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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


Edmonton police planned to eliminate six homeless encampments the week before Christmas. They warned social agencies to keep workers out of the encampments during the evictions and suggested there might be more homeless folk seeking help because of the action.

Outrage inevitably ensued.

Was this just tone-deaf timing? Mounting frustration with a seemingly unsolvable problem? Poor judgment?

Terribly, without the context of it being Christmas, the plan probably made sense to the police. There were two fatal fires in the camps in November. There was a high-profile rape near one encampment this month.

It’s not -30 in Edmonton this festive season. Temperatures hover around freezing so although it’s winter, it’s not kill-you-instantly-without-shelter winter.

No one’s saying it, but there are more people downtown for Christmas and New Year’s events so the camps in question, most of them just east and north of the city core, are under increased scrutiny.

Spurred by outrage about the idea of turfing the homeless, a court challenge was launched by social advocates and an apparent compromise was reached. An injunction was issued to stop immediate clearing of tents, and the complaints about the encampment response will be heard mid-January.

But police can still clear out high-risk encampments before Christmas if residents and social agencies are informed ahead of time — so no surprise sweeps — and if there are adequate shelter spaces to house displaced residents.

Shutting these particular encampments doesn’t translate to a magical solution. Many of the homeless in those tent communities will melt away into other similar accommodations through the city river valley and city-core waste grounds.

The response from politicians at both the municipal and provincial level has been dispiriting.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi put out an Instagram statement that he didn’t hear about the police plan until Dec. 15, the day before the email to social agencies came to light. He said a review of the decision-making model and communication plan is needed.

He also acknowledged that permanent housing solutions and mental health and addiction supports are needed.

“Council and our partners in government have made significant into housing and support for vulnerable Edmontonians, but there is still much work to do,” wrote Sohi.

Premier Danielle Smith came out on X supporting the police plan and putting the homeless camp issue into a law and order frame.

She retweeted a news report about the rape near a river valley camp.

“Vulnerable people in and around these gang-operated encampments are victims of crime and abuse, it can no longer be tolerated. I fully support the decision by the Edmonton police service to remove illegal encampments.”

A story about the fire risk in the camps prompted her to tweet: “Another very real example of how organized crime operating drug markets is making encampments dangerous for our most vulnerable and the surrounding community. Our province has worked hard to ensure that safe shelter spaces are available to those who need them.”

So both levels of government claim to be putting plenty of money into the problem, and yet homelessness continues.

The provincial government’s response has stressed that homeless shelters are not at capacity in Edmonton.

There are about 3,000 without housing and somewhere between 1,100 and 1,388 shelter spaces available depending on who’s providing the numbers. By next year provincial funding will provide 1,700 spaces total.

The gap between the folks in encampments and those seeking institutional temporary beds is pretty obvious. Residents of encampments say there is rampant crime in the shelters and they feel safer in outdoor tents.

Shelters don’t accept clients who are high or inebriated or who have pets. Some mentally ill homeless are not competent to seek shelter help or have been banned due to past disruptive behaviour.

Ask the social workers, police, firefighters and neighbours around Edmonton’s encampments just how heartbreaking it is to try to find a solution to homelessness.

Shelters are not that solution. Access to appropriate housing seems like the obvious answer but it’s far from an easy fix when there are all sorts of underlying mental health and addiction issues along with the need for public dollars for construction and in some cases ongoing supervision of the accommodation.

In the meantime, the homeless in city encampments are surviving as best they can in perilous circumstances. First and foremost, no matter what time of year it is, they should be treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


Premier Danielle Smith is asking for a bit of patience.

During her weekend radio program the premier admitted (remotely, from Dubai) to a very frustrated caller that Alberta’s emergency, surgery and ambulance wait times need addressing.

“I just ask for you to give us a little bit of time, and I hope that we’ll be able to report back to you within six months or shorter that we’re making major progress. But I agree that what we’ve had right now is unacceptable.”

Parents and sick kids in the emergency department of the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton are giving the system “a bit of time” — hours and hours of it as they wait for care. Stollery pediatric emergency doctor Amaly Rahman says in the past couple of weeks he has seen more than 50 children waiting to be seen in the emergency department. Alberta Medical Association President Dr. Paul Parks says he has heard of emergency wait times for kids in the province of up to 17 hours.

Seasonal flu, Covid and respiratory viruses are exacerbating the crisis for children and older adults but they aren’t the sole issue in a province struggling with family doctor shortages and long surgery waitlists.

Back in October 2022, Smith promised a restructuring of Alberta’s broken healthcare system in 90 days. She pleaded for patience then too when she addressed the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

“I would hope that there’s a bit of goodwill, that some of the successes get reported as well as when we’re making some mistakes along the way. Just be patient and gentle with us because we know that we have to do this for Albertans.”

The 90 days came and went and the restructuring goes on and on.

This week the government put out a call for Albertans to participate in live town halls in the new year to discuss improvements to the health care system.

But Parks is sounding an urgent alarm that the province just can’t wait as the government juggles its plan to split health care administration into four new divisions and works out the resulting kinks.

Parks told CTV “If we don’t stabilize and salvage it right now, there’ll be nothing to restructure — that’s how difficult things are right now.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange put out a press release reassuring Albertans that while urban emergency departments are seeing increased pressure,  “no patient has been turned away.”

Parks counters by arguing that patients are just giving up after hours of waiting for attention.

“We know for a fact that our ‘left without being seen’ numbers are just skyrocketing,” he says.

LaGrange is advising Albertans to check with the provincial medical call line to determine what level of care they actually should be seeking, presumably to relieve some pressure on the emergency rooms.

The East Edmonton Health Centre has a walk-in urgent care service in the evenings designed as just such an escape valve. But it now carries a warning on its website that the urgent service  is experiencing higher than normal volumes of patients and when it hits capacity it closes earlier than usual.

The rising tide of winter respiratory ailments cares not for the provincial restructuring timetable.

The provincial NDP and health care unions are calling for immediate infusion of money into the hospital system to relieve some of the crisis.

They also propose a common-sense fix – promote flu and Covid vaccines. it wouldn’t hurt if the province would also cover the cost of RSV shots, for which patients now have to shell out $300.

An immediate increase in the number of vaccinated Albertans might help reduce the flood of kids and seniors heading to the hospital. But vaccines are out of political favour so they get scant mention from the UCP.

By Dec. 2, only 21 percent of Albertans had gotten this season’s flu jab, according to the government’s figures. And only 14.6 percent have gotten the latest Covid vaccine.

Whether restructuring will actually create a more efficient system is still an open question. And yes, it requires patience while waiting for wholesale change to work its way through such a big bureaucracy.

In the meantime, there needs to be a short-term plan, including spending some of the province’s multi-billion dollar surplus and advocating for public health measures such as immunization, to keep the system running.

Sick and injured Albertans need help now, not six months from now.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.