Edmonton Election 2017: A mandate to keep moving forward

Monday’s election resulted in very few surprises for City Council. Don Iveson easily won re-election as mayor, all but one of the incumbent councillors is returning, and while it is still early, the winners of the three open races seem like they’ll fit in just fine with the mostly progressive Council they are joining. Voter turnout wasn’t great, but it was far from the disaster many were predicting with such a boring mayoral race. So why does it seem like the overwhelming narrative is that citizens are unhappy?

Consider what Paula Simons wrote in her first column after the election. “Sure, incumbent mayor Iveson cruised to easy re-election, with support from almost three-quarters of those who cast ballots. But don’t misread that,” she warned. “Iveson faced no legitimate challengers, so voters who were unhappy with his leadership had nowhere to channel their frustrations.”

Her colleague David Staples seemed to agree. “Iveson will likely have majority support for his agenda on council, but on a host of issues where he has taken a strong stand, from LRT and bike lanes to photo radar and social housing, Edmontonians appear increasingly less inclined to go along with his progressive vision.”

Or consider what the Edmonton Journal’s editorial board had to say. “If letters to the editor, media comment boards, call-in shows and candidate forums are any indication, much of the electorate is in no mood for business as usual,” they wrote. “Many may have expressed their frustration by staying home Monday, which along with the lack of a high-profile challenger for the mayor’s chair, could help explain a disappointing voter turnout.”

I look at Monday’s results and I see something very different. I see a clear endorsement of the decisions that Iveson and the previous Council made and a mandate for this new Council to build on that work.

Iveson with the new councillors
Bumped into all four new members of #yegcc on the media circuit just now. Congrats! – @doniveson

Yes, there are citizens who are annoyed about bike lanes and photo radar. Some are opposed to infill, at least in their own neighbourhood. There are plenty of citizens who love to complain about how it isn’t as easy to park downtown as it once was. But these are just squeaky wheels and we shouldn’t let them speak for the majority. There’s a big difference between being annoyed that a traffic lane now belongs to bicycles and being upset about the overall direction the city is headed. This is what people really mean when they say they want to vote for something rather than against something.

I see no credible evidence that Edmontonians are unhappy with the direction our city is going.

“They wrote letters to the editor! They called the call-in shows! They tweeted their discontent!”

Then why not show up to express that anger where it matters, at the ballot box? Voter turnout was 31.5% in this election, which is down 3% from the 2013 election. Considering that voter turnout went from 41.79% when Stephen Mandel was first elected to just 27.24% when he won re-election the first time, I’d say a 3% drop isn’t too bad at all.

“Voter turnout would have been higher but people stayed home to express their frustration!”

If citizens were really expressing frustration by staying home, I would have expected much lower turnout. Don Iveson received 141,182 votes on Monday, up from the record-setting 132,162 he received in 2013. Only four times has an Edmonton candidate cracked the 100,000 vote mark and Iveson has done it twice in a row (the other two were Jan Reimer in 1992 and Stephen Mandel in 2010). A record number of Edmontonians voted for our mayor rather than staying home.

“They only voted for Iveson because there were no credible challengers!”

Why is that? In a city of roughly 900,000 people not one credible person was willing to step forward to run against Iveson. Could it be that no one was miffed enough to go to the trouble? The 2010 election, in which the City Centre Airport was the big issue and the downtown arena debate was starting to heat up, saw a challenger step forward in David Dorward. It has happened before.

“Incumbents never lose and Dave Loken lost! Ben Henderson barely scraped by! Tony Caterina nearly lost!”

Loken won his seat in 2010 by just 507 votes and won re-election in 2013 by just 501 votes. Is it really that unbelievable that he might lose this time around by 464 votes? Both he and Henderson were pretty quiet in this election. As Dave wrote, Henderson ran “what appeared to be a stealth re-election campaign in Ward 8.” It’s not at all surprising that the results reflect that. Caterina has never been seen as one of Iveson’s sure votes, so I don’t see how his narrow victory is any indication that people are unhappy with the progressive agenda. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“The polls say people have doubts about everything!”

Don Iveson and Ryan Jespersen talked about polls on Tuesday morning. “It’s not accurate, it’s not a true thing,” Iveson said. “I would enourage all media outlets as a matter of ethics and integrity to stop reporting that.” There are definite flaws with many of these polling methodologies. Trust them at your own risk.

I have no doubt there are some people who truly are upset about certain decisions, whether it’s bike lanes or infill or whatever. There’s always going to be someone who is upset about something. And yes, Iveson and Council should take what they heard on the doorsteps to heart and they should always strive to truly listen to citizens in order to make the best decisions possible. But they should also see the outcome of Monday’s election for what it is: an endorsement of the trajectory our city is on and a mandate to keep moving forward.

Coming up at City Council: October 17-21, 2016

Busy week coming up at Council next week with some really interesting topics on the agenda!

Cold City Hall
Cold City Hall, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Vehicle for Hire Bylaw 17400 Update

Edmonton’s new Vehicle for Hire Bylaw came into force on March 1, 2016 and this report proposed some amendments to address “several issues that have emerged since the Bylaw was passed.”

One issue is markings on vehicles for hire. Currently, taxis and accessible taxis are required to have an operating top light, meter, valid meter accuracy certificate, and colors and markings to identify the vehicle. Passengers must have access to the dispatcher’s name and contact information. Private transportation provider (PTP) vehicles, like Uber or TappCar, do not have any such requirements nor any prohibitions. The City did a lot of consultation on this and heard clearly that PTP vehicles should not look like taxis. The result is a rcommendation that PTPs be prohibited from having markings like taxis do, but that they be required to have a small decal in the front and rear windshield to identify them.


Another issue is related to street hails. Under the current bylaw only taxis and accessible taxis are permitted to pickup passengers that hail them from the street. PTP services must be prearranged, but the bylaw doesn’t prescribe how those pre-arrangements should be made. The fine for picking up passengers from the street is currently $250. The consultation on this was more split, but the resulting recommendation is to increase the fine to $1,000.

The report also discusses the use of exclusive parking areas, and looks at the impact of recent amendments to the Traffic Safety Act. Finally, it includes some enforcement statistics:

  • “Since March 1, 2016, approximately 200 violation tickets have been issued for Vehicle for Hire Bylaw or applicable Traffic Safety Act offences.”
  • “Community Standards Peace Officers have completed approximately 350 vehicle for hire traffic stops, and performed approximately 2,350 licence checks.”
  • Of those 200 tickets, around 130 were related to the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw: 40 were for operating without the proper City license, about 45 were for failing to produce a required document, and about 40 were for failing to display or provide required information to passengers.

If Council agrees with the proposed amendments, Administration will prepare them to be brought to a future City Council meeting.

State of the Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Technology

This is an annual report that Council has asked for, discussing the state of self-driving vehicle technology. The report notes that the Society of Automative Engineers describes six levels of vehicle automation, from 0 to 5. Level 4 vehicles “are able to drive themselves in complex environments without human supervision” and the report suggests Level 5 is required for self-driving taxis. It is not bullish on timelines:

“There are several reasons to anticipate that full automation will emerge further in the future than the most optimistic estimates suggest. Challenges remain in developing automation technology. There are also legal, liability and ethical issues related to the technology. After the technology becomes available it must also be adopted broadly by fleet and vehicle owners. Rates of adoption have been estimated based on local data and the expected adoption time ranges from 18 to 30 years after the technology becomes available.”

On the plus side, the report does highlight the opportunity that self-driving vehicles present for public transportation:

“The interface between automated vehicle technology and the transit system presents a significant opportunity for positively shifting the way Edmontonians travel. Driverless taxis and public transit service can be complementary: driverless taxis could serve less dense suburban and rural areas and higher capacity transit would continue to serve high-demand corridors in urban areas.”

In the next year or so, the City plans to develop communication materials on automated vehicles and to form an internal working group. Over the next 2-5 years, the City could “test the impacts of automated vehicle technology” and “develop a comprehensive strategy to prepare…for the emergence of automated vehicles.”

You can read the full 146 page report, Planning for Automated Vehicles in Edmonton, here.

Changing in School Zone Speed Limits to 30 km/h

This report summarizes the results of an evaluation of Edmonton’s 30 km/h school zone speed limits, which came into effect for all elementary schools in September 2014:

” The results show a positive trend with a reduction in collisions and speeds after the new speed limits were introduced. A survey sent to Public and Separate schools in the City indicated that the schools were satisfied with the new speed limit and the majority felt that there was a reduction in speeding following the implementation of school zones. Based on these promising results, Administration recommends expanding the 30 km/h school zones to junior high schools.”

Why stop there? As Conrad tweeted: “Only defensible end game is 30 km/h on all residential streets.” Especially if we’re serious about Vision Zero.

Some highlights from the report:

  • “There were 50 injury collisions in the three-year time period prior to implementing school zones (an average of 17 per year), and there were 10 injury collisions in the year following implementation. Accounting for the different time periods, injury collisions were reduced by approximately 41 percent, a statistically significant result.”
  • “Under ideal conditions, drivers traveling at 50 km/h need at least 11 more metres in order to stop compared to those traveling at 30 km/h; this distance increases when roads are wet or icy.”
  • “Before introducing the reduced speed limits the average speed in school zones was 46 km/h. The results of the assessment indicated an overall reduction of 12 km/h in the mean speed down to 34 km/h after the introduction of the new speed limits.”

The recommended expansion to junior high schools is estimated to cost $75,000, plus another $100,000 for an awareness campaign.

Changing the Ward Boundaries for the 2017 Municipal Election

Bylaw 17700 will update the ward boundaries in prepration for the 2017 Municipal Election. First reading was held at the September 20, 2016 City Council Meeting, and second and third readings will be held on December 8, 2016. At Tuesday’s meeting, Council is holding a Non-Statutory Public Hearing on the proposed amendments.

proposed ward boundaries
(click for detailed maps)

The Returning Officer recommends the following alignments with affected populations:

  • Eight neighbourhoods – Allard, Blackburne, Blackmud Creek, Callaghan, Cashman, Cavanagh, Richford, and Twin Brooks – move from Ward 9 to Ward 10.
  • Two neighbourhoods – Jackson Heights and Kiniski Gardens – move from Ward 12 to Ward 11.

These changes are recommended to bring Wards 9 and 12 closer to the optimum poplulation ranges. “Data from the 2016 Edmonton Census indicates an optimum population range per ward of 56,215 to 93,692.” Both wards had a population of more than 100,000 in the 2016 Municipal Census.

Other interesting items

  • There are two reports that clarify the process for reports and memos and the FOIP process. So far this year the City has handled 353 FOIP requests and 606 routine discloure requests. In 2015 and 2016, “half of the fee waiver requests received by the City were accepted or fees were reduced.”
  • The Current Planning Reserve Fund is supposed to have a minimum balance of 30% of the Development Services Branch operating budget expenditures, but it has fallen to just 17%, which means Administration must implement a strategy to manage the balance. The City plans to reduce costs by “minimizing externally contracted services”, “reducing discretionary spending”, and “managing staff vacancies”.
  • There’s a recommendation that $20,000 be granted to the Petrolia Mall in addition to the Development Incentive and Facade Improvement Program grants already being applied to a building on the same lot (this requires Council to approve an exception).
  • Councillor Gibbons inquired about traffic control at Victoria Trail and 153 Avenue. The response includes some interesting facts, such as: a typical estimated cost for a T-intersection traffic signal is $250,000.
  • The response to Councillor McKeen’s inquiry on pedways isn’t particularly surprising. It says the Capital City Downtown Plan contains policies that direct pedway development and that they are approved as part of the Development Permit application process. While the WinterCity Strategy doesn’t explicitly reference pedways, Administration says it is “arguably unsupportive of pedway network expansion.”
  • A report on the Revolving Industrial Servicing Fund, a $26 million incentive program, says its future is uncertain as a new program as part of the Industrial Investment Action Plan was proposed earlier this year and will be considered by Council in 2017.
  • The 2015 Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements are now available for the NW Industrial Business Association and for the Stony Plain Road and Area Business Association.
  • There’s a recommendation that Council approve the Environmental Impact Assessment and Site Location Study for the Snow Valley Summer Adventure Activity Area.
  • The next steps required to implement the District Energy Sharing System for Blatchford are outlined in a new report. The estimated cost for the first stage of the system is $19.4 million and development is expected to start in 2017.


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: September 12-16, 2016

Expect to hear a lot next week about suicide prevention and the High Level Bridge.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Edmonton Suicide Prevention Strategy 2016-2021

This new strategy is the result of two years of work on better suicide prevention in Edmonton.

“While suicide is a complex issue involving the interaction of biological, psychological and social factors, it is preventable. The Edmonton Suicide Prevention Strategy provides an understanding of suicide in Edmonton and recommends a set of actions for implementation that reflect evidence-based practices. Recommended actions are intended to enhance known protective factors that mitigate against suicide while reducing factors that put individuals at higher risk. The strategy employs a universal preventive approach that emphasizes collaboration and coordination of services. It also takes into account alignment opportunities with existing and upcoming community and provincial initiatives.”

Research into the issue surfaced a number of key learnings:

  • “There were 117 deaths by suicide in Edmonton in 2013 and 165 in the Edmonton Zone of Alberta Health Services, which includes surrounding areas.” And that’s probably an underestimate.
  • “Three out of four suicide deaths are male, and most suicides among men take place between the ages of 30 and 69 years.”
  • “After a mental illness, the risk factors most frequently associated with suicide include substance abuse, trauma, social isolation, and higher rates of poverty.”
  • “According to the Injury Prevention Centre, the total loss costs associated with suicidal behaviour in the Edmonton Zone – Alberta Health Services, were estimated at over $89 million in 2013.”

The strategy highlights three goals:

  • “to provide awareness and education to promote positive mental health and reduce the stigma of suicide”
  • “to ensure the whole continuum of services including the promotion of positive mental health, prevention, intervention, and postvention”
  • “to promote these services to be fully accessible and address the needs of at-risk populations”

If approved by Council, an implementation plan for the strategy will be developed. “The development of an implementation plan for Edmonton will not require additional financial resources as this work falls under the Urban Isolation/Mental Health Initiative and will be funded within current operating budgets.”

High Level Bridge Pathways

Councillor McKeen made an inquiry back in June related to the development and delivery of the High Level Bridge Safety Rails project, commonly referred to as the suicide barriers. This report is the response, and provides an overview of the three options that Council considered as well as suggestions on how to make the pathways more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.

Here were the three options that Council considered:

  • Option 1: Chain Link ($1.2-1.7 million)
  • Option 2: Existing bridge rail with additional height added ($3.0 million)
  • Option 3: State of the art design ($7.4 million)

Council voted to go with option 2 back in August 2014 and approved funding later that year.

While the City did consult with EPS, AHS, The Support Network, and other stakeholders during the development of the concepts, “broader consultation was not undertaken during the design phase because of the sensitivity of the suicide issue.” They are now of course engaged with the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, Paths for People, and other organizations and individuals.

High Level Bridge

The City contracted Urban Systems to conduct a safety review and you can read their report here. They identified 13 issues and suggested improvements, including:

  • Consider making the pathways one-way – the east side of the bridge would be northbound only and the west side would be southbound only. Another option is to make the east side one-way only for bicycles.
  • Install “enhanced physical separation between the carriageway and the west side and east side pathways” to keep cyclists from entering the road.
  • Install reflective hazard markings on all obstructions.
  • “Consider installing additional pedestrian scale overhead lighting where feasible on the bridge pathway itself ensuring that any additional light does not obstruct the pathway itself.”
  • “Widen the pathway on the east side of the bridge approach utilizing space within the roadway shoulder and/or additional right of way.”
  • Add better route wayfinding and other signage.

Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, such as additional signage and the installation of reflective hazard markings. Other recommendations are still being considered and the City is looking for additional input on those.

Bylaw 17755 – To Increase Allowance of Participation by Communications Facilities in Committee Meetings

That’s a really wordy way of saying that the City wants to allow people to participate in Council meetings via phone or perhaps something more advanced like Skype, even if they are in the city. To do so, they are recommending an amendment to the Procedures and Committees Bylaw 12300 to “remove the requirement for persons wishing to participate by communication facility to be in a location outside of Edmonton.” The report notes that the last citizen participant by telephone was in 2007. The location restriction was put in place for technological reasons (at the time) as well as the value that was placed on in-person communication.

“This amendment could increase accessibility for residents who are unable or disinclined to physically attend meetings, and could contribute to the goal of ensuring public involvement processes are accessible to the public as per Council Policy C513 – Public Involvement.”

We don’t have the same technological barriers today, of course. Many of us use web conferencing tools all day, every day, and they work incredibly well. The report doesn’t recommend anything in particular, and it is expected that initially remote participation would be done by phone. But “technology and infrastructure upgrades” could come in the future.

Administration recommends allowing remote participation only in Committee meetings. The rationale:

“A Statutory Hearing is a City Council meeting required to be held under statute where members of the public have a right to speak. There is lack of legal certainty as to whether a technological failure, either on the speaker’s end or the City’s end, could result in a speaker being denied their right to address City Council.”

There is no expected budget impact from this change. Apparently Edmonton would be the first municipality in Canada and possibly the United States to allow remote public participation in Council meetings.

Here’s more on the story from Elise Stolte.

Other interesting items

  • An update on the Art of Living Implementation Plan notes that 13 out of 17 Arts & Culture recommendations have been completed (76%) and 8 out of 11 Heritage recommendations were completed (73%). Development of a refreshed strategy for the next ten years is slated to begin in 2017.
  • Council approved $5.3 million in the 2015-2018 Capital Budget for the Rollie Miles Athletic Field District Park Renewal. The recommended Master Plan is now available. If approved, design work will begin this year with construction starting next year.
  • A report on garage and garden suites summarizes feedback received on current regulations and proposes draft amendments to the Zoning Bylaw. Some of the recommended amendments include combining the two into a single classification, increasing the maximum heights for flat-roofed buildings, reducing parking requirements for seniors’ oriented units, and removing balconies and stairwells from floor area calculations.
  • Administration recommends the sale of up to eight City owned building sites to homeEd at 50% of market value for the purpose of constructing new market and affordable medium-density housing.
  • There are lots of interesting stats in this report on Funding for Purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates. For instance, “approximately 353,000 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes were emitted from City operations” in 2015. The goal is to have that down to 179,228 by 2018. It’ll cost about $3.3 million to get there.
  • The 2015 Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements are now available for the Fort Road Business Association, French Quarter Business Association, and Downtown Business Association.
  • The City intended to build a public school in Evansdale at 150 Avenue and 87 Street and assembled the land to do so in 1969. But a few years ago, EPSB declared the site as surplus to its needs, so now the City is proposing to sell it at market value. The Muslim Association of Canada has expressed interest in purchasing and developing the site.
  • The surplus school site in Kiniski Gardens South is proposed to be sold at market value to the Headway School Society of Alberta.


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: August 29 – September 2, 2016

In addition to discussing the report on Northlands’ Vision 2020, there are a number of other things coming up for Council next week.

Wading Pool Race!
Photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Here’s my look at everything else that Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Edmonton Arena District Update

The latest update on Rogers Place and the Edmonton Arena District states:

“Since the last update report, the private sector District development surrounding the Arena has continued to advance. A significant milestone occurred at the end of May when Greyhound transferred their bus operations out of the downtown. Demolition of the Greyhound building has been completed, and excavation of the site and the abutting former 103 Street is now underway.”

Rogers Place is “nearing completion and is expected to be available for occupancy by September 2, 2016, the contracted facility turnover date.” In other words, on time, at least as of August 8, 2016. The facility is also on target to achieve the LEED Silver designation.

Former Greyhound Station

Some other highlights:

  • “A robust communications plan is planned to roll out as the opening of the facility approaches.”
  • “At the time of writing this report, commissioning was underway and various areas of the building have received final inspection. Equipment and furniture is now being moved into the building.”
  • “As of the end of June, there was a daily average of 1,019 workers on-site. The on-site team continues to work in a safe manner with one lost-time-incident. To date, there have been 8,321 workers fully oriented on the site.”
  • “Through the beginning of May, 87 percent (7,045 tons) of all waste material had been diverted from the landfill.”
  • “The building will officially open September 8, 2016, with the first major event being an Open House planned for September 10, 2016, to give the public the opportunity to explore and enjoy the building.”
  • “The City will host a separate community-focused grand opening event for the Downtown Community Arena on September 25, 2016.”

On the financial state of the project:

“The total approved capital budget for the Downtown Arena project (capital profile #1117-0099 as amended) is $611,859,000. The total capital expenditure as at June 30, 2016, is approximately $542,044,192.”

The report mentions an “unresolved legal claim” that could mean additional interim funding is required.

Edmonton Filmed Entertainment Fund

Council had previously asked for an update on the Edmonton Filmed Entertainment Fund, which was established in 2012 by EEDC with Kilkburn Media LLC and with $5 million in grant funding from the City. It was created “to support filmed entertainment projects principally shot in Edmonton using local resources.” To date, the fund has invested in three projects: Freezer (2012), Cut Bank (2013), and 40 Below (2015).

Here’s how the fund has performed so far:

  • “The Fund has invested 92% ($4.62M) of the grant funding in three projects since inception and has received 64% ($2.9M) return to date toward this investment.”
  • “In regards to the Economic Impact goal, the Fund has generated $6.47M in economic activity from three films, including $2.34M of direct employment income in the film and entertainment industry.”
  • “The Fund was created as a revolving fund. However, the investments so far have begun generating revenues 12 months after the investments or later. The lengthy payback period limits the ability to invest in multiple projects or larger projects.”

The target was to generate an economic multiplier ratio of 6:1, but instead the return on investment was -33%.

Unsurprisingly, EEDC has “concluded that the existing model used for the Fund is not proving to be successful.” They said $5 million is not enough to invest in big enough projects to see larger returns, and that “13-20 percent return on investment was optimistic, this industry involves too many risks to guarantee any profits – even with industry experts involved.”

Other interesting items


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Northlands’ Vision 2020 is not going to happen

The City of Edmonton released its analysis of Northlands’ Vision 2020 proposal today. Introducing the report, City Manager Linda Cochrane said, “we acknowledge that Vision 2020 is an option for what could be done with the 160 acres.” It’s clear from reading the report however that the City doesn’t support the plan.

“Northlands has proposed an ambitious plan and there are elements that are worthy of future exploration,” Mayor Iveson said. But there’s a but. “Council’s job must be to make decisions that are in the best interest of the city, not just one organization.” Suggesting that there’s more work to be done, he said “it’s critical that we aren’t rushed and that we make the right decision for our city.”

Northlands Park

Vision 2020 proposes a transformation of both Northlands as an organization and the 160 acres of land that it leases from the City and operates, which includes Rexall Place, the Edmonton EXPO Centre, Northlands Park Racetrack and Casino, and all of the parking. The plan would see Rexall Place repurposed as a recreation facility, a retrofit for Hall D in the EXPO Centre, a new agriculture strategy, the end of horse racing and a redevelopment of Northlands Park into an urban festival site, and a redevelopment plan consisting of commercial, retail, and residential uses. The key to making the plan work is debt forgiveness on the $48 million outstanding debt that Northlands owes on the Edmonton EXPO Centre, to say nothing of the capital expenditures required to build everything outlined in the plan.

Debt Forgiveness

On the debt forgiveness, Mayor Iveson was clear that is not likely to happen. “I don’t believe Edmontonians would support forgiving a debt this large.” Perhaps more importantly, there’s no upside to the City by forgiving the debt.

Northlands owes $47.4 million as of June 30, 2016 and the City has a corresponding debt obligation with the Alberta Capital Finance Authority for the same amount. Every year Northlands pays the City $4.05 million which the City in turn pays to ACFA, so there’s zero impact to the City. If the loan were forgiven, the City would have to find a way to pay the $4.05 million each year for the loan from ACFA, which expires in 2034 and does not have an option for early termination. “Funding this loan from the tax levy would require a 0.3% tax levy increase in 2017 at a total cost of $72.8 million for the remaining duration of the loan.”

Northlands is projecting negative cash flows of $7.7 million per year which means it may be at risk of defaulting on its loan payments as early as next year. If that were to happen, the City would have the ability to terminate the lease and take back possession of the EXPO Centre which provides the City with “a tangible capital asset that will limit the impact of a default on the City’s financial position.” In theory the City could use income generated from the EXPO Centre to fund the ACFA loan.

“The business case for the expansion of the Expo Centre was overly ambitious in retrospect,” Mayor Iveson said today. But we are where we are, there’s no going back now.

Debt forgiveness or not, the City is on the hook for the money. But by allowing Northlands to default on its loan, the City gains complete control of the Northlands site and EXPO Centre as well.

Repurposing Rexall Place

“There is no immediate demand for six new ice sheets in Edmonton,” the report states, “however opportunity does exist to leverage the Rexall repurpose concept in the context of closing or repurposing four single-sheet ice facilities in north and northeast Edmonton.” The Mayor sounded somewhat optimistic about the idea, and mentioned that he had even spoken with Hockey Canada recently to explore the idea of a hockey academy in the facility. Northlands estimates the cost of repurposing the facility at $85 million. While the City says it “is technically feasible” they disagree on the cost, suggesting “an estimate of $102 million within -10% to +20% would be more appropriate.”

Farewell Rexall Place
Farewell Rexall Place, photo by Jeff Wallace

The wrinkle with this part of the plan is that the City is restricted by the Master Agreement with the Edmonton Arena Corporation (EAC) on the kind of investments it can make to Rexall Place. “The City cannot not make additional capital expenditures that exceed those required to maintain Rexall Place in a safe condition and in compliance with applicable laws.” Furthermore, as soon as Rogers Place opens the City has to stop providing any financial support to Rexall Place, directly or indirectly, except as required to comply with the law and maintain public safety.

The biggest issue however is that “the City must not financially support or advocate in favour of any plan to rebuild or renovate Rexall Place, unless it is to convert the facility to something other than a sports or entertainment facility.” If the plan to repurpose Rexall Place is going to go ahead, the EAC would need to formally waive that restriction.

Hall D

The Hall D retrofit would increase seating capacity to 5,000 but “appears difficult to justify based on the anticipated market demand” for events it might serve. Vision 2020 assumes the facility could attract 50 concerts and events annually, but the consultants research indicates that “a maximum of 20 to 24 concerts annually appear to be the upper boundary for this type of building.” Last year, Hall D hosted 6 concerts.

Electrical and mechanical upgrades as well as a roof replacement would all be required for Hall D in the next 2-4 years. “Without a long term tenant (e.g. minor sports franchise), enhancements to Hall D cannot be justified in the immediate term.” Again the report suggests a higher cost estimate than Northlands did, at “$38.7 million within -10% to +30%.”

Urban Festival site

Recognizing that the site “may provide a unique opportunity to the region” the report raises major concerns about the feasibility of the idea. Industry data suggests there may be market demand in the long-term, but “it is unclear if there is sufficient market demand to achieve the necessary revenue to make the site profitable.” Interviews conducted with local festival organizers suggest “there is not significant interest in relocating to the Northlands site at this time.”


In general, the report highlights a lack of detail supporting the idea and says that further investigation would be required. “The updated cost estimate provided by Northlands of $83.6 million cannot be verified as accurate with any certainty,” the report says.

Residential Opportunities

Vision 2020 proposes 3,195 residential units in a mix of concrete high-rise buildings, wood frame low/mid-rise buildings, and townhomes. It anticipates absorption of 540 units per year, a figure the report says is unrealistic. The consultants estimated that Northlands “could reasonably capture at most 15-20% of apartment demand in the city’s mature neighbourhoods” which would mean demand for, “at most, 100-150 multi-family apartment units per year on average from 2015 to 2035.” There does appear to be “market demand for 400 beds to serve Concordia University” but the report notes that in addition to a lack of funding, “the economics of a concrete high-rise for student housing that assumes market rates for land is difficult to achieve.”

The Future of Northlands

When Vision 2020 was released earlier this year, Northlands suggested it would cost $165 million. The City puts the estimated cost at more than $230 million. Northlands deserves some credit for thinking big and putting something on the table, but Vision 2020 just isn’t realistic and will not happen. The future of Northlands will be something different.

Asked if the decision to build the new arena is the root of all of Northlands’ problems, the mayor said that was an oversimplification of a complex situation. “This has hastened a conversation that I think would have happened anyway,” he said.

mayor don iveson

Mayor Iveson indicated he will propose a merger of the EXPO Centre and Shaw Conference Centre next week when Council discusses the report. “This report provides a wake up call that the time for integration is now,” he said. “I believe that if we look at bringing the two conference centres together under a shared events authority, we will get better tourism and economic development results for our city.” He wouldn’t speculate on whether Northlands, EEDC, or a new organization should become that shared events authority.

This is an idea that is long overdue. It regularly comes up in discussions about the various facilities and organizations, and came up again earlier this month when Chris LaBossiere suggested a merger could be a way forward for Northlands. To his credit, Northlands CEO Tim Reid is open to the idea. “One of the things that has never made sense to me in our city is why we have two very large conference, convention and trade facilities that are run under different entities,” he told Metro.

Council will discuss the report at a Special City Council Meeting on August 31. You can dig into the full analysis here.

Coming up at City Council: August 15-19, 2016

Council is back from the summer break next week! Let’s hope they all got some much needed R&R.

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead. Interesting to see that a number of the reports now include a section called “Metrics, Targets, and Outcomes” in addition to the existing “Corporate Outcomes”. This is a welcome addition.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Municipal Voting Age

The City of Edmonton Youth Council (CEYC) wants the Province to amend the Local Authorities Election Act to allow 16 and 17 year old citizens the right to vote. The CEYC voted in factor of asking for the change at their February 3, 2016 meeting and now they want Council to give them permission to send a letter requesting the change.

The letter the CEYC has prepared reads in part:

“Youth in Edmonton have proven they are ready for this change. Sixteen-­year-­olds already have rights permitting them to drive on city roads, be emancipated and live on their own, be in the army reserves, and be a parent, among many others. Through being able to handle these responsibilities youth have shown not only that they are ready but that they are competent in municipal issues.”

The report notes that “lowering the voting age has been successful in countries such as Norway, Austria, and Scotland to increase voter engagement and turnout.”

If Council accepts the recommendation, the letter will be sent to the Province. It would be great to see this change made and for it to take effect in time for next year’s elections!

River Valley Alliance

In February the River Valley Alliance submitted to its members a Draft Capital Program for 2017-2022 and now it needs the City of Edmonton’s approval in order to seek additional funding. “The total projected cost to complete the proposed River Valley Alliance trail system from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan is estimated at $200 million, of which close to $100 million of the proposed capital spending would occur within Edmonton’s municipal boundaries.” So far $72.9 million has been spent on River Valley Alliance projects like the Terwillegar Park pedestrian bridge and the new funicular, split evenly between the three orders of government.

The report identifies three next steps:

  • “If City Council supports the Draft Capital Program 2017-2022, Administration will continue to work with the River Valley Alliance to confirm alignments, land acquisitions, cost sharing agreements, phasing of construction and determination of alternate priorities (if required). At this time City Council would only be providing its tentative support for these projects with formal approval being subject to further work with the River Valley Alliance to identify a mutually agreed upon final list of projects based on better understanding of City and partner municipality priorities, project costs, schedule and logical project phasing.”
  • “Administration will continue to work with the River Valley Alliance to develop a proposed cost-sharing formula for the portion of the Draft Capital Program 2017 – 2022 within Edmonton’s municipal boundaries, which will be brought back to City Council for approval.”
  • “Administration will confirm with the River Valley Alliance that the City will continue its role in planning, operating, designing, building, operating and maintaining any future river valley capital projects within Edmonton’s municipal boundaries as described in the Draft Capital Program 2017-2022.”

The list of projects for 2017-2022 in Edmonton includes four new pedestrian bridges, three new boat launches & docks, and four new trails.

Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge
Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge, photo by IQRemix

Administration recommends that Council provide its conditional support for the projects “and that formal approval be subject to further work with the River Valley Alliance to identify a mutually agreed upon final list of projects based on better understanding of City and partner municipality priorities, project costs, schedule and logical project phasing.” Once the proposed list and cost-sharing formula are finalized, Administration would create a budget submission for consideration as part of the 2019-2022 Capital Budget.

Soccer Centres

This report responds to the inquiry Councillor Walters made in May about the current usage and capacity of the City’s indoor soccer centres. Here are the highlights:

  • Edmonton has two types of indoor soccer facilities: boarded (with a carpet surface) and non-boarded (with artificial turf).
  • There are three soccer centres that accommodate boarded soccer (northeast, southeast, west). Each facility has four playing surfaces for a total of twelve fields.
  • Collectively each year, the twelve fields have approximately 20,000 scheduled games, 23,700 hours utilized, 853,200 player visits for games, 138,000 spectators, and over $550,00 in revenue collected.
  • During prime time (5pm to 10pm Monday to Friday, 7am to 10pm on weekends) in the winter (September to March) the utilization rate of the three facilities is 94%. During prime time in the summer (April to August) the utilization rate is 54% and most of that is for sports other than soccer.
  • “The Recreation Facility Master Plan (2005-2015) reflects a service level ratio of one pitch to 55,000 residents. To maintain this, the Plan recommends two additional indoor pitches.”
  • The fieldhouse at the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre is the only City-owned non-boarded indoor facility. “The only other indoor non-boarded facility in Edmonton, located at 14025 142 Street, is owned and operated by the Victoria Soccer Club.” A second turf facility is under construction there and is expected to open in November 2016.
  • “The St. Albert Soccer Association is proposing a partnership with the City of Edmonton and the City of St. Albert for a full-sized, indoor, artificial turf field on land owned by the City of Edmonton in north Edmonton.”

The report notes that soccer is particularly popular in our city. “Soccer is the number one minor sport activity in Edmonton based on the 2010 Current State of Sport assessment and census data shows the population under the age of nine grew by 13 percent from 2009 to 2014, which may lead to continued growth in registrations.”

Other interesting items

  • A new report recommends that City Policy C532 (Sustainable Building Policy) be updated “to ensure it aligns with City of Edmonton goals for a sustainable, energy resilient, low carbon Edmonton.” If approved, the updated policy is slated to return to Council in Q1 2017.
  • Council will receive a City of Edmonton Youth Council report on Experiential Graphic Design, defined as “involving the orchestration of typography, colour, imagery, form, technology, and content to create environments that communicate.” The idea is to integrate this thinking into the City’s recent wayfinding efforts. “Experiential Graphic Design could act as a powerful tool to help both residents and visitors navigate the city’s extensive pedestrian, bicycle and public transit networks, while forming memorable through personal interactions with their environments.”
  • There are three notices of intent to designate new Munipical Historic Resources for the Hunt Residence at 12520 109A Avenue NW, the Shop Easy Grocery at 11606 129 Avenue NW, and the John Wood Residence at 11833 102 Avenue NW.
  • A total of $28,675 is recommended in Travel Grant funding to 43 individuals.
  • A total of $330,700 is recommended in funding to support 18 facilities through the Arts Building Operating Grant program. The largest grant is $59,000 for the Metro Cinema Society.


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: July 4-8, 2016

There’s just two weeks left for Council until the summer break which runs from July 15 through August 12.

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

MGA Review Update – City of Edmonton Submission

The Government of Alberta introduced Bill 21, the Modernized Municipal Government Act, on May 31, 2016 and is conducting public consultation over the summer. The City has been involved in the review of the MGA since the process began back in 2013. And it sounds like they have a lot of feedback:

  • “Bill 21 failed to fully address the City’s requests in several areas as was formally requested by the City through the provincial consultation process.”
  • “Bill 21 was also silent on over 30 policy amendments that were requested by the City over the review process.”
  • “In addition, there are numerous amendments requested directly by Assessment and Taxation that were not addressed in the legislative changes proposed in Bill 21 (or the preceding Bill 20, 2015). These amendments were initially provided Administration-to-Administration in June 2014, at the same time as the City’s Council Approved Municipal Government Act Submission. These amendments are being updated and will be readvanced through the same process.”

To provide feedback to the Province, the City has created a 21 page submission of recommendations ready for Council approval. The document covers recommendations related to governance and administration, assessment and taxation, and planning and development. For instance, the City is looking for “additional municipal taxation powers”, the ability to “establish controlled corporations without Ministerial approval”, and for municipalities to “receive the flexibility to determine the appropriate uses for reserve land within their jurisdiction.”

It is expected that amendments to Bill 21 resulting from the consultation process will be introduced in the Legislature during the fall sitting, and that the bill will pass by the end of the year. The City has created a website discussing the Municipal Government Act Review and outlining its activities related to the process. There are also plans for “a comprehensive communications strategy” that will share the City’s position and will support Councillor communication with constituents.

Chinatown Plan – Economic Development Report Findings

This report and the associated 129 page Chinatown Economic Development Plan provides recommendations and actions from the first phase of the Chinatown Plan development process. It is hoped that a new plan will make it easier to resolve the challenges the area faces.

The Chinatown Economic Development Plan outlines four key strategies:

  • Establish an Economic Development Zone
  • Utilize and Enhance Physical Assets
  • Address Safety and Security
  • Create Destination

As you may know, Edmonton actually has two Chinatowns – the north is the commercial zone while the south is the cultural zone. The report recommends focusing just on Chinatown North to “target resources, investments and implementation activities to build on strengths for a destination that can grow and be promoted to a broader array of visitors.” It is expected that The Quarters will support Chinatown South and the Chinese Garden (in Louise McKinney Riverfront Park).

Edmonton Chinatown Conference
The 97 Street bridge that separates North and South Chinatown

I think it’s safe to say there’s an overall perception that Chinatown “is greatly impacted by the clustering of social service agencies and general social disorder.” The recommendations in the report “call for continued relationship building, partnerships, and exploring other policing or security options that will incrementally improve the perception of the area.” This is not likely to satisfy the business and community leaders in the area.

There are the usual recommendations about branding, creating promotional materials, and building a website to improve tourism and marketing. “Edmonton’s Chinatown is well positioned to deliver a unique authentic cultural experience being proximally located to additional upcoming major attractions within the downtown and already offering an array of authentic cultural dining and retail offerings,” the report says.

Curiously, the report calls for the creation of a new organization called the “Chinatown Economic Development Group” to provide governance for the area. It’s true that there is a need “to go beyond established stakeholders to engage in a dialogue about future growth and planning for development” but I’m not sure that yet another group is the right solution. There’s already the City, Chinatown BRZ, Chinese Benevolent Association, Edmonton Chinese Youth Leadership Council, developers, and business owners. Those groups have failed to work together effectively thus far, so is it really realistic to think they can overcome their differences as part of a new organization?

The next step is to undertake phase 2 including the development of the Urban Interface Plan. The goal of that plan is to “resolve the concerns around the 97 Street rail bridge and to decide a location for the Harbin Gate.” Once that report is complete, the final Chinatown Plan will be presented to Council.

Changing Land Economics – Downtown Edmonton

More than 1.8 million square feet of office space is currently under construction in downtown Edmonton. That is “the greatest amount of office space under construction…in more than three decades, and exceeds the 35-year development forecast prepared in 2010.” The population is growing too, and is expected to grow from nearly 9,000 in 2014 to as high as 23,000 in 2036. Since 2010 when the Capital City Downtown Plan was approved, “several re-zonings within Downtown increased the developable floor area capacity by 2.6 million square feet.” The arena and entertainment district is responsible for nearly half of that, with five Direct Control Provisions responsible for the rest.

For this report it’s important to understand what the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is:

“Floor Area Ratio (FAR) represents the total floor area of a building divided by the total area of a lot. It is used to limit the overall mass and intensity of a building or development. As the total buildable area allowed, FAR is used to balance the height and density of the building, controlling the overall mass of the development.”

So a FAR of 1.00 could be a 1,000 square foot building on a 1,000 square foot lot and that building could either be one storey on the entire lot or two storeys with 500 square feet on each floor on half the lot.

As the report outlines, landowners are motivated to puruse additional height and FARs through Direct Control Provisions as this can “significantly increase the value of land to which they apply.” And this increase in value can then be leveraged for financing purposes. But it also has an impact on the perceived opportunity for adjacent lands and can result in rising prices that discourage other developers from entering the market. “This can result in these sites being “frozen” and less likely to be developed or sold to another developer,” the report says. “This phenomenon is a primary reason so few Direct Control sites have developed among those approved prior to the new Downtown Plan in 2010.”

Downtown Sunset

The nut of the report is this paragraph:

“A small number of developments built under Direct Control Provisions with additional floor area height and density may not fundamentally alter the identity and character of a neighbourhood. However, a greater number of Direct Control Provisions with increased floor area opportunity in the McKay Avenue and Warehouse Campus residential neighbourhoods (areas where height and floor area is limited), may diminish the intended outcome for those neighbourhoods.”

Translation? A really tall tower on one site might be appealing for the impact it’ll have on the skyline, for the apparent “prestige” that comes along with height, and for the increased profits and/or reduced financial risks for the developer. But it could also mean that instead of development occurring on multiple sites, only the tall tower goes ahead. Look at it this way: would you rather have three 20-storey towers or one 60-storey tower? For areas like the Warehouse Campus district, definitely the former.

On the other hand, many Direct Control Provisions that produce a significant lift in value get negotiated to ensure there are public good contributions in exchange, like affordable housing, public art, and other contributions to the local economy. The problem is that these negotiations are not formalized in any way. The City is hoping to change that:

“Administration recommends that a comprehensive city-wide policy or framework be developed to formalize the review of the Direct Control Provision process. This framework would include the preparation of pro formas and establishment of a menu of public good contributions based on “lift in value”.”

“Improving the Direct Control Provision review process will provide Administration, project proponents, the development industry, community members, and City Council, with clear and updated understanding of how these applications will be reviewed and expectations to be met.”

Such a framework would take between 12 and 18 months to develop, according to the report. I think a framework to formalize all of this would be great for Edmonton, but let’s not forget that Council can vote against Administration’s recommendations anyway.

Paid Park & Ride

Changes could be coming to LRT Park and Ride lots starting September 1. The recommendation Council will consider includes the following changes:

  • “That up to 50 percent of parking stalls in the LRT Park and Ride parking lots be made available for paid parking.”
  • “That the fee charged for a parking stall at LRT Park and Ride parking lots be increased from $40 to $50 per month (plus GST).”
  • “That paid hourly parking stalls be provided at LRT Park and Ride parking lots at a rate reflecting the combined transit fare and local short term parking market rates.”

Currently, free and paid park and ride is available at Clareview, Belvedere, Stadium, and Century Park. Paid parking was introduced in January 2011 and was intended to help offset the maintenance costs of the lots, estimated at $799,000 per year (total). It has proven to be quite popular with waiting lists in place at all four stations – 410 people for Clareview, 220 people for Belvedere, 149 people for Stadium, and a whopping 3,540 people for Century Park.

Century Park Station & Park and Ride
Photo by City of Edmonton

So the recommended changes listed above are meant to deal with this situation. Why not just building more parking at LRT stations? Because that “is contrary to the City’s goal of moving towards more Transit Oriented Developments surrounding LRT stations.” If Council approves the changes, the expected impacts include:

  • “Total paid parking stalls will increase from 556 to 1,978.”
  • “Total free parking stalls will decrease from 3,441 to 1,977.”
  • “Annual paid parking revenue generated will increase from $266,880 to $1,186,800 (Gross revenue increase of $919,920).”

ETS did undertake a survey on this and received over 4,000 responses, but the results didn’t skew one way or the other:

“Results of the survey did not provide a clear direction as the results were mixed, competing and varied, with a group of users that are requesting that the parking lots remain free of charge to ensure transit is affordable and others who are willing to pay for a reserved parking stall to ensure they have a parking spot for a worry-free commute.”

It’s a challenge, no doubt. If Council doesn’t like the recommendation, they could go in one of four other directions. They could make all parking free, they could make even more parking paid, they could choose to building additional lots and parkades, or they could simply decide to make no changes.

In related news, Northlands has announced it will open 654 of its parking stalls to paying transit riders for $75/month.

Integrated Infrastructure Services Update

The Integrated Infrastructure Services department, first announced in October 2015, “represents a fundamental shift in how the City will develop and deliver capital projects.” This report provides an overview of why the department was created and what it will achieve for citizens.

integrated infrastructure services

One of the first things the City did after forming the new department was to develop vision, mission, and values statements to guide decision making. “We inspire trust among citizens and Council in our commitment and ability to deliver quality infrastructure,” reads the vision. Can you tell the department was formed in the aftermath of the Metro Line, 102 Avenue Bridge, and Walterdale Bridge fiascos?

Along with those statements comes a new business model, which consists of seven principles: Agency, Integration, Sustainability, Comprehensive planning, Never content with project management expertise, Continous improvement, and Role clarity is the key to accountability. The report highlights a number of improvements that have come as a result of this new model, using words like “better”, “greater”, and “improved”, but there are no measurable data points to be found.

The department now contains five branches:

  • Infrastructure Planning and Design
  • Infrastructure Delivery
  • Business Planning and Support
  • Building Great Neighbourhoods
  • LRT Delivery

The City is “actively recruiting” for all five branch manager positions. The goal is to have the new organizational model up and running for Q1 2017.

So what have they accomplished and what’s still to come?

“Over the last six months, there has been a focus on improvements in transparent communication with City Council, management of strategic risks, and enhancing relationships with industry partners. Transformation work in the next half of 2016 will be focused on developing more details within the organizational structure and establishing core department processes.”

There could also be changes to the capital budgeting process, with more detail expected in Q4 2016:

“Budget decisions supported by a greater level of detail in design will require an additional investment in projects at an earlier stage, similar to the recent approach to the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre project, where budget was provided to complete a portion of design to inform a future capital budget request.”

It sounds like the new department remains a work in progress, but the City certainly feels as though it is on the right track.

Other interesting items


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: May 2-6, 2016

The future of Edmonton’s LRT planning and funding will be one of the major topics for Council this week, alongside updates to the Capital Budget and a look at the funding impacts of the Federal budget. The downtown arena will also be before Council again, as there’s a bylaw to increase borrowing through the downtown CRL to make up for the Provincial funding that never materialized (but which was part of the original financial agreement).

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Spring 2016 Supplemental Capital Budget Update

Part of the City’s budget process is to adjust the Capital Budget in the spring “in response to changing project needs, new funding opportunities and to respond to emerging issues and changing priorities.”

“The funding available for reallocation in the Supplemental Capital Budget Adjustment is $34.9 million, and is comprised of $10.3 million in Pay-As-You-Go funding, $20.6 million in Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding and $4 million of Neighbourhood Renewal Program tax levy funding (released from Profile 12-66-1073 Pavement Management Relocation), which will be directed towards the Neighbourhood Renewal funding deficit.”

Of that, $19.5 million is recommended to go toward the 2016 Neighbourhood Renewal Program shortfall (the $4 million plus $15.5 of the MSI funding). That leaves $15.4 million available for reallocation. The City is recommending using the funding as follows:

  • Manning Drive ($5.7 million)
  • St. Andrews Surplus Park ($0.8 million)
  • Bus Fleet Replacement ($4.9 million)
  • Fire – Dispatch System Radio ($1.5 million)
  • EPS – Helicopter Replacement ($2.5 million)

The report also notes that Edmonton is projected to see a $15 million decrease in MSI funding as a result of the 2016-2017 Provincial Budget and that Administration will bring forward a strategy to deal with this. You’ll also find an overview of projected savings, 2015 carry forwards, new profiles recommended for funding, and other information on changes to the budget.

One of the new profiles recommended for funding is Pedestrian Wayfinding (CM-21-6000):

“Edmonton’s streets and parks are envisioned to be vibrant places where citizens and visitors can walk, access public transit, visit local businesses, and live healthy active lives. The provision of accurate, consistent, public information to help people find their way to local destinations is a key element of improving the livability of a City. Funding this $2.6 million profile is recommended to come from two funded Transit profiles: LRT Facilities & Right of Way Renewal (CM-66-3200) & Bus Facilities Renewal (CM-66-3500) and one Information Technology profile Enterprise Applications Growth (CM-18-1508).”

I really hope that funding goes ahead!

Federal Transit Stimulus Update

This report looks at the most recent federal budget, which “announced $60 billion in new infrastructure funding, delivering on the new government’s promise to nearly double infrastructure spending over the next 10 years.” The plan will be implemented in two phases – the first will provide $11.9 billion over five years. Here’s what that means for Edmonton:

  • Edmonton will receive $50,000 in base funding plus about $140 million from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.
  • Alberta will receive about $196.7 million from the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.
  • “Under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and Clean Water and Wastewater Fund initiatives, the federal contribution will be up to 50 percent of total eligible costs for projects, with eligible costs expanded to include design, engineering, and other planning costs not currently eligible for federal funding.”
  • “Federal Budget 2016 also announced $250 million for municipal capacity building programs to be managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to provide funding directly to municipalities.”
  • “Removal of the mandatory P3 screen across the New Building Canada Fund, allowing municipalities to determine the best procurement model for their local circumstances.”

The report also identifies some potential projects that could be eligible for funding under these programs. For the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, the only project identified is the Malcolm Tweddle/Edith Rogers Dry Pond at $20 million. For the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, twelve projects have been identified:

  1. D.L. MacDonald Transit Yards Traction Power Substation ($5 million)
  2. Future LRT Planning, Phase 1 ($1.5 million)
  3. Future LRT Design Phase 1 ($32.7 million)
  4. Bus Replacement ($10.8 million)
  5. Growth LRVs ($116 million)
  6. Bus Camera Systems ($7 million)
  7. Growth Buses ($47 million)
  8. Bus Priority Signals ($2 million)
  9. Heritage Valley Transit Centre and Park and Ride ($29 million)
  10. Station Lands Pedway ($26 million)
  11. Electric Buses (No cost estimates)
  12. Design for the Refurbishment of Stadium and Coliseum Stations ($2 million)

The next step could be that Council chooses to submit some of these projects for federal funding.

Priorities for Future LRT Funding

Last week Transportation Committee discussed the priorities of future LRT funding. The City is recommending the following order:

  1. Valley Line, Downtown to Lewis Farms (LW-1, LW-2, LW-3)
  2. Metro Line, NAIT to Blatchford North (HNW-1)
  3. Capital Line, Century Park to Ellerslie (HSW-1)
  4. Downtown Circulator, University to Bonnie Doon (LE-1)
  5. Metro Line, Blatchford North to Castle Downs (HNW-2)

The item was referred to Council by the Committee without a recommendation.

Edmonton Light Rail Transit
Edmonton Light Rail Transit, photo by IQRemix

There’s also a report on future LRT concept planning that identifies the remaining projects in order of priority:

  1. Downtown Circulator, Energy Line and Festival Line to City Limits
  2. Valley Line, Mill Woods to Ellerslie Road
  3. Capital Line, Gorman to Edmonton Energy and Technology Park
  4. Capital Line, Heritage Valley Town Centre to the Edmonton International Airport

Administration had identified $1.5 million for LRT concept planning in the 2016-2018 Operating Budget, but Council did not approve it. The service package will be updated and presented at a future supplementary operating budget adjustment.

Other interesting items

  • If Council approves, a Special City Council meeting will be scheduled for August 31 at 1:30pm to hold a non-statutory public hearing on Northlands’ Vision 2020.
  • Councillor Henderson intends to make a motion that would direct the City to investigate becoming a biophilic city, which are “cities that contain abundant nature; they are cities that care about, seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and that strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world.” You can learn more here.
  • There’s a recommendation “that the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, write to the Minister of Environment and Parks, to advocate for the development of a regulatory compliance framework for commercial waste haulage and disposal that promotes sound environmental sustainability including incentivizing private haulers.”
  • Council had allocated $50,000 to the Downtown Proud program in 2013, but it was never spent as matching funds were not raised and circumstances changed. The City is now recommending that the money be used to help transition to a new fee-for-service delivery model and to ensure a “living wage” for program workers.
  • Bylaw 17639 would increase the borrowing authority for the downtown arena by about $32 million to replace provincial grant funding that was not secured. This bylaw is ready for first reading only.
  • Bylaw 17589 would designate Phyllis Grocery, located at 10631 96 Street NW, as a Municipal Historic Resource and would allocate funding of $91,822.50 from the Heritage Reserve Fund for the building. “The total estimated cost of the restoration portion of the project is over $183,000.”


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: April 18-22, 2016

It should be an interesting week at Council with the controversial Mezzo project in Old Strathcona, an update on the 2016-2018 Operating Budget and property tax increases, an analysis of the snow removal program, a new marketing plan for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, and many other topics on the agenda.

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

2016-2018 Supplementary Operating Budget Adjustment

Council approved its first multi-year operating budget in December 2015 and this report provides an update and recommended adjustments now that assessment growth has been finalized. Here’s the overall result:

“With the approval of the recommendations including adjustments in Attachment 1, the average percentage increase of the combined municipal and education residential property tax for 2016 would be 2.8% (2.2% increase for services and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT). In 2017 the property tax increase would be 3.0% (2.4% increase for services and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT) and in 2018 the property tax increase would be 4.6% (2.6% increase for services, 1.4% increase for Neighbourhood Renewal, and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT).”

That compares to 3.4% in each of 2016 and 2017 and 4.8% in 2018 as originally approved.

Here are some other highlights from the report:

  • “The increase in tax revenue available from growth over what was approved in the 2016 interim budget is $5.7 million.”
  • “Transit fare revenue is forecasted to be $2.3 million less than the approved budget, mainly as a result of fewer rides due to the economic slowdown.”
  • “The debt servicing costs have been revised to reflect the most current forecasted capital project cash flows and results in the Corporate Expenditure budget decreasing by $0.3 million in 2016, $2.3 million in 2017 and increasing by $1 million in 2018.”
  • “Approval of the adjustments will result in operating budgets for tax-supported operations budgets having revenues and expenditures of $2,559,813,000 in 2016, $2,603,522,000 in 2017, and $2,736,309,000 in 2018.”
  • Updated economic forecasts have resulted in a recommended decrease in revenue for the Belvedere CRL, but an increase for the Downtown and Quarters CRLs.
  • Using the new funding formula, approved funding for EPS will be $322,995,000 in 2016, $335,284,000 in 2017, and $350,113,000 in 2018.

The resulting recommendation is that the 2016 tax levy budget be increased by $5,654,000.

Analysis of Snow Removal Program

It might seem a little odd to be talking about snow removal given the winter we just had, but you know the snow is going to come back with a vengeance next year. This report looks at the main factors that affect snow and ice removal and reviews the efficiency of the program.

So one of the first questions is, how much snow do we typically get? It’s easy to remember: 1-2-3 (about 123 cm annually).

“In an average winter, the city receives 120 cm of snow and there are 11 “snow events” (snowfalls significant enough to require that clearing activities take place).”

snow removal analysis

The next question is, how much do we spend on snow and ice removal?

“The Snow and Ice Control budget has varied substantially over the past decade, ranging from $28 million in 2006 to $61 million in 2015. Actual expenditures have ranged from $35 million (2007) to $74 million (2014) over the same period. In seven of the last ten years, the program’s budget has not covered costs, and nearly $75 milllion has been drawn from the Financial Stabilization Reserve to make up the deficit.”

snow removal analysis

Administration suggests that weather variability, changing service levels, and operational practices and constraints are the three main factors in how much our city spends on snow and ice removal. The number of snow events, the amount of snow that falls, the amount of snowpack that the policy has required, and relying on the private sector to plow major routes are all considerations.

snow removal analysis

The City says it is getting better at snow removal:

“The City’s effectiveness and efficiency in snow and ice control operations (success meeting policy) has improved in the last three years. During the 2013-2014 winter the arterial clearing policy was met 50% of the time, while during the 2014-2015 winter the policy was met 85% of the time. During the 2015-2016 winter season the Snow and Ice Control Policy has been met 100% of the time (note this is only based in one major snow storm).”

But obviously it would be better to avoid having to dip into the stabilization reserve:

“In order to reduce reliance on the Financial Stabilization Reserve, Administration recommends a five year balance window where the Snow and Ice Control budget puts back in the Financial Stabilization Reserve the equivalent amount that it uses during high expenditure years.”

snow removal analysis

While the summer and winter road maintenance programs will all be reviewed as part of the full service review, Administration is not recommending any adjustments to the Snow and Ice Control Budget at this time.

Edmonton Waste Management Centre Marketing Update

In the last quarter of 2015, “a comprehensive marketing plan” was developed for the Waste Management Centre by an external consultant and a full-time marketing and client relations position was filled in November.

“A new visual identity and brand for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre is being developed in alignment with the City’s new visual identity program as part of the marketing plan. The focus will be on positioning the Edmonton Waste Management Centre as a community asset and point of pride. The Edmonton Waste Management Centre is committed to environmental stewardship and customer service, and these two benefits will feature prominently in the Centre’s brand.”

The report notes that “Edmonton’s waste management system is highly regarded” and that “residents ranked waste services in the top three of 24 civic services (along with fire rescue and parks) in combined high importance and high level of satisfaction” in last year’s civic services survey.

The financial impact of the marketing plan, both in terms of costs and targets, will be discussed with Council in private.

Other interesting items

  • Bylaws 17620 and 17621 would amend the Strathcona ARP and approve zoning for the proposed 16 storey building in Old Strathcona known as Mezzo. David Staples wrote that the project is “unusual, unsettling even” but also “essential if Old Strathcona isn’t going to start going downhill in the face of stiff competition.”
  • In response to a question about overtime during the 2016-2018 budget deliberations, a new report says that after a review, Administration “does not support creating additional permanent full-time Full-Time Equivalents as a strategy to reduce overtime expenditures and create net labour savings.”
  • The spring Capital Budget update for Utility Services proposes an overall decrease of $400,000 which works out to a potential utility rate decrease of 4 cents on the typical monthly residential bill.
  • Community Services Committee has recommended that Mayor Iveson, in partnership with Alberta Status of Women, “write a letter to United Nations Women requesting Edmonton’s membership to the Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces program.”
  • Transportation Committee has recommended that “permit fees for road use, set up and usage of City owned roadway barricades, be waived for block parties within the city, and that the corresponding budget revenues be adjusted accordingly.” Hooray for free block parties!
  • Executive Committee referred the analysis of maintaining, moving, or preserving the Graphic Arts Building and the Artery without a recommendation. Should be a lively discussion.
  • Bylaw 17590 would designate the William Lowes Residence at 9837 84 Avenue NW as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • Bylaw 17104 would designate the Cameron Block at 10543 97 Street NW as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • Bylaw 17571 will authorize the City to borrow $14,598,000 to widen Whitemud Drive from 40 Street to 17 Street.


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: April 11-15, 2016

No doubt the discussion about separating trains and vehicles on the Metro Line will get a lot of attention this week, but Council is also going to be discussing the possible Municipal Development Corporation and the possibility of becoming a United Nations Safe City. There’s also some interesting details on vacant land, heritage buildings, and the neighbourhood renewal program.

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Municipal Development Corporation

This report aims to address Council’s questions about establishing a Municipal Development Corporation (MDC) using the “super light” model that was previously presented. Here are the highlights:

  • Council does not directly control the City’s corporations but they do sit as representatives for the shareholder. They could control the activities of the MDC by including restrictions in the incorporation documents, by exerting shareholder control, and by including restrictions in any agreements made between the City and the MDC (such as the sale of land).
  • An alternative to establishing the MDC is to start a “New Dedicated City Administration program” (DCA) that would try to achieve the same objectives. Such a program could be established over 4 years for $1.7 million less than the MDC and could be setup more quickly. But such a program would lack the flexibility of the MDC.
  • The MDC would require $750,000 to startup plus $1.25 million per year in operating costs.
  • The DCA would require $473,000 to startup plus $780,000 per year in operating costs.
  • “Industry has strongly supported the concept of a business advisory committee struck under authority of the City Manager to help activate the potential of surplus City lands.” Additionally, the local land development industry “has consistently expressed strong opposition to the establishment by the City of a for-profit Municipal Development Corporation.”

The report notes that “economic conditions in 2016 are dramatically different than prevailing conditions in early 2015” when the initial model was developed and that means the City could see a reduced rate of return. Another challenge is that “the distinction between mandates for the proposed for-profit Municipal Development Corporation Superlight and the more recently proposed public-benefit Community Development Corporation is not clear.”


“The mandate for the proposed Municipal Development Corporation…has been complicated by the emergence of several related development ‘questions’ that have yet to be addressed by Council, including dispensation of the Edmonton Research Park and West Rossdale, as well as uncertainty regarding the future of Northlands Park. The Municipal Government Act renewal may also introduce new legislative requirements that could affect the Municipal Development Corporation that are unknown at this time.”

The City plans to create a business advisory committee under the City Manager and recommends that Council postpone any decision about the MDC until a future Executive Committee meeting at which Council will presented with more information.

Metro Line crossing Princess Elizabeth Avenue

Council will consider four options for separating trains from vehicles where the Metro Line crosses Princess Elizabeth Avenue and 106 Street. These options range in cost from $35 million to $95 million and could be included in funding for a future extension of the Metro Line.

  • Option 1, at a cost of $51 million, would be an elevated LRT crossing with NAIT station moving slightly northwest after being out-of-service for 6-12 months.
  • Option 2, at a cost of $95 million, would be an underground LRT crossing with NAIT station moving further northwest after being out-of-service for at least 12 months.
  • Option 3, at a cost of $35-67 million, would be an at-grade LRT crossing with a possible lowering of Princess Elizabeth Avenue below the LRT. NAIT station would be out-of-service for 2-3 months and would move further northwest, with a second station added on the Kingsway side of Princess Elizabeth Avenue.
  • Option 4, at a cost of $88 million, would be an elevated LRT crossing with NAIT station moving much further northwest after being out-of-service for 6-12 months, plus a second station would be added on the Kingsway side of Princess Elizabeth Avenue.

NAIT LRT Station

I like the idea of adding a second station at Kingsway, but it seems silly to be discussing this now considering the line is still not even fully operational. It seems that Kingsway Mall is on board with the idea of adding a new station on their site, however.

Operating Costs of Vacant City Properties

Lots of interesting information here. The City owns approximately 9,300 properties, 1,015 of which are categorized as vacant or undeveloped. A little over half of those vacant properties are held for things like parks or drainage. The remaining 454 properties total 335 acres and the estimated total cost to service them is approximately $56,950 per year.

About 75% of the vacant properties are located in residential areas, 17% are in commercial areas, and 8% are in industrial areas. Roughly 90% of the vacant properties are under one acre in size.

The Open Data Catalogue includes a vacant land inventory which includes both public and private land but not that it is a snapshot from May 2014. The data lens view is a good way to explore the data.

City Heritage Building Inventory

According to this report, the City currently owns over 900 facilities (everything from arenas and libraries to parking structures and pedestrian bridges) which as of 2015 are summarized as follows:

  • 20% are in good condition
  • 74% are in fair condition
  • 6% are in poor condition

A total of $153 million was approved for the 2015-2018 Capital Budget for Building and Facility Rehabilitation, which will support approximately 60 facilities.

Rossdale Generating Station
Rossdale Generating Station, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Of those 900+ facilities, 57 are considered historically significant (though just 18 are registered and designated as Municipal Historic Resources). Of those, 48 are buildings and 9 are cemeteries and monuments. Here’s the status of 27 of those 48 buildings (the rest lack a recent condition assessment):

  • 45% are in good condition
  • 30% are in fair condition
  • 25% are in poor condition

The City estimates it would cost approximately $27.4 million to rehabilitate those 27 buildings. You can see the full list of heritage assets here.

Neighbourhood Renewal Program Audit

From the auditor’s report:

“The Transportation Neighbourhood Renewal Program repairs and replaces streets, sidewalks, and other infrastructure in Edmonton neighbourhoods. The Program was initiated in 2009 with a goal of having all Edmonton neighbourhoods in acceptable condition by the end of 2038 – 30 years.”

It wasn’t until 1987 that “significant renewal work” took place in Edmonton’s neighbourhoods. A total of 52 neighbourhoods were renewed between 1987 and 2008, but in 2009 “it was estimated that 174 neighbourhoods were in need of renewal.” The dedicated tax levy was established that year to try to address the problem.

The report finds that overall “the Transportation Neighbourhood Renewal Program has the appropriate structures and supports in place to achieve its long-term objective” and that “residents are reasonably satisfied with the Program.” The auditor made four recommendations to improve the program, all of which the City has accepted.

Other interesting items


You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.