As our family sat down on the evening of Tuesday, May 4 2021 to watch to latest government rollout of COVID-19 restrictions, I couldn’t help but reflect on how this pandemic has affected all of us. Restrictions aside, over 400 people in the county had tested positive as of April 28th. Many have family members who are currently ill or who have succumbed to this pandemic.
My daughter, the teacher, was just ending a 14-day quarantine period after one of her students tested positive. My wife, the junior high principal, is also in the midst of a quarantine period after a number of her students tested positive. While everyone in our house has received the first dose of the vaccine, our thoughts continue to swirl around the impact COVID-19 and the variants are having on the 25,000 Albertans who are currently positive or the 2100 Albertans who are no longer with us.
After more than a year of restrictions, we are now in the middle of the third wave, which appears to be hitting Alberta harder than any other region in the country. Businesses are struggling. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are being hammered. Travel agencies have been decimated. Patience is wearing thin as the end line seems to shift every week.
We can only hope that the tighter restrictions that have now been imposed will bring the numbers down as more Albertans get vaccinated. Our hope for a brighter summer depends on those two things taking place. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!
Latest COVID Restrictions
- Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools will transition to online learning, effective May 7 and will return to in-class learning on May 25
- Post-secondary schools will transition to online learning, effective May 5
- Childcare facilities can remain open
Restaurants, Bars, and Lounges
- All in-person dining, including on patios, is prohibited
- Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges, cafes and food courts can open for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery only
- Retail services and shopping malls must limit customer capacity to 15 percent of fire code occupancy (not including staff) or a minimum of 5 customers including individual stores and common areas
- Curbside pick-up, delivery and online services are encouraged
Personal and Wellness Services
- Personal and wellness services, including hair salons, barbers, nail salons, estheticians, tattoos and piercing, must close
- All indoor gatherings remain prohibited
- All outdoor social gatherings must be limited to no more than 5 people and a maximum of 2 household cohorts
- Mandatory physical distancing must be maintained at all times between members of different households
- All indoor sport, performance and recreation activities for youth and adults are prohibited effective May 9
- Indoor fitness and recreation facilities must close, including 1-on-1 training effective May 5
- All outdoor sports and recreation activities are prohibited, except with members of your household, or your two close contacts if you live alone. This includes:
- all group physical activities, such as team sports, fitness classes, training sessions
- all one-on-one lessons and training activities
- all practices, training and games
- Outdoor recreation facilities can remain open unless specifically closed by public health order
Places of Worship
- Faith services are limited to 15 in-person attendees
- Physical distancing between households must be maintained at all times
- Virtual or online services are strongly recommended
- Drive-in services where people do not leave their vehicles and adhere to guidance are allowed
- 10-people maximum for funerals, including participants and guests
- Funeral receptions are not permitted
- Any workplace, except work camps and essential and critical services, with transmission of 3 or more cases will be required by health officials to close for 10 days
- Any workplace that does not comply will be subject to enforcement
- Working from home remains mandatory unless the employer requires the employee’s physical presence to operate effectively
- When at work for operational effectiveness, employees must mask for all indoor settings, except in work stations or where two-metre physical distancing or adequate physical barriers are in place
Visitors to Alberta
- Out-of-town visitors cannot stay in other people’s homes while these restrictions are in place, regardless of where they are coming from
Culture, Arts, Recreation, and Sports
On Tuesday, April 7, I had the opportunity to listen to Todd Hirsh, ATB’s Chief Economist, address the state of Alberta’s economy. Always an engaging speaker, Hirsh peppered his presentation with commentary on what Alberta needs more of as we come out of the pandemic.
The good news: Alberta’s economy is projected to grow by 4.1 per cent in 2021. The economy will pick up steam by the second half of the year as the vaccine rollout continues and restrictions are lifted. Hirsh believes that the economic engines that will drive our economy going forward are:
- Technology and the digital economy
- Agriculture and the agri-foods sector
- Renewable energy
- Clean energy technology, geothermal energy, and hydrogen
Finally, Hirsh spoke about things that municipalities can do to strengthen our economy and build communities. Hirsh argued that strong communities are anchored by arts and culture amenities, and recreation and sports facilities that make them an attractive place to live, pointing out that people are drawn to communities where they can recreate, enjoy music, art and theatre and participate in a variety of sporting activities. What an awesome assessment as Hirsh reminds us once again of the need to build the assets which will draw young people to call Strathcona County home in the future!
Hydrogen Hub Launched to Fuel our Future
On May 14, Strathcona County joined with neighbouring Municipalities including the City of Fort Saskatchewan, Sturgeon County, Lamont County, Edmonton, Alexander First Nation and Enoch Cree Nation to launch the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub.
Armed with over $2 million in capital, the Hub will accelerate the production and distribution of hydrogen fuel as part of a strategy that will help achieve the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Alberta’s Industrial Heartland and the Edmonton Region have the resources, talent and infrastructure to be a leader in the clean energy future. This is the first step to ensuring that Alberta is well-positioned to take advantage of the coming hydrogen boom that will create jobs as we scale up the production of hydrogen.
The Heartland boasts one of the lowest hydrogen production costs in the world and has all the building blocks necessary to create a thriving hydrogen industry in our backyard. Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force determined that the market potential for hydrogen is up to $100 billion a year and identified the region as the best place to launch this emerging industry in Canada.
Council Finalizes zero percent Tax Increase for 2021
On May 4, 2021, council gave third reading to a motion finalizing a zero per cent tax increase for 2021. Municipal operations, the library requisition and the Heartland Housing requisitions all recommended no change to taxes this year. The only change to the tax rate comes from the Provincial government which taxes all properties for education services. Residential ratepayers will see a slight decrease of -0.66 per cent while non-residential ratepayers will see a 1.98 per cent increase in the education portion of their property taxes, which are collected by the municipality and turned over to the province and make up 35.6 per cent of the total tax bill.
Youth Advisory Committee Update
On April 12, I had the pleasure of sitting in on the Youth Advisory Committee Meeting as one of two council reps. This committee always energizes me as their youthful enthusiasm challenges council to keep their eyes focused on those areas that make Strathcona County a great place for young people to grow up. Discussions this month focused on environmental issues as they received a presentation on the Green Routine 2.0. Feedback was provided to admin on future plans to reduce our waste as a community with several members talking about the need to expand our waste stream to include commercial and industrial waste. The committee also talked about the need for the county to establish a Task Force on the Environment.
The committee has also provided feedback on transit, affordable housing and our mental health strategy as all these issues continue to be important to young people in Strathcona County. Thanks to our committee members for your input in shaping county policies.
Edmonton-Strathcona County Footbridge
On April 14, 2021, I attended an online public presentation to provide feedback on the scope of the Edmonton Strathcona County Footbridge. Strathcona County, the City of Edmonton and the River Valley Alliance (RVA) are partners in funding the planning, design and construction of a new footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River. This footbridge will link Edmonton to Strathcona County and connect to the trail systems within the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The next steps in this project include work on connecting trails, open space upgrades, recreational upgrades, restoration and enhancement of the environment, and supporting access upgrades to the new footbridge. The footbridge would be located near the riverside nature trail as indicated in this map.
Council Debates Parent Leave for Elected Officials
On April 27, council received a report on creating a parental leave policy for elected officials. While many employers including the county have such policies in place, parental leave is noticeably absent from policy governing elected officials in Strathcona County. As municipalities across Alberta move to create such policies, Councillor Berghofer brought forward a motion to ensure that our council remains in step with cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Fort Saskatchewan. The policy will address issues such as the length of the leave and benefits during the leave. While the policy has gone back to Administration for review, council hopes to have a policy in place before the municipal election to ensure that no one seeking office would be disadvantaged.
Inter-municipal Relations Committee
Several times a year, the Inter-municipal Relations Committee of Strathcona County meets with the City of Fort Saskatchewan to discuss issues of mutual concern and explore opportunities for increased collaboration. Conversations are always rich as the two communities work together on a wide variety of projects. Currently, the two municipal partners are engaged in a joint study on the possibility of creating a shared fire station. Other conversations have focused on recreation, the river valley, water servicing and opportunities for departments to work more closely to increase efficiencies. It is a pleasure sitting on this committee as the bonds that have been formed with our neighbour have become much stronger through this work. Fort Saskatchewan is the kind of neighbour anyone would want next door!
COVID-19 Recovery Task Force Final Report
On April 27, council received the final report of the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force work. In the spring of 2020 three task forces were established made up of members of council with the support of various departments across the organization to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the community. The goal was to ensure that we emerge from the pandemic a stronger and more resilient community. Task forces reached out to residents and businesses to hear their stories and explore future opportunities.
As chair of the Economic Resilience and Vision Task Force, I was pleased to engage with the Economic Development and Tourism Department to set up over a dozen meetings with key stakeholders including the Chamber of Commerce, industry representatives, agricultural producers, local business owners and the Economic Development and Tourism committee. Discussions were rich and helped to inform a number of the decisions that council made over the past twelve months including the shop local campaign in collaboration with the Chamber. Another theme was the need to develop a communication strategy to share the good news about Strathcona County so that people outside of the community see this as a great place to live, work and do business.
The task force identified several opportunities going forward in terms of business retention, attraction and expansion. It heard from various sectors on the need to advance broadband accessibility especially in rural areas and industrial corridors. Many spoke of the challenges they face in operating businesses from home while internet access is unstable.
Other task forces explored the need for advancing greater social supports in the community as well as more affordable housing initiatives. Through community engagement, they heard of the need to expand outdoor amenities, especially around winter activities.
Emergency Services Patient Care Survey
Have you used a Strathcona County ambulance in the last year?
The Fire Fighter/Paramedics in Emergency Services work hard and are dedicated to providing the best patient care they can. They are committed to:
- Treat patients and their family with dignity and respect
- Provide appropriate safe, private and confidential care
- Advocate in the best interest of the patient
- Behave in a professional manner
- Provide full disclosure
- Work collaboratively within a patient and family-centred health care team
If you, a friend or family member needed to use ambulance services in Strathcona County, they want to hear from you. Complete this survey to let them know how they did.
Strathcona County asks residents to “Pitch-in” this spring to help their neighbourhood shine
Strathcona County residents are invited to show their community pride and “Pitch-in” with litter removal from May 15 to 23, 2021. This annual campaign helps remove litter left behind after the spring thaw.
To get involved, residents can visit strathcona.ca/pitchin to complete their registration form. Registration is open until the end of Pitch-In week on May 23. County staff will confirm the dates and location of each clean-up to coordinate the pick-up of the filled garbage bags. Participants may use their own garbage bags or pick up complimentary bags provided by Strathcona County, from May 4 to 6.
To stay safe outdoors and help prevent the spread of COVID-19, participants should follow all provincial gathering restrictions in place, practice physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) from others (unless they are from the same household), avoid touching communal surfaces, wash and sanitize their hands frequently and only share cleaning equipment with members of their household.
In 2020, more than 450,000 people across Canada volunteered to pitch-in with litter removal. Thank you to all Strathcona County residents for their help in keeping the community clean.
For more information visit strathcona.ca/pitchin or call 780-467-2211.
For Road Safety Week, let’s focus on distracted driving
Talking hands-free while driving? Research shows it is not safer than holding a phone. Distracted driving can take many forms and is a major contributor to deaths on Canada’s roads.
During Road Safety Week, May 11 to 17, 2021, Strathcona County asks drivers to stay focused on the road, and to educate themselves about distracted driving.
Strathcona County’s Traffic Safety Advisory Committee identified distracted driving as the priority topic to address with the community for Road Safety Week. Further, residents participating in a 2020 Road Safety Week social media poll identified distracted driving as the top traffic safety concern.
Distracted driving is any activity that removes driver focus off the road. The fine for distracted driving in Alberta is $287 and 3 demerits. Alberta’s distracted driving law restricts drivers from the following while driving:
Using hand-held cellphones
Texting or e-mailing
Using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays, and programming portable audio players (e.g., iPod)
Entering information on GPS units
Reading printed materials in the vehicle
Writing, printing or sketching
Think hands-free is safe? Think again.
Strathcona County survey and poll results suggest many residents believe hands-free cell phone use to be safe and acceptable. However, research shows that speaking hands-free is not safe when driving. Drivers talking on cell phones can miss seeing up to 50 per cent of their driving environments.
Texting when stopped at a light? Distracted and dangerous.
The Edmonton and Area Traffic Safety Culture Survey in 2016 found 94 per cent of respondents believe texting, emailing, or using social media is a serious threat to their safety, yet 33 per cent said they have done so while driving in the past month.
Even when stopped at a light, texting is not safe. An American Automobile Association study found people are distracted for up to 27 seconds after they finish sending a voice text. When people switch between mental tasks, such as from texting to looking up to drive when a light turns green, responses are much slower. People are more prone to mistakes immediately after they switch tasks.
Keep your dog (or cat) as a back seat rider
For the safety of both pets and road users, pets should be secured in the back of a vehicle in a carrier or with a seatbelt. That chihuahua on the driver’s lap can reduce the ability to operate the vehicle safely or become a dangerous projectile in the event of a collision.
While it is difficult to quantify the impact of distracted driving, it is generally accepted distraction is responsible for a greater percentage of road fatalities than impaired driving in Canada. In 2020, there were seven fatalities and 15 hospitalizations due to collisions in Strathcona County, including provincial highways.
Strathcona County’s vision is that no one will be seriously injured or killed while travelling on the road network.
Strathcona County has proclaimed May 11 to 17, 2021 Road Safety Week, in alignment with Canada Safety Council’s National Road Safety Week, a local week promoting road safety will help build awareness towards our vision.
More information: strathcona.ca/
Strathcona County Municipal Election
On Monday, October 18, 2021, Strathcona County residents will go to the polls to elect the next mayor and council. Please visit the county website at Election | Strathcona County for more information about the election or to learn about recent changes to the Local Authorities Election Act which came into effect in 2020. Nomination forms can also be found on this page.