police Service unveiled its new $500,000 tank – I mean, armoured vehicle – this week. "Without the proper tools, things get more dangerous and we can’t respond as quickly," said Sgt. Rick Abbott. Uh huh, I’m sure that vehicle is going to help with response times. He continued: "It does look aggressive. But the reality is we can’t get involved in politics in my job. We’re too busy trying to keep Edmontonians safe." Oh FFS. Council, and Councillor Scott McKeen in particular, should be ashamed for letting this purchase go ahead, especially after making such a big deal about the e-bike rebates earlier this year.

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Edmonton Notes for September 8, 2019

I had a very relaxing weekend away, but being out of town means I missed both High Level Line Day and the launch of the Commonwealth Walkway. I hope you had the opportunity to experience one or both!

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:


Mayor Don Iveson

Upcoming Events

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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.