There’s not much that demonstrates our warped priorities better than a 2020s Alberta summer.
Ever since things got especially bad a few years ago, it’s been the same perverse show. All winter we’re inundated with horror: unhoused people literally freezing on the streets as they can’t get a warm place to sleep, people are dropping left and right from drug poisonings, and everything right in everyone’s faces as desperate people on the precipice of death shelter in the only public spaces they can get into.
Then the sun comes out, the snow melts, and as soon as the cities’ unhoused folks are out in encampments instead of the train stations, all the electeds dust off their hands and decide they’re due for a break. It’s festival season! Time to get some party photos for the Instagram!
It is not time to get some party photos for the Instagram.
Alberta’s poverty and homelessness continue to surge out of control. Edmonton for example has seen its homelessness rate nearly double since 2019. Conditions at the few shelters that are open are dire: back in March, AHS once again had to declare a shigella outbreak in the capital’s inner-city population. (That’s dysentery, for the non-doctors out there—something you’d associate with medieval plagues and Oregon Trail, not modern society.)
And then layered on top, you have the continuing drug poisoning crisis. Take a look at the latest EMS stats for opioid-related calls—does this look like it’s under control to you?
(Those stats are from the Alberta government, and the editorial caption is from the University of Alberta drug policy researcher Elaine Hyshka, whose work you can follow on Twitter.)
As if the social murder of Alberta’s poor, disabled and simply unlucky isn’t enough, there’s a sick racial component to it all too. Indigenous people bear an extremely disproportionate amount of all this carnage.
Just a couple of weeks ago APTN reported that, according to government data, the life expectancy of a First Nations person in Alberta has dropped by seven years since 2015.
(Danielle Paradis prepared this chart for the APTN story, which you should read in full.)
The Confederation of Treaty 6 Nations went as far as to declare a state of emergency last Monday and are begging the provincial government to dramatically step up funding and support for harm reduction, but the UCP aren’t interested in harm reduction at all.
A little shake-up down at the progress shop
I’m back after medical leave after my ulcerative colitis surgery and happy to report that everything seems to have worked out. My guy down at the hospital really knows how to chop up a colon.
Getting back means my colleague Duncan can finally take a break of his own. He’s been running the show practically on his own all year, and when a big part of the job is reporting on grim matters like police brutality and drug poisonings that’s work that can really grind a guy down.
Duncan asked me to include this note for you:
Hey folks, smoke season, I mean summer season is here and I will be taking some much needed rest and relaxation. I will be away from the office for the next six weeks and will be coming back in September. There are a couple of stories I'm working on that might come out over that time but no promises. My loved ones keep telling me to take a break and I need to listen to them, for my own sake and for my own sanity. -DK
A big concern for us over the next month or two will be adapting to changes online involving Twitter, Meta (Facebook) and Google. Twitter is circling the drain for a variety of (mostly Musk-related) reasons and Meta and Google are threatening to block journalistic content in Canada as part of some fist-shaking against the federal Liberals.
These online platforms were critical for us and we’ll be taking a hard look at expanding to alternative channels, as well as taking care of some things I should have done long ago, like getting our RSS feed up.
As always, we are grateful for any donations that you may want to send our way. I think our scrappy little outfit here provides some perspective that is otherwise lacking in Alberta media and I hope you do too.
The Edmonton Police Service are set to get another $20 million bump out of the city budget after arbitrators granted a juicy new collective agreement to the Edmonton Police Association that will see officers get on average about $10,000. The EPA argued this extra compensation was needed in part because “the fact that police have been under increasing scrutiny as the public perception of police has eroded across North America” is making it hard to recruit people.
The mandate letters for Danielle Smith’s new cabinet ministers are out, and there’s a lot of chaff in these things but two matters that immediately stuck out to me are the government’s continued pursuit of an Alberta pension plan and the ‘R Star’ scheme to pay corporations to do environmental clean-up that they were already obligated by law to do on their own. Both policies were so unpopular that the UCP simply refused to talk about them during the election period. The mandate letter for the Minister of Health also confirms that the UCP are still pursuing health spending accounts—a plan to get the public to start paying $4 billion or more out of pocket for health care.
Residential-school-defender and occasional UCP curriculum advisor Chris Champion is back in the news again, this time championing Franco and the legacy of Spanish fascism. Gross!
Business and property owners around the site of Boyle Street Community Services’ planned new health hub near Whyte Avenue in Edmonton have delayed the project for weeks with a complaint about the facility not having enough ramp access—a very obviously insincere troll that may cost lives.
Jeremy Appel reports that Nordic Media, an advertising firm run by Danielle Smith’s former campaign manager, has picked up a hefty $1.5 million contract from the province to do social media and memes for the government. Nordic got a bit of attention recently after getting a couple of smaller, single-source contracts doing similar work for the Premier’s office.
- Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was quick to protest last week when news broke that the city had shut down two critical public water fountains in the downtown core days ahead of a brutal heat wave. But it turns out the call was coming from inside the house: as Lauren Boothby reports for the Edmonton Journal, access was shut off after pressure from police, who filed two complaints objecting to the fountain near police headquarters.
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