Coming up at City Council: March 21-25, 2016

Council is back to Committee meetings this week, with a very full agenda and some big ticket items to be discussed.

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.

Program & Service Review

Administration has come forward with a project plan for the program & service review that Council has requested. All City services will be reviewed a high-level and some will be identified for a deeper analysis to determine if the service could be reduced or stopped, provided differently or enhanced, or if new services are recommended. The City anticipates evaluating “approximately 30 programs and 200 services, which could be compared with services in other jurisdictions” using the Municipal Reference Model. The evaluation will focus on relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency:

  • “Relevance is why we are doing things.”
  • “Effectiveness is doing the right things.”
  • “Efficiency is doing things well.”

The review will start this year and will take until December 2018 to complete. Costs associated with the work in 2016 are expected to be $600,000 which “will be funded from existing resources leveraging currently planned service reviews.” The City is proposing three pilots in 2016 to “test the approach and identify improvements in the project methodology.” Additional costs for 2017 and 2018 will be determined after the pilot reviews are complete.

Urban Growth Areas: Integrated Infrastructure Management Planning

Edmonton’s three Urban Growth Areas are Decoteau, Horse Hill, and Riverview. When considering a build-out over a 30-40 year time frame starting this year, the highlight is that the three areas “are anticipated to require approximately $1.4 billion in capital investment by the City.” On top of that, “a developer infrastructure investment of approximately $3.8 billion” is required. But we know that new neighbourhoods do not pay for themselves. “The projected cumulative shortfall over the 50 year analysis period for the build-out of the Urban Growth Areas is anticipated to be in the order of $1.4 billion.”


There’s a lot of detail in the report and a good discussion about the balance of residential and non-residential land in Edmonton. We have about three times more residential land than non-residential land, but non-residential taxes are 2.5 to 3 times more than residential, so they each contribute about 50%. Here are some other highlights:

  • “For the City as a whole to maintain the current ratio, there needs to be approximately $5 billion of non-residential assessment for every $20 billion in residential assessment growth.”
  • “It should be noted that the trend in Edmonton over the last few years has been an increasing burden shifting towards the residential tax payer as the residential class takes on a greater proportion of the total assessment base. The residential share of property taxes has increased from 48.7% in 2005 to 50.8% in 2015.”
  • “Based on the analysis completed, in order to maintain 25% non-residential assessment ratio, the Urban Growth Areas would require an additional $8.3 billion in non-residential assessments throughout the City of Edmonton, over and above the commercial and business employment areas planned within the Urban Growth Areas.”
  • “It is uncertain at this point whether this magnitude of non-residential assessments can be achieved within the City’s existing industrial areas and may be largely dependent on the timing and type of development to be constructed in the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park.”
  • “Should this level of non-residential assessment not be achieved over the build-out of the Urban Growth Areas, the City may need to consider changing the current residential to non-residential tax split from an even split to a higher percentage from the residential area, which would increase residential contributions and better reflect the costs of the City’s current built-form.”

As a result of all of this, “the City will need to continue its efforts to promote greater density, more effective utilization of infrastructure, and grow the industrial and commercial sectors in order to balance the City’s overall assessment base.”

Administration is working on a Growth Modelling Framework that would proceed in four phases through 2019. While it may be a useful tool, that seems awfully late to be available considering development of all three areas is already well underway.

Valley Line LRT Updated Tax Levy Requirement

Apparently the winning bid from TransED Partners to build and operate the Valley Line LRT came in at $2.2 billion, about $500 million less than the City was expecting. As a result, the City is recommending the 0.8% tax levy scheduled to start this year should be dropped to 0.6%, which would translate to savings of $4.25 for the typical homeowner. Another option could be to grow the LRT reserve fund faster.

Instead of a rebate to homeowners, the Amalgamated Transit Union would prefer to see the money spent on transit. “It’s capital money that was intended to flow into transit,” ATU President Steve Bradshaw told Metro. “What we’re saying it was intended for transit and it should stay for transit.”

Traffic Shortcutting Pilot Project

Here’s the background on this one:

“In the fall of 2015, a Traffic Shortcutting Pilot Project was undertaken in the communities of Crestwood, Newton, Ottewell and Ormsby Place to develop a streamlined process to address localized shortcutting and speeding concerns. The traffic management measures of the pilot project included speed humps, speed tables (speed hump with a flat top), driver feedback signs, the review of traffic signal timings and the restriction of vehicle access (Ormsby Place only).”

About a third of respondents to a questionnaire felt the measures benefited their community, while a quarter felt the measures improved traffic safety. The report highlights a number of lessons learned, including:

  • “Project Coordination: Projects should be coordinated with other capital projects to minimize construction costs and more efficiently engage the public.”
  • “Community Awareness: Need to first build broad public involvement and engage communities before addressing traffic concerns.”
  • “Roles and Responsibilities: Establish clear roles and responsibilities for Administration, public stakeholder groups, including decision-making at key points in the process.”
  • “Process Flexibility: Every neighbourhood is unique, thus a flexible process can be tailored to the specific needs of a community.”
  • “Project Timelines: The process needs to be responsive to community needs in a timely manner and adequate time must be allocated to properly engage the public and complete comprehensive before and after traffic studies.”

A separate report provides an update on the Community Traffic Management Plan pilot program in the Prince Charles and Pleasantview Communities. Activities are ongoing in Prince Charles, but the trial in Pleasantview was removed in February. The lessons learned through those two pilots were broadly similar to the others noted above.

“Since the mid-1990s, this is the fourth time Pleasantview has been through a Community Traffic Management Plan. This is the second time Prince Charles has been through a Community Traffic Management Plan since 2000.”

In 2003, Council adopted a set of guidelines for the community traffic management process that “established selection criteria to be used as a means of prioritizing communities for traffic management initiatives.” Only Pleasantview and Prince Charles have met the requirement to demonstrate sufficient community support since that time, but citizens in over 30 neighbourhoods have requested the initiation of a community traffic management plan. The City is now reviewing these guidelines. “Establishing criteria for community support and thresholds for traffic volumes, speeds, and shortcutting in an evidence-based approach, provides a means of addressing the growing city-wide demand for community traffic management initiatives in a more planned, efficient, consistent, and equitable manner.”

All of the lessons learned and other input will be considered in the development of a Policy on Traffic Shortcutting and a Community Traffic Management Policy, currently slated to be ready for Council’s review in June.

Telus Field

It looks like the uncertainty over the immediate future of Telus Field is coming to an end. The Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club has been selected as the preferred proponent to operate and maintain Telus Field and they’re looking to sign a four-year deal with the City to do just that. They would pay an annual license fee of $20,000 per year, in addition to operating and maintenance costs. The City would still be responsible for preventative maintenance, waterproofing, snow removal and parking lot maintenance, and utility costs related to the City’s office space in the building.

The City is still working on a longer-term vision for Telus Field as part of its plan for the River Crossing area, expected to be delivered in 2018. The River Crossing area encompasses land redevelopment in West Rossdale, repurposing of the Rossdale Generating Station, and other items. “This plan will take an integrated approach to advancing change in this unique and complex area,” the report states.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

In addition to the agreement to operate Telus Field, the Prospects are requesting permission “to secure a new naming sponsor for the facility.” They need Council’s approval to start looking for a new sponsor, and even once they find a willing partner, the Naming Committee and Historical Board must be consulted and Council will have final approval. The Prospects need the sponsorship revenue to help support the operation of the ballpark.

Other interesting items

  • It is recommended that Council approve a funding agreement with the Argyll Velodrome Association and the Society of the Edmonton Triathlon Academy for the Coronation Community Recreation Centre project. Council had previously approved $112.26 million for the project.
  • A majority of partner facilities, festivals, and events would prefer the City is to mandate the establishment of designated smoking areas rather than mandate smoke-free events and facilities.
  • The Dogs in Open Spaces Strategy “will enhance off-leash sites and provide safe and enjoyable experiences for park users.” A new report outlines recommendations made by the strategy and notes that Administration will now develop an implementation plan.
  • The Naming Committee previously approved five neighbourhood names for the Riverview ASP but Stantec is appealing and has suggested the committee “neglected to consider the wishes of the majority landowners in these neighbourhoods.”
  • A report on zoning options for high quality main streets identifies the following as qualifying main streets: Jasper Avenue, Whyte Avenue, 97 Street, 101 Street, 107 Avenue, 109 Street, 118 Avenue, 124 Street, Stony Plain Road.
  • In an effort to better support residential infill, the City is recommending a new Community Standards Infill Compliance Coordinator, amendments to the Community Standards Bylaw 14600 to inroduce weekday construction restrictions, and amendments to the Traffic Bylaw 5590 to improve current development practices and address community concerns about infill construction.
  • A progress report on joint efforts between the City of Edmonton and the City of St. Albert on the possibility of integrating transit systems considers five models and recommends returning in Q3 2016 with more detail.
  • Edmonton currently classifies roadways as “local”, “collector”, and “arterial” and applies Complete Streets Guidelines on top of that. Administration has reviewed this classification scheme, and after comparing with other cities like Ottawa, Calgary, and Toronto, has recommended the status quo. It further noted “that roadway classification is neither used as a tool nor viewed as a solution to shortcutting and speeding issue.”
  • Council is slated to receive a verbal status update on the Metro Line LRT on Wednesday, and will also receive a private contractual update.


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: March 14-18, 2016

It looks like Council has a busy week ahead! They’ll be looking at Northlands and the question of what to do with Rexall Place, a topic that is sure to dominate the headlines early in the week. The other contentious issue on the agenda is the District Energy System for Blatchford. Council is also receiving a big financial update this week.

Moe Banga Swearing In Ceremony

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.

Northlands Vision 2020

The first item of business for Council is to discuss the Northlands Vision 2020 proposal. The plan has been called a fantasy, and it has been suggested that Northlands itself “has no particularly strong reason for carrying on.” But in the absence of an alternative vision for what to do with the site, there’s a real chance that Council will support the plan, at least tentatively. The City hasn’t brought any leadership to the table on this issue (only very minor adjustments have been made to the Coliseum Station ARP that was approved in 1983).

An economic impact assessment conducted by NICHOLS Applied Management suggested that Vision 2020 could result in an overall positive impact to the provincial GDP of between $680 million and just over $1 billion, with about a third of that directed within Edmonton.

Rexall Place

Does turning Rexall Place into the Ice Coliseum, a facility with seven sheets of ice, at a cost of between $76 million and $94 million make sense? Is there actually a need for the proposed Urban Festival Site that would replace the racetrack? Should we really sink another $40 million into Hall D when Northlands already owes more than $40 million for the last Expo Centre expansion? These are some of the questions that Council will have to explore.

It seems unlikely that anything will happen unless Council agrees to forgive the debt on the Edmonton Expo Centre. And I don’t think Council is likely to do that without seeking some major governance change at Northlands. Could this be the opportunity to redraw the lines between Northlands and EEDC and come up with a more sensible deployment of limited resources?

Council will also be looking at the 2016 Northlands Capital Budget. Northlands is planning to spend $3.8 million this year on capital improvements, including $641,243 in the Edmonton Expo Centre, $880,121 on “technology and telephony”, and $815,358 on asphalt repair.

There is also Bylaw 17607 on the agenda, an amendment to the existing bylaw that allows for a ticket surcharge on all events held at Rexall Place. The new bylaw will be known as the Rexall Place Ticket Surcharge Bylaw, and is required to comply with the Master Agreement between the City and the Edmonton Arena Corporation. It will come into effect on July 1, 2016.

Capital Financial Update

There’s a lot of information available in this report and in the December 2015 Preliminary Year-End Financial Results. Here are some highlights:

  • Including carry-forward from 2014, the total approved capital budget is $7.93 billion.
  • The full year spend for 2015 was $1.03 billion or 16.7% against the 2015-2018 budgeted capital plan of $6.15 billion.
  • There are 466 active profiles with planned expenditures in the 2015-2018 budget cycle, 341 of which are classified as single and 125 as composite in nature.
  • There are 69 projects in the 2015 to 2018 Capital Budget cycle with costs greater than or equal to $20 million. They account for 89.1% ($7.07 billion) of the total approved budget.
  • As of December 2015, 83 projects have been classified as green, 2 as yellow, and 12 have been flagged red.

Those 12 red projects are:

  • Great Neighbourhoods Initiative
  • Milner Library Renewal & Upgrades
  • Northwest Police Campus
  • The Quarters – Phase 1
  • River Valley Alliance Connective Infrastructure
  • Walterdale Bridge
  • 102 Ave over Groat Road
  • Metro Line LRT
  • Westwood Transit Garage Replacement
  • Mill Woods Double Barrel
  • Anaerobic Digestion
  • Parking Control Technology

There’s also some information on economic indicators:

  • Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index was down on a year-to-year basis in the Edmonton region from 2.2% in 2014 to 1.2% in 2015.
  • The Municipal Price Index is projected to average 0.4% for 2015 trending upward to 3% in 2019.
  • The costs of delivering municipal services are expected to rise at a faster rate than that of the Consumer Price Index.
  • Interest rates are expected to rise at the end of 2016.

inflation forecast

Edmonton Arena District Update

The latest update on the downtown arena district says that “construction continues to progress on schedule and within the approved budget.” There’s a lot of different work already underway, and “fit-out and finishing” is about to begin. The first seat was installed this month and all seating is expected to be in place in May. That’s also when the scoreboard is set to arrive. The Alex Janvier public artwork in the Winter Garden will be installed in June. As previously discussed, the arena will be a LEED Silver building, the second in the NHL after Pittsburgh. “Through the end of December, 87.2 percent (5,288 tons) of waste has been diverted from the landfill.”

Transforming City
Transforming City, photo by Dave Sutherland

The update also includes a rough schedule for when the various buildings within Ice District will open:

  • September 2016 – Casino
  • September 2016 – Oilers Entertainment Group Offices
  • November 2016 – Edmonton Office Tower
  • Summer 2018 – JW Marriott Hotel
  • Fall 2018 – Stantec Office Tower & Retail Podium
  • Spring 2019 – Legends Residential Tower
  • Summer 2019 – Stantec Residential Units

Through the end of February 2016, total project expenditures are about $441,500,000. The total project budget is $604,950,279.

District Energy Sharing System

A district energy system “centralizes the production of heating or cooling for a geographical area” and was one of the key features of the Blatchford development plan. Council had previously asked for “a comprehensive business case” for implementing the system, which is included in this report. The business case for the system recommends a low (ambient) temperature system operating as a public interest utility. Two scenarios have been modelled:

  • Scenario A requires $20 million per year for the first ten years and represents the full build-out of the system using only renewable energy source for meeting both base and peak demand for thermal energy
  • Scenario B requires $20 million per year for five years and represents the full build-out of the system using renewable energy sources to meet the base demand and transitional natural gas boilers and cooling towers to meet peaking thermal energy demand

Administration says Scenario B is “a pragmatic first step” toward achieving the carbon neutral, 100% renewable energy-based vision for Blatchford, but it “does not achieve the same level of greenhouse gas reductions” as the Scenario A would. In order to move forward, a revised project implementation schedule is required and means that construction may be delayed until 2017. The source of funding has not yet been identified.

The next steps are for Administration to look at options for funding the project, engage in further discussions with EPCOR, and to review the financials and project implementation schedule.

Other interesting items

  • The Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor roster has been updated as a result of the Ward 12 by-election. Councillor Banga will serve as Deputy Mayor from September 16 to the Organizational Meeting in October, and as Acting Mayor from August 16 to September 15.
  • Transportation Committee has recommended that Council approve funding for the Heritage Valley Park and Ride and adopt a revised Park and Ride strategy.
  • The committee has also recommended that by September 2016, some free Park and Ride stalls be converted to paid stalls, that the price to park in reserved stalls be increased, and that time limits be implemented for unreserved stalls.
  • Bylaw 17571 is ready for first reading and will authorize the City to widen Whitemud Drive from 40 Street to 17 Street at a cost of $14,648,000.
  • Bylaw 17575 would lower the special tax rate for Alley Lighting by nearly 4%, from $1.02 per assessable metre in 2015 to $0.98 per assessable metre in 2016. This is because LED lights use less energy and require less maintenance.


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: March 7-11, 2016

Council is back to Committee meetings next week!

Edmonton City Council

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.

Urban Hens Pilot Evaluation

Last year after a successful pilot, Council approved the bylaw changes required to support urban beekeeping. Will they do the same for urban hens?

From the 35 citizens that applied to the urban hens pilot, 19 sites were formally accepted across the city. Each had to register provincially and had to receive consent from adjacent neighbours. They were managed by “both experienced and inexperienced hen owners” and they received support from the River City Chickens Collective. Here’s how the pilot went:

  • Each site was inspected at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the pilot.
  • “The majority” of sites were compliant, but a few follow-up inspections were required.
  • One site had concerns over the requirements and withdrew.
  • There were 12 citizen complaints across six sites, but all were “investigated promptly” and resolved amicably.
  • There were no complaints related to coyotes or other predatory wildlife, but there was “an increase in nuisance birds, roaming cats, and mice” for some sites.

A formal Urban Hen Keeping Program does not require any bylaw changes, so the Committee can essentially give the go-ahead if they support the idea. Property owners would be required to abide by the guidelines and would need to obtain a development permit under the new urban outdoor farming class. The requirement for neighbour consent would be removed, but participants would need to complete a training course or workshop before being issued a license.

Chickenses, photo by Dave Sutherland

“While the results of the pilot lean favourably towards supporting a program, several pilot outcomes cause some concern from an enforcement perspective,” the report says. For that reason, Administration is recommending a phased implementation in which the number of sites would be capped at 50 over the next two years.

The Edmonton Insight Community survey that was conducted along with the pilot found that 51% of respondents somewhat or strongly agree that raising hens in the city is good for neighbourhoods.

Park & Ride

A report from the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board identifies short and medium-term options to address the high demand for Park and Ride stalls. Recall that a previous report on Park & Ride at Century Park found that the lot is 85% full by 7am on weekday mornings and that the average weekday utilization of all park & ride sites is 97% at LRT stations and 60-70% at transit centres. The ETSAB report suggests “there is a clear need for an increase in supply” but it also suggests dealing with the price of stalls too. Roughly 87% of all stalls available are provided free of charge, with reserved stalls priced at $42/month (the same since 2010). The existing Park & Ride policy states that up to 18% of stalls at each location can be reserved for paid parking.

The options identified to deal with this include:

  1. Convert a Greater Proportion of Existing Stalls into Paid Reserved Stalls
  2. Increase the Price to Park in Reserved Stalls
  3. Offer Time-Limited, Unreserved Stalls
  4. Seek Alternatives to Increase the Supply of Park and Ride Stalls

The recommendation is for Administration to prepare a subsequent report on “the feasibility, implications and details of implementing” those options. ETSAB “believes that Park and Ride facilities form a critical part of our transportation system” but they feel customers should pay a greater portion of the costs of parking.

Century Park Station & Park and Ride
Century Park Station & Park and Ride, photo by City of Edmonton

A related report deals with the strategy for Park & Ride locations. The current policy (C554) was approved in 2009 and states that park & ride will be located:

  • at selected LRT stations and transit centres served by LRT, premium bus, or express bus services;
  • in areas along or outside of the Inner Ring Road (Yellowhead Trail, 170 Street, Whitemud Drive, and 75 Street/Wayne Gretzky Drive) and preferably at least eight km from Downtown or University of Alberta North Campus; and
  • at sites where more intensive development is not possible or feasible, such as the Transportation Utility Corridor or other major utility rights of way or where such development is not expected to occur in the immediate future.

Administration feels the policy has limitations and should be updated, just not right away. The new Transit Strategy is slated to be complete in 2017 and “is envisioned to encompass all transit-related issues at a high level, including park and ride.” The recommendation is to revisit the park and ride policy at that time.

Urban Balcony Expropriation

Identified as a part of The Quarters Downtown, the “urban balcony” is a triangular piece of land located between Jasper Avenue, 101 Avenue, and 96 Street atop Grierson Hill. The Quraters plan envisions it “as refuge for public gathering, providing and protecting public access to some of the most beautiful views in the City.” Its inclusion in the plan “recognizes the importance of access to the River Valley both in a physical and visual sense.”

urban balcony

In order to build the urban balcony, the City must acquire four properties. Two of those are vacant and undeveloped, and two contain unoccupied apartment buildings “in poor repair.” One is actually “subject to an Alberta Health Services Health Hazard Notice and is unfit for human habitation.” Administration has been negotiating with the owners the properties, but so far they haven’t been successful. As a result, they are recommending that Council approve the commencement of the expropriation process.

Other interesting items

  • A report on the current tax status of urban farmland identifies that although buildings used for farming operations in Edmonton receive an automatic 50% tax exemption, no such provision exists for urban farmland. Council does have the power to set a differential tax rate for farmland.
  • An update on EPS funding shows that in the latter half of 2015 they spent $266,000 on “component rebuild” for Air 1 and Air 2.
  • About 75% of the funding for the Community Energy Transition Strategy was being withheld pending a report on the provincial climate change strategy. Now that the report is available, there’s a recommendation to release the funds. “The conclusion was that the City’s action plan is consistent with provincial policies and directions.” See also the report on Corporate Environmental Targets.
  • Administration has provided a summary of its engagement to date with stakeholders regarding the Blatchford Project and in particular related to “visitable housing” which is “the concept of designing and building homes with basic accessibility features that provide easy access on the main level for everyone, including persons with limited mobility.” The recommendation is to encourage home builders in Blatchford to incorporate visitability principles.


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: February 29 – March 4, 2016

Moe Banga was sworn in as the new Councillor for Ward 12 at City Hall yesterday. He handily won Monday’s by-election, earning nearly twice as many votes as his nearest competitor. “City building is a team sport,” said Mayor Iveson at the ceremony. “So it’s very exciting to welcome a new member to our team.” He also offered some advice to the new councillor. “You represent the people of Ward 12, but you serve the entire community.”

Moe Banga Swearing In Ceremony
New Ward 12 Councillor Moe Banga

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.

Stanley Milner Library Renewal

A recent update on the Stanley Milner Library Renewal project says that EPL has already raised $3.7 million, including “a lead gift from a significant donor.” The total cost of the project is estimated to be $62.5 million, and EPL has committed to raising $10 million from community partners by 2020. The City of Edmonton is contributing the rest of the funding. Bylaw 17572 is being considered this week and will authorize the City to borrow $51,498,000 to “undertake, construct and finance” the Stanley Milner Library Renewal project.

epl stanley milner renewal

The new building will be “open and airy, with much more natural light, a larger children’s library and Makerspace, and a two-storey tall interactive video screen” reports Metro Edmonton. Elise Stolte reports that the new building will also feature a daycare space, three new community meeting spaces, and a much larger cafe.

Draft Policy on Enterprise Risk Management

The Audit Committee has recommended that the Enterprise Risk Management Policy C587 be approved, and that Administration report on progress by the end of the year and again in Q2 next year. Here’s the policy statement:

“The management of corporate risks through a formal enterprise risk management framework and process is key to the fulfillment of Edmonton City Council’s goals for the City of Edmonton. City Council and the City Manager share the responsibility for creating a corporate culture and philosophy that encourages identification, evaluation, and reporting of corporate risks and risk mitigation strategies.”

There’s also an Administrative Directive that says the City is “committed to identifying, assessing, managing, and reporting on enterprise risk associated with the City’s business and strategic goals in a systematic, consistent and transparent manner.”

The policy was discussed by Council last June, and is largely based on Calgary and Saskatoon’s enterprise risk management policies. If Council approves the policy, future reports that require a Council decision will include a risk section.

McDougall United Church as a Municipal Historic Resource

If Council approves this bylaw to make the church a Municipal Historic Resource, a total of $500,000 will be allocated from the Heritage Reserve Fund to pay for rehabilitation efforts. The church has also been designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and Alberta Culture has committed $750,000 to help rehabilitate the building. The total estimated cost of restoration and rehabilitation is in the range of $11 million to $16 million.

McDougall Methodist Church, Edmonton, Alberta
McDougall Methodist Church, photo courtesy jasonwoodhead23

Here’s what the Heritage Planner’s Statement of Significance says:

“The heritage value of McDougall United Church rests in its association with the establishment of early religious institutions in Alberta. It is further significant as an example of early twentieth-century ecclesiastical architecture, and for its identity as a landmark cultural facility in Edmonton.”

The earliest church on the site was “a modest wood structure” built in 1873 by Reverend George McDougall. In 1892, a second wood-frame church was built. The current structure was erected in 1910. “Over the course of its history, McDougall United Church has served not only as a place for religious worship, but also as an important social and cultural centre.”

Other interesting items

  • The Hawrelak Park Water Play Feature is in need of $1.8 million from the River Valley Trail and Park Renewal capital profile. The concept that Council supported in 2013 has “undergone significant redesign due to a change in location” and that has caused the budget to grow.
  • Bylaw 17531 will amend the Business License Bylaw to implement three of the recommendations put forward by the Body Rub Centres Task Force: new license application requirements will be added, two employees must be present at all times and one must be a manager, and practitioners may work at more than one location under a single license.
  • Community Services Committee has recommended that the CIOG award recommendations be approved. A total of $3,546,490 is being provided to 225 not-for-profit organizations in Edmonton.
  • At Executive Committee this week, Council reluctantly decided to approve the environmental review for the funicular. That means the project will move forward with a targeted completion date of 2017.
  • The terms of reference for the new Active Transportation Council Initiative are ready for approval, with Councillors Henderson and Knack leading the project.
  • Bylaw 17536 and Bylaw 17274 will allow for a new Stormwater Management Facility at 2403 51 Avenue NW.
  • Council will receive an update on the City Manager Recruitment effort on Wednesday.


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: February 22-26, 2016

Monday is Election Day in the Ward 12 By-Election, so I’m sure Council will be paying attention like the rest of us to see who their new colleague is. I understand that the Elections Office expects the results to be posted in a large batch, hopefully by 8:30pm, so it shouldn’t take long to find who wins. The Swearing-In Ceremony for the new Councillor will take place on Friday afternoon.

Photo by City of Edmonton

But enough about the election for now, there’s work to be done. As I wrote about back in January, a reorganization of the City Administration is slated to take effect on March 1. Mayor Iveson wrote about the reorg yesterday, and highlighted that Council will be changing its committee structure to match:

“On the City Council side of the table, we’ve also begun the process to change Council’s committee structure to support more coherent decision making and build clear lines of accountability into the departments. The new Urban Planning Committee should mean a better alignment of the City’s planning functions; City operations now report to the Citizen Services committee; and all infrastructure work will now report to the Executive Committee.”

Those changes have not yet taken effect but will soon.

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.

MacEwan West Operating Models: Governance & Tenancy

Although Council approved the purchase of the MacEwan University West Campus back in November 2012 for $36 million, the transfer of the facility isn’t expected to take place until the fall of 2017 (just $5 million has been deposited thus far). To prepare, the City has established a Community Stakeholder Committee as well as a cross-departmental Internal Committee. The proposed vision for MacEwan West is “an Intercultural, Interagency Community Hub for arts, recreation, wellness and learning.”

MacEwan West
Photo courtesy of MacEwan University

The building was constructed in 1981 and contains 257,000 square feet of space, about half of which is considered available for programming (the rest is common areas, mechanical, etc). Over 80 groups initially expressed interest in being tenants or offering programs at MacEwan West. In addition to their input, research on governance, operating, and tenancy models has been completed. Three different models have been identified:

  1. Mixed Used Model – accommodates the greatest number of tenants/stakeholders with an anchor tenant occupying 30% of the space
  2. Hybrid Model – anchor tenant would occupy 50% of the space
  3. Predmoninate Single Use Model – anchor tenant would occupy over 70% of the space

Under the first two models, the City would be responsible for ongoing maintenance and renewal costs, estimated at $1.6 million annually. Under the third model, the City would consider selling the facility to the large tenant, but would “would retain the parkade for future LRT development.”

The next steps are to establish a Tenant Selection Committee, finalize a tenant selection process and criteria, report back to Council in Q4 with a “recommended tenancy structure, governance model and operating model,” and complete the MacEwan West Business Plan and budget by early 2017.

Corner Store Pilot Program Update

Back in March 2014, Council approved the Corner Store Pilot Program to “stimulate local small business growth, enhance access to local amenities and contribute to community building.” The pilot began with three sites in Ritchie, Elmwood, and Newton and has been successful enough that the City will be expanding it to five additional sites later this year. More than 100 business owners and residents in Ritche were surveyed about the pilot and they expressed strong support:

  • 88 percent of business owners feel the Corner Store program is important to their business and are confident the program will positively impact their commercial centre
  • 86 percent of community members feel the program is important to their community
  • 77 percent of community members are confident that the program will positively impact their commercial centre

The new sites “will be chosen based on the program criteria and possible alignment with the Neighbourhood Renewal program.” A total of $1.25 million has already been budgeted for “public realm enhancements” for the new sites, so no new funds are required to expand the program.

Measures of Social Return on Investment and Other Community Well-being Indicators

Last year, Council asked for an update on how Edmonton and Calgary measure social return on investment and other community well-being indicators. Both cities are working together to share information, tools, and techniques in this area. “The most common area that captures well-being indicators in both the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary is through Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).” Edmonton and Calgary (and other municipalities) are mandated to report on outcomes for FCSS funded programs.

The overarching goal of the FCSS Outcomes Model is to enhance “the social well-being of individuals, families, and community through prevention.” In Edmonton and Calgary, three dimensions are evaluated: economic well-being, social well-being, and physical well-being:

community well being indices

Calgary has gone further and has experimented with Social Return on Investment, “an innovative, principles-based methodology and increasingly sought-out approach that assigns a financial value to a social impact that would otherwise be overlooked or misunderstood.” After pilot projects in 2008-2009, Calgary decided to offer grants to agencies that wish to complete a Social Return on Investment evaluation.

Edmonton currently has two Social Return on Investment evaluations underway, one on the “Net Analytics Pilot” and one on “The Youth Transit Access Project”. Both are expected to go to Council in the next month or so.

LRT History and Principles

How are we going to build the next phases of the LRT network? That’s one of the key questions that Council is going to have to address this year, starting with Wednesday’s discussion. “Council has laid the foundation for the next phases of LRT expansion with a principle-based plan,” the report says, highlighting The Way We Move, the Valley Line planning process, and the LRT Network Plan.

“Globally competitive cities recognize the importance of an integrated transportation system that gives people choices of where to live and how to move around the city. LRT is an investment in Edmonton’s future, a critical asset for a modern city with a transportation system and land-use choices that meet the needs of a diverse, dynamic and growing population. LRT is one of the most efficient modes of transportation: a single light rail track can carry up to 20,000 people per hour compared to a freeway capacity of 2,000 vehicles per hour per lane. As demonstrated by cities around the world, modern LRT can help shape cities, communities and neighbourhoods, with LRT often becoming the focal point for new mixed-use development.”

Funding for the southeast leg of the Valley Line LRT has been approved and construction is slated to take place through 2020. But what about the other legs? Based on direction from Council a year ago, Administration has initiated the LRT Prioritization Study to “provide a recommendation for construction staging of the remaining unfunded portions of the LRT network.” One of the first deliverables from that is the LRT Prioritization Evaluation Critera. Will Council be able to agree on an order that makes sense for Edmonton, or will Councillors push their own areas of the city above all?

LRT Network Plan

The report goes on to note that “the cornerstone of the plan is Urban Style LRT” which encourages transit-oriented development, reduces construction costs, and “strengthens the City’s integrated transportation network.” While this report only deals with the prioritization of LRT, it should be noted that other complementary work is already underway, such as the development of a new Transit Strategy.

Active Transportation Council Initiative

City Council already has an expansive list of 24 initiatives but it has decided to add another one. The new Active Transportation initiative is slated to proceed through the end of the current Council term and hopes to achieve “heightened awareness of the Active Transportation options available to Edmonton’s citizens and the benefits of active, healthy living, recreation, and sustainable communities” and “education for users of Edmonton’s transportation systems about their rights and responsibilities, including drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians”, among other things. Currently the initiative lacks both a budget and Councillor sponsors.

Other interesting items

  • The list of CIOG Award Recommendations is now available and totals $3,546,490 that will be provided to 225 non-profit organizations.
  • An update on the Urban Beekeeping Program says that 31 beekeeping sites have been approved and licensed and that no complaints have been received about those sites.
  • Deloitte was contracted in October 2014 to conduct a review of the City’s programs and services for developing or redeveloping community league facilities. They made a number of recommendations that the City is now proposing to action including a draft Tripartite License Amending Agreement “that would reduce the risk to the City and community leagues, as well as support the future sustainability of community league facilities.”
  • One report looks at the impacts of the Provincial Budget on community organizations and says that “although the Province increased funding to the Family and Community Support Services in 2016, the City continues to advocate for further funding increases for 2017-2018.” The report also highlights that “increasing unemployment throughout Alberta is resulting in an increased need for social services, especially in larger urban centres such as Edmonton.”
  • Thus far the Edmonton Public Library has raised $3.7 million for the Milner Library Renewal project. They need to raise a total of $10 million by 2020 to support the revitalization of the downtown branch, which the City is contributing $52.5 million toward. You can learn more about the plans for the library in the Make it Possible! document.
  • An update on efforts to protect and preserve the McDougall United Church says that urgent repairs using provincial funding are underway and that “a bylaw to designate the McDougall United Church as a Municipal Historic Resource is expected to be brought to City Council for consideration on March 1, 2016.” The total cost of restoration and rehabilitation could be up to $16 million “in the immediate to short term.”
  • Council is being asked to approve an Environmental Impact Assessment and Site Location Study to advance the River Valley Mechanized Access project, commonly known as the funicular. An open house and online survey held last year found that “approximately two thirds of the respondents were supportive of the project.” Council has already approved $34.4 million for the project.
  • Proposed amendments to the zoning bylaw would reduce the minimum parking requirements and otherwise increase the flexibility of passenger pick-up/drop-off spaces to facilitate the expansion of child care services.
  • The LRT Governance Board’s fourth semi-annual report is now available and covers the period from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015, during which the board convened five times.
  • A detailed report on the Mill Woods Double Barrel Replacement/SESS SA1B project is on the Utility Committee’s agenda. The project is “one of the largest and complex capital drainage projects undertake by the City of Edmonton in over 35 years.” The City has run into challenges though, and the original $56.9 million budget has grown to $91 million. In order to complete the project by August 2017, Admin is recommending another budget adjustment, which would bring the total to $96.5 million. One of the lessons learned here is the same as what came out of the Metro Line debacle: “Regular communication to Council and citizens on the status of the project and more frequent updates when experiencing issues.”
  • Council is being asked to support appointing a City representative to the board of the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance. “The City has provided grant funding to the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance in the amount of 25 cents per capita.”


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: February 15-19, 2016

It has been a couple of months since my last “Coming up at City Council” update – time to get back into the routine. Thanks to everyone who has provided positive feedback on this series!

Photo by City of Edmonton

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.

Infrastructure Report Card

Every year the City compiles an annual inventory of its infrastructure. The report for 2014 is now available while the 2015 inventory is still under development. The 2014 Report indicates that the City’s replacement value for all of its infrastructure assets is $42.8 billion. Of that, $29.4 billion is drainage and road right-of-way, hence the phrase “roads and pipes”.

infrastructure value by asset 2014

The average state and condition of the City’s assets are as follows:

  • 57% of the City’s assets are in good or very good physical condition, 30% in fair condition and 13% in poor or very poor condition
  • 65% of the City’s assets have very good demand/capacity, 19% have fair demand/capacity and 16% have poor or very poor demand/capacity
  • 79% of the City’s assets have good functionality, 9% have fair functionality and 12% have poor or very poor functionality

How does that compare to other municipalities? “In comparison to national averages in the 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, the City of Edmonton generally has fewer assets in good and very good physical condition and more assets in fair condition.”

There are lots of charts and other information in the report, which you can read here (PDF).

ETS Bus & LRT Review

Well this report from the City Auditor is just depressing. I use transit and want to support ETS, but this just makes it extremely difficult to do so. The auditor found that “the reliability of service has been declining” and worse that “actions being taken to address reliability issues (i.e., on-time performance and overcrowding) are not improving the overall system performance.” Combine that unreliability with the cost of transit (which just went up yet again) and the value proposition isn’t very appealing. The single cash fare in 2011 was $2.85 and today it’s $3.25.

ets reliability

This chart shows that:

  • “Adherence to service schedules has declined from 2012 to 2015.”
  • “The best overall performance period was in the June to August period. In 2012, 74% of service was on-time. In 2014, performance declined to 69%.”
  • “The worst performance was experienced in the December to January period. In 2012, 60% of service was on-time. In 2014, performance declined to 58%.”
  • “The 90% performance target for arrival was not achieved in any time period measured.”

Why is the performance so bad? ETS says it is “a reflection of an increase in the number of persons with mobility devices and strollers, construction activity, and increased traffic congestion on city streets.” Sounds like a lot of excuses to me. On top of that, they suggest that operating budgets did not include funding to address these issues.

Capacity issues are also a problem. “In total there were 1,328 pass-by incidents reported in 2014,” the report notes. “Bus Operators estimated that more than 21,700 customers were affected.” While the current ETS fleet meets “the majority of ridership capacity needs” the report notes that “35% of customers rated overcrowding as unsatisfactory.”

Here are the auditor’s three conclusions:

  • ETS services are generally delivered in an efficient and economical manner when compared to other public transit organizations.
  • Service reliability expressed in terms of on-time performance was lower in 2014 than in prior years.
  • A lower percentage of ETS operating expenditures are funded by revenues than for comparable public transit organizations, single ride cash fares are comparable to that of other public transit organizations, and monthly pass prices are below average for comparable organizations.

You can find the auditor’s report here and Administration’s response here.

Designating the Molson Brewery as a Municipal Historic Resource

Bylaw 17507 “is to designate the Edmonton Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. Building as a Municipal Historic Resource and to allocate financial incentives for its restoration.” This bylaw is ready for three readings.

Molson Brewery Building, Edmonton
Photo by Connor Mah

Here are the details:

  • “The heritage value of the Edmonton Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. Building, built in 1913, consists in its association with the formation of the brewing industry in Edmonton and Alberta, its functional, yet artistic design, and its association with Chicago architect Bernard Barthel.”
  • “The Province has initiated the process to designate the building as a Provincial Historic Resource.”
  • “A payment of $417,550 annually over a ten-year period will be made to the owner to encourage the designation of the Edmonton Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. Building as a Municipal Historic Resource in accordance with City Policy C450B.”
  • “Annual rehabilitation grant payments of $417,550 will be made from the Heritage Reserve Fund to the owner starting in 2016, and will extend to 2025. However, the owner will be required to complete the identified rehabilitation work to the building by December 31, 2021.”
  • “The total estimated cost of the restoration portion of the project for the Edmonton Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. Building is over $8,350,999. Other non-heritage work is estimated at another $3,590,462.”

Great to see this moving forward!

Other interesting items

  • A review of the City’s Debt Management Policy finds that it “is consistent with debt management practices in other Canadian cities.” I wrote about Edmonton’s debt back in 2013 during the municipal election.
  • Executive Committee has recommended that the funding agreement between the City and EEDC for the Edmonton Film Fund be approved. They also voted on February 2 to have Administration, the Edmonton Arts Council, EEDC, and industry work together to develop “a preferred model to replace the Film Commission.”
  • Bylaw 17527 is an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw to “add Urban Gardens, Urban Outdoor Farms and Urban Indoor Farms to additional zones.” Council approved the three new classes back on October 19, 2015 as well as the zones they apply to. Additionally, they asked for special area residential zones like Terwillegar to allow Urban Gardens and for Commercial Shopping Centre zones to allow Urban Farms, which is what this bylaw will allow, among other minor changes.
  • As of February 4, there are 34 recommendations from the City Auditor outstanding, 10 of which are overdue. Administration has completed 13 recommendations since November 2015 and has provided an update on recommendations that are more than 6 months overdue.
  • The Coin Processing Audit report suggests that “the City’s coin processing operations are effective in mitigating the risk of mismanagement of City cash” and that “the services Coin Processing Operations provides are economical compared to other municipalities.”
  • Council’s furniture budget remains unchanged for 2016 at $11,278. Only $3,073 of last year’s budget was spent.


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.

Update on the race to join Edmonton City Council in Ward 12

With just 11 days to go until Election Day in the Ward 12 By-Election, let’s take a look at what has happened so far in the race to replace Amarjeet Sohi.

More than 3000 advance votes cast

The City of Edmonton held advance voting this week from Monday through Thursday at the Meadows Community Recreation Centre. Election officials told me today that more than 3,000 voters have cast a ballot. That’s a little less than anticipated, but is nevertheless a good start considering a total of 17,815 votes were counted in the ward in the 2013 Municipal Election.

The weather today didn’t help with advance turnout, and neither did the “overwhelming number of campaign supporters” present at the Rec Centre that may have intimidated voters earlier in the week. Election officials took action and setup a barrier to help deal with the situation.

Signs, signs, and more signs

Much has been made in this by-election about the number of signs that are appearing around the ward. Signs are not supposed to be placed close to intersections, bus stops, schools, or polling stations, but they have been. Election officials had to take action because so many signs had been setup close to the advance voting location, and drivers and others have complained the large number of signs are distracting. Campaigns can face a $250 fine for poorly placed signs.

Ward 12 By-Election Signs

I was in the ward on Sunday, and observed dozens and dozens of signs that had fallen down or otherwise been damaged. The intersection at 34 Street and 35A Avenue did feature quite a lot of signs along the fences. But overall I saw fewer signs than I expected, based on the online chatter I was seeing about them. Campaigns have 72 hours after the election to remove all of their signs and other ads.

Lots of candidates

Most of the discussion about the by-election thus far has centered on the large number of candidates running. A total of 32 will be listed on the ballot, and that makes it difficult for a candidate to “break from the pack and distinguish themselves” let alone for voters to get to know all of the candidates in order to make an informed decision. The Journal has a pretty good introduction to each candidate, and while that may help to narrow down the field, it’s not enough.

So far, just one candidate has dropped out of the race. Shani Ahmad announced he is supporting Irfan Chaudhry instead, but because he dropped out after the nomination grace period ended, Ahmad will still appear on the official ballot.

I did not attend the forum last week at the Mill Woods Seniors Activity Centre, but it must have been quite the sight to behold. “The ratio of observers to candidates at Tuesday night’s Ward 12 Forum…was around five to one, and that’s with only 21 of the 32 candidates in attendance,” wrote Claire Theobald. Understandably, many people left early or otherwise complained about the unmanageable number of candidates.

Vote for a woman

One way that voters may reduce the number of choices is by focusing only on female candidates. There are six running, a ratio that isn’t too dissimilar to what we see on Council currently where Bev Esslinger is the only woman. Danisha Bhaloo, Nav Kaur, Nicole Szymanowka, Laura Thibert, Preet Toor, and Jeri Stevens are your female candidates.

Getting more women elected has been the focus of Equal Voice as well. Their goal is to have “half of Edmonton City Council and School Board candidates to be women” in the 2017 election and they have launched in support of that effort. They recognize that if the by-election is any indication, things are not off to a great start. “Out of the current 31 candidates, only six are women…meaning only five percent of candidates,” they wrote (as a commenter points out below, that’s actually 19% of candidates). “That’s nowhere near close enough to meet our goal of 50 percent gender parity in 2017.”

Woman’s Initiative Edmonton also highlighted this issue with a feature on Nisha Patel, a young woman who lives in Ward 12. “The fact that there’s only a handful of women running amongst all these people who put their foot forward means that I want to support a progressive woman, because I think it’s about time,” she said.

Partisan-free civic politics

Do you think partisan politics should be kept out of the civic realm? That’s the issue everyone was talking about last week as Environment Minister Shannon Phillips took part in a fundraiser for candidate Nav Kaur. “This seems to be quite over the top,” is what Councillor Oshry told CBC Edmonton. Most of the comments I saw about the issue were overwhelmingly against the event and the NDP’s involvement.

Ward 12 By-Election Signs

On the other hand, Dave persuasively argues that it’s a “popular and misinformed myth that ‘there is no partisan politics in municipal elections.'” He notes that it “is natural for politically engaged people to be involved in elections for different levels of government” and that many current and past Councillors have had affiliations in provincial and federal elections, or endorsements from provincial or federal politicians.

Still, it’s hard to look at Nav Kaur’s incredibly orange website and list of key supporters and not immediately think the NDP is running for Council.

Where do they live?

For some voters, candidates simply must live in the ward to be considered. I generally feel that way too, but for me it’s a preference, not a hard and fast rule. And clearly it hasn’t hurt campaigns in the past, as both Councillor Nickel and Councillor Anderson do not live in the wards they represent, for example.

It turns out that about a third of the candidates running in this by-election do not live within the ward boundaries, according to an informal poll conducted by the Journal. With such a large number of candidates running, I don’t think this is that surprising. I also don’t think it’s such a problem. What’s more important than where a candidate lives is whether or not they can do the work necessary to represent their constituents.

There’s an awful lot of variation within Ward 12 as it includes new neighbourhoods like Summerside where median household income is $110,374 (average is $127,128) and also older ones like Minchau where the median household income is $81,139 (average is $89,686). Living in one part of the ward doesn’t mean that candidate will understand all of the challenges facing other parts of the ward any better than an outsider might.

Run-ins with the law

According to CBC Edmonton, six of the candidates running have had issues with the law. “While many of the incidents were minor, one candidate was convicted of assault, another was the subject of two court-ordered peace bonds and a third pleaded guilty to more than a dozen public health charges,” wrote Janice Johnston.

A second article by CBC Edmonton says that candidate Yash Pal Sharma is being sued “over his involvement in an alleged scheme to smear the reputation of a local Punjabi-language journalist.” He denied any involvement.

What do they stand for?

Considering we’re less than two weeks from Election Day, there hasn’t been much discussion about ideas or platforms. Candidate Nav Kaur did not like the fact that Council moved forward on the Uber decision without a Ward 12 Councillor, but clearly she’s not just running on the Uber issue. It’s probably a safer bet to suggest that’s why Balraj Manhas is running, but his website doesn’t include any platform information.

The other item I’ve heard/seen many candidates talk about is the Valley Line LRT and ensuring we get good value for money on that project. The Valley Line isn’t going to enter Ward 12 as it terminates at Mill Woods Town Centre in Ward 11, but it will have a big impact on transportation to and from the ward, of course. Still, it’s pretty easy for a candidate to say “we need to do better than the Metro Line” and just leave it at that.

Ward 12 By-Election Signs

But maybe there’s still time for more substantial discussions with candidates to take place. Edmonton’s NextGen has a set of questions they are asking candidates this week, I’ve sent a survey to candidates that I will share the results of next week, and I’m sure others are gathering input as well.

If you’re a voter in Ward 12, there’s not much time to get to know the candidates hoping to earn your vote. If you’re a first time voter, Edmonton’s NextGen has a good roundup of important things to know. Good luck to all!

Transition pay for Sohi, silencing street preachers, local food perceptions

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

Transition pay for Amarjeet Sohi

There has been a bit of discussion recently about the transition pay that Amarjeet Sohi collected when he left office. As outlined in Council’s Compensation, he collected a little over $46,000 for his 8 years of service (the transition allowance is “three weeks salary for each year served, to a maximum of 36 weeks”).

Prayer Service - International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Amarjeet Sohi in March 2015, photo by Paula Kirman

Councillor Michael Oshry feels that by collecting the pay, former-Councillor Sohi went against the spirit of the allowance. He told the Journal:

“What I have a problem with is having a situation where somebody leaves mid-term, is basically quitting the job. I have a problem with that because it’s now their choice to do that.”

The transition allowance has been in place since after the 2001 election which is when a February 2000 motion to implement the final recommendations of the Independent Committee to Review the Renumeration and Benefits of Members of Council took effect. That motion was carried unanimously, by the way. At the time the transition allowance was “equal to 2 weeks salary for each year served to a maximum of six months salary.” Here’s the rationale the committee provided:

“Severance allowances serve the purpose of assisting individuals to bridge the period between the time that they leave a position until they re-enter the workforce in another position. Most severance allowances are linked directly to length of service and include a maximum pay out. In addition, most employees have access to Employment Insurance benefits to help bridge the gap during a transition to another job.

Members of Council currently do not have access to any severance or transition benefits; nor are they eligible for Employment Insurance benefits. The Committee felt that Members of Council should have access to some severance/transition support; however, they felt strongly that the provisions should not be retroactive. Having the current Council establish the policy for future Councils was viewed as a more appropriate and prudent way to manage the transition to this new policy.”

The transition allowance was increased by one week in 2006, with this rationale from the Independent Council Compensation Committee:

“Members of Council are not always in control of when they leave office and the Committee recognizes it takes time for members to re-establish themselves back into the workforce. Employees in government and non-government agencies, when laid off or the position is phased out, would receive some transition allowance and are eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits for this transition period. Members of Council are not eligible to receive these benefits. The Committee felt increasing the transition allowance by one week per year served allowed for fair remuneration comparable to other jurisdictions and Alberta MLAs, who receive three months salary for every year served.”

Council voted on this issue back in June 2006, and actually made it retroactive to 2001. It passed 12-1, with the only dissenting vote coming from Councillor Mike Nickel (he voted against the entire motion to adopt the report’s recommendations).

The Independent Council Compensation Committee reiterated support for a transition allowance back in 2012/2013 when they last issued a report, stating:

“The existing transition allowance is modest, is comparable to other jurisdictions and to the public sector, and provides appropriate economic protection to citizens who must leave other employment to serve on City Council.”

While I can see the point Councillor Oshry is making, I don’t agree. Amarjeet Sohi served for eight years (in my view quite effectively) and I think he’s entitled to all of the compensation that goes along with that.

Silencing street preachers

Earlier this week Council discussed the “use of amplified noise on City sidewalks”. Street preachers, essentially. Councillor Oshry made an inquiry about the issue back in November, saying that “the use of amplified noise by individuals on public property can often disturb the peace of others and infringe on their peaceable enjoyment of public space.” The two page report notes:

  • Excessive noise is regulated by the Community Standards Bylaw (PDF)
  • Section 14 of the bylaw states that a person shall not cause or permit any noise that disturbs the peace of another individual
  • Enforcement Officers “apply objective standards” to determine if an offence has occured
  • Last year a total of 959 noise complaints were received from citizens, most related to garbage collection, street cleaning/snow removal, and construction
  • Activities related to street preaching on public spaces fall under the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Any legislative change would have to fall within the rights of the Charter, and would also apply to “all variations of amplified noise”, including sporting events and outdoor concerts, so that could make a solution tricky. One idea is to restrict amplified noise in certain locations, such as within a certain proximity to building entrances. Another is to require preachers to obtain a permit, just as buskers must do. Ultimately, Council decided to request a report outlining “what other municipalities have in place to regulate amplified noise in public spaces” and information on legislative options that could be used to address the issue. That report is slated to come back to Council in April.

Fine for Violation, photo by Linelle Photography

Some street preachers are concerned the issue isn’t about noise at all. From CBC:

“I think the noise complaint is really a content complaint, wrapped in a noise complaint,” said Nehemia Smeding, who preaches on street corners twice per week. Smeding said he and his fellow street preachers use amplifiers so their message can be heard over the roar of traffic and crowds downtown.

I generally don’t have an issue with noise downtown, especially during the day. There are often organized protests that wind their way through the core making use of a megaphone along the way. I’m even happy with the odd outdoor concert that takes place on the streets during the summer months. However, because of all the buildings downtown noise is already amplified, even without a speaker. So while I can understand what Smeding is saying about wanting to be heard over the traffic (crowds? really?) I think there’s a reasonable limit. It’s probably too loud when I can hear clear as day on my 12th floor condo on 104 Street the preaching coming from 103 Street and 102 Avenue, which seems to have happened much more frequently in recent months. Blame the nice weather, I guess?

As you might expect, this isn’t the first time the issue has come up. Back in 2000, street preacher Tony Hritzuk was charged for apparent disruptions along Whyte Avenue. But not noise disruptions – he was charged obstructing pedestrians. The Traffic Bylaw (PDF) states that “a person shall not stand or be in any other position on a highway so as to obstruct the entrance to a building or to obstruct pedestrians or vehicles using the highway.” He and his lawyer said they’d fight the charge under the Charter, and the charges were dropped.

Perceptions about Edmonton’s local food system

The Edmonton Food Council (which I am a member of) is running an online survey until February 15:

“The Edmonton Food Council is interested in tracking how Edmonton’s food system is changing over time and would like to hear your thoughts and perceptions about the local food system. The Food Council intends on releasing an annual scorecard of Edmonton’s food system using the results from the following questionnaire.”

Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us! And if you’re not already a member, consider signing up for the Edmonton Insight Community to give input to the City on a wide range of topics each month.

Why City Council’s approval of ridesharing in Edmonton matters

Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize ridesharing services like Uber with Council’s approval today of a new vehicle for hire bylaw.

“The regulatory framework in the new bylaw helps to answer citizen and business demand for more choice in the vehicle for hire industry,” says Mayor Don Iveson. “It represents a significant evolution of the industry and creates a model that will enable the taxi business and private transportation providers to co-exist.”

You can read more about today’s news in Elise Stolte’s story here. As she noted (and tweeted), “the bylaw passed 8-4 with councillors Dave Loken, Bryan Anderson, Mike Nickel and Tony Caterina against.”

Uber in Edmonton

Here is Uber’s statement on the new bylaw:

“Uber applauds the City of Edmonton for its leadership in being the first Canadian jurisdiction to adopt progressive regulations that embrace ridesharing. We thank Mayor Iveson, Councillors and City staff for supporting Edmontonian riders and drivers who want more affordable and reliable transportation options.

While these newly adopted regulations contain concessions for ridesharing service providers, the rules put in place a workable regulatory approach.

The spirit of collaboration and willpower demonstrated by the City of Edmonton to modernize its transportation laws can serve as a model for all Canadian regulators and elected officials.”

They were pretty happy on Twitter too:


The new bylaw will come into effect on March 1, 2016. Uber will be able to operate under a new class called Private Transportation Providers (PTPs). As they operate more than 200 vehicles, Uber will pay a license fee of $50,000/year plus $0.06/trip, with a $20,000/year accessibility surcharge on top of that. Only taxis will be able to pick up street hails or use taxi stands, but both taxis and PTPs will be required to charge a minimum of $3.25 for any trip. Drivers will be required to carry the appropriate insurance as outlined under provincial law, something Uber is working to acquire.

The new bylaw supports The Way We Move

I think the new bylaw supports Council’s transportation goals as outlined in The Way We Move, Edmonton’s transportation master plan. Here’s what I wrote back in September:

“The discussion about Uber in Edmonton lately has focused primarily on the fight between taxis and Uber, understandably. Lots of Edmontonians have horror stories to share about taxis, and there’s no question that competition from Uber will have a positive impact on the industry. But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. Uber and other transportation network companies can positively contribute to Edmonton’s transportation mix. We should do what we can to allow them to operate here legally.”

Councillor Knack spoke about this today, highlighting that ridesharing is an important way to help shift away from private vehicles to more sustainable options. “The status quo can no longer exist and change has to happen,” he said.

Council did what it was supposed to

Back in the summer of 2011, Council was already investigating ways to “provide increased capacity in the City of Edmonton taxi market.” The reality was already that Edmonton’s population had grown faster than its supply of taxis, and quality of service was suffering as a result. In 2012 Council wanted to issue 100 new licenses, but the Vehicle for Hire Commission refused to go along with the plan. So Council amended the bylaw to allow Administration to issue the licenses.

Something had to change, so it’s no surprise that when Uber showed up back in December 2014 Edmontonians embraced the service. All of a sudden at the touch of a button a ride could quickly and reliably be found. Ultimately Council’s role in this debate had very little to do with supporting taxis or welcoming Uber. Instead, it was about ensuring Edmontonians could move around the city efficiently.

I think Councillor Walters said this well in his post today:

“So equality is not the goal here, but rather equity – fairness – for our public. This is not about a big, bad, sophisticated multinational giving away free cupcakes, or the local taxi companies who come in to Council and scream and shout and take their shirts off. This about the kind of vehicle for hire service we want to facilitate with our bylaw. It is about Council’s role as a maker of public policy, not as a referee in an on-going battle between two different companies.”

Perhaps City Council’s most important job is to ensure that all taxpayer dollars spent result in the best possible value for citizens. They are charged with defining a vision for Edmonton and for making sure the City is operating effectively and efficiently toward it. I think their decision today is a reflection of that commitment.

The new bylaw supports innovation & choice

Nearly every Councillor spoke today about the importance of offering choice to Edmontonians by passing the bylaw. “We have to recognize there’s a huge part of our citizenry that want something different than we’re offering them,” said Councillor Henderson. Even Councillor Oshry, who had reservations about the bylaw despite voting in favor of it, said the taxi industry had become complacent. “They have to provide a better service than in the past,” he said.

Although a few Councillors tried to include more restrictions in the bylaw, I think an appropriate balance was ultimately struck. “This bylaw enables innovation and competition, rather than constraining them,” Mayor Iveson said. Too much regulation could have hampered the rapid innovation that is taking place in the industry. Making the Uber of today legal is a great outcome, but the bylaw also opens the door to additional services in the future. For instance, UberPool is a great twist on the Uber service that could have been restricted by overly aggressive minimum fare regulations.

The new bylaw actually specifies two levels of PTPs – commercial for providers with more than 200 vehicles, and regional for those with fewer than 200 vehicles. The license fees for regional PTPs are the same as taxis at $1000/year for dispatch plus $400/year per vehicle and $60/year for drivers. That’s much lower than the $50,000/year for commercial PTPs and means we may even see a homegrown alternative to Uber.

I’m hopeful that making ridesharing legal in Edmonton will entice competitors to Uber such as Lyft to enter the market also. It would be great to have some competition and choice in the ridesharing market.

Edmonton leads the way on ridesharing in Canada

It may have been painful to get there, but Edmonton has provided a way forward for other municipalities in Canada to adopt regulations that enable ridesharing for their citizens as well. I think it’s great that Council (most of them anyway) did not shy away from this challenge and instead chose to provide leadership on the issue. And as Mayor Iveson said today, there’s an opportunity for the City to work with other municipalities in Canada as well as the Competition Bureau to ensure that citizens are getting the best possible value from big organizations like Uber.

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

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

Angles on Clouds
Angles on Clouds, photo by Dave Sutherland

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

New City Manager

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

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

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

Ward 12 By-Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Charter, MGA Review, Edmonton Region

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

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

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

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

Northlands & Rexall Place

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

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

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


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

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

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

Walterdale Bridge, 102 Avenue Bridge over Groat Road

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

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

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

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

Affordable Housing

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

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

Municipal Development Corporation

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Quarters, Rossdale

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

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

Uber, Taxis, Bike Lanes

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

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

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

New Civic Tower

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

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

And that’s just scratching the surface

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

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

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