While the situation in Alberta has improved from Bad to Better, I hate to be the one saying we are not yet out of the woods and must continue our due diligence in keeping ourselves safe by practicing good hygiene, avoid very crowded space and practice social distancing. In Edmonton, there are still quite a number of people who wear the mask, and we must respect that. After all, it is their health, and everyone should decide on what is best for them. We do not need the Government to tell us what to do.
Recently, our attention shifted to when Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced that there are plans to commission a COVID-19 Public Monument to Commemorate those who died from the virus, and the challenges the pandemic has presented. This project will be under the Edmonton Arts Council. COVID is still here, and this is an event that we do not want to remember.
No one wants to remember that during the pandemic we all lost our freedom. Government Officials implemented overreaching measures. Businesses had to temporarily shut down and some did not even survive and went bankrupt. Employees lost their jobs, and this is not a memorable event in the history of humankind.
And now a COVID-19 Monument? There are more important things that the city can do but please not a monument for COVID-19. Have we run out of ideas that will help our city? I hope not. With due respect to the Edmonton Art Council, I know they can produce better ideas. Instead of wasting money on this silly idea, the city should look at helping Small Local Businesses who are still struggling to survive after the lockdowns. Let us remember that these small businesses employ people in their own community and collectively they help the local economy.
While other people might talk and not present examples and workable solutions, such is not the case with this writer. When the lockdowns were implemented, there were businesses that just started, and they have not even started to recover the initial investment they have put in such as the equipment cost to start the business, rent, business permit, renovation, and employee wages. Before they know it, they could not do continue to do normal business. They were hoping that they could apply for relief measures that the Federal and Provincial Governments presented but to their surprise, new businesses did not qualify for any of those programs.
So why am I talking about this? It is simple. This is one aspect that the City of Edmonton could focus on: helping new Local Business thrive. In the last Edmonton Mayoral Forum Organized by the Philippine Media Association of Alberta (PMAA), we did focus on some pain points that our local businessmen are experiencing in terms of making processes simpler, like obtaining a business permit.
By improving timelines in obtaining permits and inspections, this will signal to the world that Edmonton is open for business and they are welcome to do business here which, in return, will help employ more people. We have a lot of Commercial Office spaces available in the City. While I do not have the exact numbers, I am pretty sure it would be better to see them filled rather than vacant. This is just a very simple way to encourage investment in our City.
Another important factor will be access, which means focusing on our road network. While the City continues to address our roadworks, timelines for completing a road construction should be on the priority list during warmer months. This should be expedited due to factors such as the importance of access, our weather, and cost of labor. It takes forever for our Road Constructions to be completed. There is a need for a Citizen Oversight Committee to look into Major Infrastructure Projects. Delays are costly and should be charged back to the Contractor for delays which I know is already stipulated in the current contracts.
Mass transit is another factor. Any developing country has Rapid Mass Transit in place and that is why they continue to expand the Light Rail Transit. While the LRT project cost so much to build, it will help cut down pollution and traffic. Our bus network exists but needs improvement because it affected a lot of people when the City decided to change the regular routes. It was good to hear that the Government of Alberta has stepped up to help Alberta Municipal transit which was hit hard by the pandemic.
The Provincial Government committed $79.5 Million which is being matched by the Federal Government to support 26 Alberta Municipalities called Relief For Shortfalls of Transit Operators (RESTOR). This will provide a top-up to help the municipalities feeling the pinch of low ridership over the last two years.
I know everyone wishes for COVID to be gone so that we will start seeing people get back to their normal life and buses can be full again. Right now, they are half full because people are still worried about the virus. So let us stay away from wasting money on building a COVID Monument which will definitely be a waste of money and focus on other more important measures to improve this City.
While the City of Edmonton continues to grow, there are a lot of communities that have been developed and in any development, road access to the new community is vital. In expanding communities in the West, we have seen single lane roads to access communities that have already been developed, like Rosenthal and Secord and Webber Greens.
We recently called the attention of Councillor Andrew Knack because we noticed that the traffic from the bridge from Stony Plain Road to Winterburn Road is getting bad and we noticed that there were a lot of vehicles turning right into the Secord Community as well as the Rosenthal Community.
These two communities have grown so much and it is high time that they expand the lanes to allow both communities to have a lane where they can turn right so they do not hold up the traffic heading east on Winterburn road. There is room to expand the lanes as there is enough land to do that. I do not understand why this was not made a priority by the YEG City Council when in fact they should have a report on how many houses were built in the said communities in the area. The same problem exists along Webber Greens drive from Lewis farm, turning right on 206 street. There is also room to open up the road for a right turn lane to improve traffic flow.
When a community is developed, we want to make sure that we also expand access. This is especially important if there is an emergency. Where will the ambulance, fire truck or police car pass if traffic is so heavy on one lane? Unless you want them to fly, it is plain and simple and not rocket science to understand this problem. The city should make this a priority project.
In just a few months, The Bank of Canada has raised interest rates to 1%. It is the biggest one-time increase in 20 years. This increase will affect a lot of businesses and consumers by influencing the rates they pay on mortgage, GICs and savings accounts. In our article last month, we already talked about how Canadians are getting poorer everyday because of the rising cost of primary commodities. It is high time that Canadians watch their borrowing because this is the first back-to-back rate hike since 2017. With the hike, it will affect your cash flow meaning lesser money to spend for leisure, eating out and entertainment.
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