It’s been another busy week here at City Hall, so I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some of the items and events from the past week that were of particular interest.
On Wednesday I visited the reception centre in Northlands, and popped into Fort McMurray’s City Council meeting held here at City Hall. I’m just awed by the resilience and positivity of Fort McMurray’s residents and the challenges that lie before their political leaders.
I’m also immensely proud of the response of our City staff. Staff have pulled out all the stops to help coordinate the response on many fronts, from manning the reception centre to providing entertainment and diversions for evacuees. It’s been nice to see that when a crisis occurs, we can make incredible things happen here in Edmonton.
Help is still needed to support the evacuees as they settle into Edmonton for the coming weeks. Emergency Relief Services is still in urgent need of volunteers, and can be reached at 780-428-4422. They also need donations of specific items like new socks, new underwear, and new towels. Please call ahead before bringing your donation down to ensure it will be helpful to them. The Edmonton Food Bank is also seeking donations of things like pasta and toiletry items, including toilet paper. They are also seeking more volunteers to help process the donations.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’d also like to remind all Edmontonians that there is a fire ban in place to protect residents and prevent the exacerbation of the current smoky conditions. If you see someone starting a fire please call the fire department. Quick identification and response to fires is going to be critical in these dry conditions.
Rainbow Valley Campground Building
On Tuesday, I joined the staff at Snow Valley Ski along with the local MLA, Dr. Bob Turner, to open the new Rainbow Valley Campground building, which replaces the ramshackle campground building. The facility looks fantastic, and will add to the year-round viability of Snow Valley as a meeting centre and space for events.
This week at Community Services Committee, we received a report on different approaches to supporting the wellness of some of Edmonton’s most vulnerable citizens. The Homeless Commission estimates that there are between 300 and 600 heavy users of emergency health services in Edmonton, and most of these individuals are homeless and struggling with addiction or health mental problems.
Handling these cases place an enormous strain on our police services and on the healthcare system, and for little to no long term benefit; the patient gets immediate care, but often isn’t effectively provided with other supports to address the root causes of the health crisis, which means they can end up in the same situation repeatedly.
We want to see that change. Administration’s report outlined how higher availability of pre-crisis care can help to reduce overall system load, and better transitional services can ensure that people don’t fall through the cracks once the immediate crisis is past. Currently we don’t have funding available for the proposal outlined in the report, but there have been promising conversations with the province that could lead to collaborate to enhance these services.
On May 24, white papers from this week’s Executive Committee will be brought forward to Council. The papers look at our current system of Tax Assessment and User Fees, and examine options that could be implemented to improve the systems. You can read the report on assessment here, and the report on user fees here. I’ll be writing more about this topic when it comes before Council, so keep your eyes peeled for that.