It’s been a while since my last newsletter, and I wanted to take a chance before the new year to let you know about some updates and reminders about the situation and restrictions in our city.
Provincial COVID-19 Updates
Last week, additional measures went into effect for the next four weeks to dramatically reduce community transmission, save lives and protect the capacity of our health system. These measures are to reduce person-to-person contact in homes and in businesses. They are as follows:
- No indoor or outdoor social gatherings are permitted (private or public).
- The mandatory indoor public masking requirement is expanded to all indoor public spaces in the province, including workplaces.
- Mandatory work from home measures for all Alberta workers, unless an employer requires an employee to be physically present for operational effectiveness.
- Retail services and malls will be required to limit their customer capacity to 15% of fire code occupancy. Curbside pick up and online services are recommended shopping alternatives.
- Places of worship will be required to limit in-person occupancy to 15% of the fire code allowance.
- Restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes will only be able to offer delivery, takeout, or curbside pickup.
- The following businesses will be closed: casinos, bingo halls, private clubs, personal and wellness services, recreation and entertainment facilities, including fitness facilities, pools, spas, gyms, indoor rinks, community halls, libraries, amusement parks, banquet halls, and conference centres. Trade shows, sporting events and sporting competitions will not be permitted.
- Outdoor rinks and downhill ski hills may remain open if public health measures are followed, however 2m distancing must be maintained between everyone outside of your household.
- Hotels will remain open but may not offer in-person dining or other amenity services.
If you’re looking for additional information about the stronger public health measures, that can be found here.
This last week, Minister Shandro announced that the first shipment of 3,900 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Alberta, ahead of schedule. The first inoculation was administered on Tuesday.
ICU doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and eligible continuing care staff receiving the first of two doses. The province expects to receive another 25,350 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week. By the end of December, a total of 29,350 healthcare workers will receive their first dose.
City COVID-19 Updates
In response to the rising number in COVID-19 cases and the new provincial regulations, the City has closed all of its indoor recreation facilities.
However, if you’re still looking to get your body moving, sporting activities are still permitted outdoors, as long as physical distancing measures are observed. Cross-country skiing trails, walking trails and toboggan hills remain open. Outdoor ice surfaces including the Victoria Park Skating Oval and Iceway, and The Meadows Community Recreation Centre outdoor leisure rink are open, with Rundle Park IceWay expected to open Friday. Additional rinks are expected to open later this season. Indoor pavilions at ice surfaces are closed but washroom access remains available.
And if you’re worried about the cold, Candy Cane Lane will remain open to vehicle traffic only each evening from 5 p.m. to midnight. Note that on-street parking will not be permitted and sidewalks will be closed to prevent groups from gathering.
For more information, please visit the City COVID-19 webpage here.
Last week, City Council approved recommended adjustments to the capital and operating budgets. The Fall 2020 Supplemental Operating and Capital Budget Adjustments are part of the multi-year budgeting approach. Every year, Council has an opportunity to adjust the 2020-2022 Operating Budget to be able to tailor the current funding to any factors that may have arisen in the year. Obviously in 2020, the pandemic was a key factor in Council deliberations.
Overall, Council approved a number of reductions and changes and arrived at a tax levy increase of zero percent for 2021 instead of the 3.2 percent increase that was projected last year. This is the city’s lowest tax increase in over two decades.
The budget impacts for 2021 directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic are currently estimated at $152 million and have been addressed with one-time solutions, but the City will continue to monitor the impacts throughout the year.
As for specific budget decisions, I received many emails and phone calls from Edmontonians concerned about closures and programs. I understand these concerns – especially in such an uncertain time – and while the proposed budget was approved for the most part, Council voted to continue funding:
- Five recreation facilities in 2021: Eastglen and Scona Leisure Centres, Oliver Outdoor Pool and Oliver and Tipton Arenas
- The spay and neuter program at the Animal Care and Control Centre
- The Community Investment Operating Grants for an additional year
- All planned service hours for Edmonton Transit’s Bus Network Redesign, turf maintenance service levels and Green Shack programming in spring, fall and winter
After more than two years, 10,000 conversations, and hundreds of hours planning and research, City Council has officially approved the City Plan.
The City Plan combines a Municipal Development Plan and Transportation Master Plan, and includes strategic direction in environmental planning, social planning and economic development. It is a bold roadmap that puts equal importance on building on our existing strengths and undertaking the transformational work required to achieve our future city for the next generations.
The City Plan emphasized the need for intentional efforts in the areas of climate change, housing options, transportation and liveable communities, and outlines responsible practices for compact and efficient growth over the next years as we move towards 2 million people in our city.
This is an extremely exciting milestone for Edmonton, and I’m thrilled that it is officially in place after so much hard work and dedication for our City Administration. For more information on the City Plan, please visit this page, or you can read some of my past blogs on the topic here.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas
As we head into the holidays, I wanted to encourage you to shop local as much as possible. This year has been particularly hard on small businesses, and there are so many fantastic local shops in Edmonton to pick up gifts for your loved ones. Here are some lists of local businesses where you can pick up some gifts
This year has certainly been a journey of ups and downs, and as we enter into the holiday season and a new year, I know it’s going to look a lot different for the majority of us. When we usually would be celebrating around various dinner tables, fires, and in the homes of our friends and families, this holiday season will be much more isolated. I know this is difficult – it’s difficult for me, too. But the end is in sight.
With the vaccine on the way, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. And during this season of hope, we can take a small amount of comfort in that.
I hope you can all take some time with family and friends virtually, or participate in some of the permitted outdoor activities, like skating and tobogganing.
Until next year, take care of yourselves and your loved ones as much as you can. I hope you have a very happy holiday season.