Eerie Edmonton

The Yards explores some of the core’s spookiest spots

There’s a chill in the air this time of year and the night is quickly descending. As you walk down a darkened street you feel a tingle up your spine. Is it the wind, or is there an eerier explanation?

Downtown Edmonton has its share of old haunts, so if you thought you were safe from the paranormal in Edmonton’s core, think again. With Halloween fast approaching, The Yards explores some of the core’s spookiest spots.

Hotel MacDonald and the Horseless Hoofbeats

The historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald (10065 100 Street) is a longtime fixture of the core, opening its doors to visitors for the first time on July 5, 1915. But one of the hotel’s longest-running residents doesn’t voluntarily walk the halls in search of the spa; it gallops. One of the hotel’s most famous spooky stories is the legend of hoofbeats galloping around the eighth floor, the otherworldly racket of a workhorse that allegedly died when the foundation was being laid in 1914.

For those who aren’t scared by the concept of ghastly animals, the hotel reportedly has its fair share of human ghosts, too. Like the ‘boatman,’ the ghost of a 1913 sailor who sailed the North Saskatchewan River as part of the fur trade.

He appears as a man smoking while seated in a beautiful wingback chair. The sixth floor in particular seems to be a paranormal hotspot; hotel staff have told stories of calls from rooms that are vacant and doors that are mysteriously locked from the inside.

Whether or not these specters are good-hearted is up for debate, but stories like radios tuning into nonexistent 1950s era music stations certainly make it seem like the ghosts are looking for a good time. After all, the Hotel Macdonald was one of the first establishments to acquire a liquor license after prohibition in Alberta ended in 1924, making it the wingding hotspot in a then-relatively small town of 63,160.

McKay Avenue School and the Haunting of Rob Hlady

The Historic McKay Avenue School Archives & Museum (10425 99 Avenue), originally built in 1904, is popular with paranormal investigators and amateur thrillseekers alike. The old schoolhouse, which was also the site of the inaugural legislative assembly in 1906, is reportedly home to many spirits, and visitors report being spooked by feelings of being watched, strange noises, and water taps found running. A well-known recurrence is the blinds moving on their own accompanied by eerie laughter of students past.

One famous ghost that haunts the halls is a construction worker named Peter, who allegedly died in 1912 during renovations to the building. There is no archival evidence of anyone named Peter dying in 1912, but it has not deterred those who seek out McKay Avenue’s otherworldly population.

Be careful when contacting the dead. In the late 1980s, technician Ron Hlady, who was working at McKay at the time, began to notice strange events. Doors unlocking, furniture moving in other rooms, light switches going on and off, phone lines lighting up with no call to answer, and motion detectors picking up invisible movement. During a session in which Hlady successfully contacted Peter with a Ouija Board, he accidentally called upon another spirit that followed him home and terrorized his family.

Hopefully this doesn’t scare off visitors entirely. The beautiful building now serves as the Edmonton Public School Archives and is a fascinating museum that contains 1950s and 1880s era schoolhouses, and plenty of other resources about the history of education in Edmonton.

Alberta Block and the Lobotomized Caretaker

It’s a late-night walking home on Jasper Avenue. It’s nearing Halloween when the nights get longer and the leaves rustle in the wind. When passing the Alberta Block Building (10526 Jasper Avenue)—the old CKUA building—if the scent of cigar smoke is in the air with no smoker in sight, don’t be afraid. It’s only the smoke of the undead.

Rumour has it that the specter of Sam, a 1950s caretaker who was lobotomized after making threats against Premier Ernest Manning, played a part in CKUA’s choice to leave the building. On the CKUA website, an article about the move calls the Alberta Block “probably haunted.”

Sam’s cigar smoke has shown up in places like a women’s bathroom at night, accompanied by running faucets. Several employees of decades past have reported feelings of someone watching them, or even seeing an apparition of Sam, who apparently enjoys singing—fitting for the building’s history.

Sam is not alone in his singing: in 2009, a group of paranormal researchers recorded an unknown girl’s voice singing “go back, all the way back.” Seems like the building’s spirits have some amateur singing aspirations. CKUA began to broadcast out of the building in 1955 and left in 2012. The building is now owned by RedBrick real estate, and houses multiple businesses. Interestingly, the paranormal research and rumours slowed once CKUA left the building. Maybe Sam decided to tag along to their new location at the Alberta Hotel.

Edmonton General and the Sinister ‘B’ Wing

The Edmonton General Continuing Care Center (11111 Jasper Avenue), formerly known as the Edmonton General Hospital was built in 1895, making it 125 years old. This hospital has seen two World Wars, two pandemics, a Great Depression, and countless other smaller tragedies. No wonder it’s haunted.

The most common legend is that of the B Wing, a reportedly closed wing that is rife with hauntings. The distinct smell of sick humans lingers in the wing, despite it supposedly housing no patients. The 8th floor formerly housed the pediatric area and in this area, the sounds of children running around and crying can be heard, along with the sobbing distraught spirit of a mother seeking her lost child who disappears when seen.

There are also stories of a nameless construction worker who perished while working on the basement, whose phantom still roams the halls.

But there are more than a few mysteries surrounding the B wing of the hospital, some of them unrelated to ghosts. A spokesperson for Covenant Health denies the existence of an empty wing. A report for 2014 by the Alberta Health Services lists a B Wing that is still fully functional, which was built in 1959. The largest mystery about the Edmonton General Hospital is where these rumours come from: how can there be a haunted abandoned wing if there is no abandoned wing? The confusion and creepiness surrounding the Edmonton General Hospital and this supposedly cursed wing remain unresolved.

The Yards spoke to Dr. Rodney Schmaltz, an Associate Professor of Psychology at MacEwan University, whose research focus includes pseudoscience and why humans believe in the supernatural, to find out why humans are attracted to the supernatural. The following interview has been edited for concision and clarity.

Why are humans so fascinated with the haunted?

Rodney Schmaltz: There is curiosity about the unknown. People are interested in the afterlife. But you can go broader. There are people who aren’t spiritual but are interested in things like haunted houses. You can draw an analogy with horror movies. When you watch a horror movie, neurotransmitters release endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin. You get this natural high.

The interest, especially in regards to exploring haunted houses, is similar. When going into a haunted house, you’re relatively certain you’re safe: you can always run out. It’s a safe way of activating neurotransmitters that are associated with positive emotions. I look at commercial haunted houses like Deadmonton and how popular they’ve become. Even though it’s counterintuitive because it’s frightening, if you look at the footage of people going through haunted houses, it’s a scream followed by a laugh. It’s a way to elicit these positive emotions.

Can you talk about the phenomena of hauntings?

Rodney Schmaltz: What’s fascinating is why we experience a haunting. Plenty of people report that they’ve been in a haunted house or had an unusual experience in one. A lot of what drives the experience of a ghost or being in a haunted place is the expectation.

Researchers sent people into the Hampton Court Palace in the U.K., supposedly the most haunted place in Britain. People that expected to see or believed in ghosts reported unusual experiences. People that didn’t believe or didn’t expect ghosts didn’t experience anything. Everybody went to the same place, but that expectation was the factor towards what was experienced.

What could cause people to think they have a supernatural experience?

Rodney Schmaltz: Something that leads people to have these feelings of unease is infrasound. Infrasound is a sound below 20Hz. You can’t hear it, but you can feel it. If you’ve ever been to a loud concert and you get that vibrating feeling in your chest, it’s similar.

Infrasound is created by many natural things, like low rumbling pipes, thunder, or even high amounts of traffic. Haunted houses are usually quite old, and the haunting is usually centered in the basement. These are places where there’s a good chance that there are some low rumbling pipes in there.

About 30 per cent of Canadians believe in ghosts. You walk into a haunted house, and it’s cold, creepy, and all of sudden the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you feel a bit strange. Most people don’t know what infrasound is, so it’s not unreasonable that someone would think it’s a ghost. It’s not that people are irrational; it’s that they don’t know the other explanation. We’re bombarded with stories, TV shows, and movies about ghosts. Especially around Halloween, when it’s on people’s minds, if you go to a haunted place and have this experience, people then understandably attribute it to a ghost.

On the Front Lines

Edmonton charities grapple with the impact of COVID-19 on their organizations and clients

The shutdown of office towers, pubs and restaurants in the core during the COVID-19 pandemic created an eerie feeling for the residents of Downtown and Oliver. The streets resembled a post-rapture dystopia during work hours. Small groups of people lounged in parks or on cement benches by Jasper. Otherwise, things were silent.

The first presumptive positive COVID-19 case in Alberta was reported by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer for the province, on March 5. In the early days of lockdown, fears ran high. While many people were staying home and stocking up on cleaning supplies, toilet paper, flour, and yeast, service providers in the core were working to ensure they could continue to offer a place to go for those who didn’t have the resources to stockpile or a home to go to.

During the initial lockdown, conversion of the Edmonton Expo Centre and the Kinsmen Sports Centre into homeless shelters allowed vulnerable people to safely get a meal, take a shower, or access medical or housing support while physically distancing. The city reported that an average of 675 people visited the Expo Centre on a daily basis, and as of July there has only been one case of COVID-19 in the homeless population. But in July, both temporary shelters closed and organizations and those that depend on them are having to adapt once again.

That includes Boyle Street Community Services, one of Edmonton’s largest charities supporting people experiencing homelessness and poverty, which operates numerous sites and services including the Boyle Street Community Centre.

“I think if you had told me that we got to July and we have only one case [in the homeless population] I would have been surprised. But then you think about the risk factors, like travel, and the fact that the contact between snowbirds and our clients is pretty minimal,” says Elliott Tanti, who works in communications at Boyle Street.

Months after lockdown, in July, there is a long line up along the side of the bright blue and white building that is the Boyle Street Community Centre. People are waiting to cash their cheques. This inner-city bank is a unique service for people who often lack access to financial services.

There’s a blue pup tent and a large blue patio umbrella and people are set up to wait. They sit close together and there isn’t much social distancing. In that way it is no different than when you are walking down Jasper Avenue and watching people sitting on patios.

“So the line up is here and then on cheque-day, which is now the first of every month, the city shuts down the street and we put guard rails down,” explains Tanti.

Services have changed since COVID-19, he says. “This used to be a free flow, kind of in-and-out [service]. Now we have all our doors locked and security is in charge of control. You get some questions when you come in—how are you feeling, do you have any symptoms, that kind of thing.” The maximum occupation for the building has been reduced to 50 people. They still offer lunch but encourage people to take it with them outside so that others can enter the building.

“Our goal is to provide as many services as we can, but in the safest way for our community and our staff,” says Tanti. “When this first started, we as a leadership group tried to remind our staff that this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Tanti stops to joke around with a man who has long dark hair by the hand-washing station. “I’m going to whoop you,” the man, named Robert, says jokingly.

“Not today—we have to enforce social distancing so we can’t be whooping each other,” replies Tanti.

Inside, the bank is a small space with pale yellow walls. There are three clients inside, two seated in front of glass screens talking to the bank tellers. The glass partitions are the sort that are now standard on any counter where the public comes to interact. “And you can see because of the way our buildings are set up it’s a pretty tight space. This has been the biggest impact on the bank. It is still pretty busy though. People still need to access their money,” says Tanti.

It has been a time of enormous upheaval, and not just because of the pandemic. While most people were sheltered at home, the murder of George Floyd in the U.S. led thousands of people to come out to the Alberta Legislature on June 5 in support of Black Lives Matter. It also reinvigorated a conversation about defunding the police, or appropriately funding social services where the responsibility of these gaps have fallen to police officers.

The calls to better fund social services instead of relying on police services have been underway in Edmonton since 2015 with the 24/7 crisis diversion program, an integrated community response team that responds to people in distress through 211.

REACH Edmonton, an organization whose core funding is provided by the City of Edmonton, coordinates the service on behalf of various social services organizations, including Boyle Street, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), and Hope Mission. The goal is to divert calls from police, particularly calls that are better handled through social services.

“There was a real understanding that people in non-emergency crises don’t need to engage with emergency services. So how can we support people during those times and leave the space for the police to do what they need to do?” says Madeleine Smith, Co-Director, Community Initiatives at REACH.

As a part of the Edmonton Council for Safe Communities, the only council of its kind in Canada, REACH also attempts to look at the root causes of why people feel unsafe in the community and to consider the underlying factors of crime. “At very early times in their lives when the roots of crime and disorder start long before there’s any engagement with the police,” says Smith.

During the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the partners did a mixture of triaging services through 211 and engaging with people in the streets to build relationships, provide food and clothing, or rides to the Edmonton EXPO Centre that was converted to a day-use shelter and used for COVID testing.

The first 211 call about COVID-19 was on January 31, and since then, 20 to 30 percent of calls to 211 have been about COVID-19.

The first call into the CMHA distress line was on February 2. The number one reason for calls to the distress line have been for mental health, but there is a rising concern at both Boyle Street and CMHA about an uptick in domestic violence.

Before the pandemic, many calls into the hotline about domestic violence would typically come in during the workday or late at night when the abuser was sleeping, which may not be an option with many working from home. Tanti says there is a similar issue in identifying child abuse as reports would often have come through teachers at school.

“That’s definitely something we have been watching for really closely,” says Emma Potter, Director, Crisis and Navigation Support Services at CMHA. “And we have only in [July] started to see our numbers go up around issues related to domestic violence.”

Katherine O’Neill, chief executive officer for YWCA Edmonton, says that even identifying the issue of domestic violence in a pandemic has been tricky. “Normally, a crisis comes and goes quite quickly, but we are going to be in a crisis situation for a year or longer. This is extraordinary for a non-profit to keep on top of,” she says. “Since this crisis has happened we have been absolutely overwhelmed with requests for support.”

The YWCA offers counselling, and specializes in domestic violence cases, on a sliding scale depending on income and what a person is able to pay. The current estimated waitlist would be a year long.

O’Neill says the increase in domestic violence “comes down to the fact that there is a lot of stress in the home economically and having the children in the home more […] When you put all that together in an unhealthy relationship, it can lead to violence.”

She adds that not all violence is physical either—there can be financial abuse and people withholding funds.

“We really need to make sure that as a community we recognize that this can happen in any household and abuse can happen in many forms,” she says.

Despite the challenges, a move to online counselling has given some opportunities for the YWCA to expand their reach. They have been able to assist with counselling services as far as Iqaluit.

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

There are still many unknowns for social services in the core during COVID-19. Information from health officials and requirements, such as mandatory masking, are changing swiftly.

Both Tanti and Smith have talked about the struggle to keep up with information, and the flexibility to address the gaps that they see. “People are really struggling to deal with a changing environment, changing practices, [and] changing expectations,” says Tanti.

As this article goes to press, the Edmonton municipal government is passing a requirement for mandatory masking on transit and in all indoor public spaces.

The uncertainty extends to funding availability and financial implications as well. In May, the Alberta government announced $30 million in emergency funding to charities and non-profits to support them during the pandemic, but organizations like Boyle Street are also donor-funded. “I have been taken aback at how generous Edmontonians have been. We have seen smaller donor donations, but a lot more of them,” says Tanti.

Still, it is hard to predict the long-term financial implications of COVID-19. A ballooned city and provincial budget and increased deficits could have an impact on the delivery of future services. We may not see the systemic impact of COVID-19 for some time. There are financial hardships for many families through job loss or access to childcare, and family poverty could be on the rise as a result.

“As of yet I don’t think we have a clear picture of what [funding going forward] looks like and I don’t think those government bodies have had those conversations yet either. There is a fear in lots of people’s minds in our sector that the financial struggle that COVID has landed the country and province in will serve as a basis for a decrease of programs, which is the exact opposite of what we need right now,” says Tanti.

There is also concern about the closing of the emergency shelters at the Edmonton Expo Centre and Kinsmen Sports Centre. A joint letter dated August 1 and signed by nine local groups, including the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights and EndPovertyEdmonton, argues that the closure will lead to issues in vulnerable communities.

“While we recognize the temporary EXPO Centre was established to respond to COVID-19 needs, its closure on Friday, July 31 is going to have severe impacts on the city,” the letter said.

The letter called for immediate action, including a joint-proposal from the Government of Alberta and the city for a new day-use shelter and for more funding to groups that do street outreach, and for “immediate resource mobilization” to groups that are having to fill the gaps of government programs.

While over the summer there has been a sense that people are eager to return to normal, the climbing number of positive COVID-19 cases reminds us that the virus is still around, and our current environment may be with us for some time. The fears of the early days have somewhat ebbed, and the hoarding of toilet paper has stopped, but the social upheaval continues.

SUPPORT PHONE NUMBERS

  • Community and Social Services Helpline: 211
  • Edmonton Police Complaint Line: 780-423-4567
  • Alberta 24-Hour Mental Health Line: 1-877-303-2642
  • CMHA Edmonton 24-Hour Distress Line: 780-482-4357
  • Edmonton Sexual Assault Centre 24-Hour Crisis Line: 780-423-4121
  • Alberta ONE LINE for Sexual Violence: 1-866-403-8000
  • Access 24/7 Addiction & Mental Health Services: 780-424-2424
  • Kids Help Line: 1-800-668-6868
  • Child Abuse Hot Line: 1-800-387-5437
  • Teens Helping Teens: 780-428-8336
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010

EMERGENCY SHELTERS

  • Lurana Shelter | Crisis Phone: 780-424-5875
  • SAGE Seniors’ Safe House | Crisis Phone: 780-702-1520
  • WIN House | Crisis Phone: 780-479-0058

Ghostly grub

Are ghost restaurants haunting our neighbourhoods, or scaring up business for entrepreneurs?

Blue Plate Diner has been serving the community for more than 15 years with favourite dishes such as mac and cheese and meatloaf. But the restaurant has experienced more than its share of changes recently, from a new location (12323 Stony Plain Rd.) to the mandated closure of its dining room due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for John Williams, co-owner, adapting to change is par for the course in the restaurant industry. Their latest adaptation due to the pandemic is utilizing third-party delivery apps for the first time to cater to consumer demand. Williams has even considered taking this further and creating a “virtual kitchen” using Blue Plate Diner’s kitchen space.

“You have to be able to adapt and survive, and ghost kitchens might be a way to do that,” he says.

Also known as virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens offer multiple food-delivery options from a location that may or may not offer dine-in. Chefs often prepare food for multiple restaurants and cuisines and fill online orders placed through popular third-party delivery apps such as SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, and DoorDash.

The kitchens, which have become increasingly popular across the country, were first introduced to Edmonton in 2019 and are disrupting the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant model. Now there are five permanent-structure and nine mobile kitchens that are licensed in the city, according to Alberta Health Services, with at least seven of them located in the core.

“It’s almost like a mini food court, so to speak,” says Marc Choy, president of Ghost Kitchens Canada. “If people can get the convenience of offerings from six different brands all from one [delivery] fee, then all of the sudden that makes their life much more convenient.”

How do you have one kitchen doing nine different types of food with any authenticity?

Glenn Quinn, co-owner, Tzin Wine and Tapas

Ghost Kitchen Canada’s business model involves having a physical location that offers dine in, take-out, and delivery. The Toronto-based company has three locations in Edmonton, including one on 117th Street and Jasper Avenue. Each location offers food from multiple brands and a range of cuisines.

Other companies, such as Miami- based REEF Technology, don’t offer dine-in at all. The company, which operates Impark, uses parking lots to station trailers that provide kitchen space to virtual brands including Red Corn Taqueria, American Eclectic Burger, Breakfast All Day Everyday, and Rebel Wings.

The kitchens don’t rely on foot traffic for business, allowing them to operate in locations with lower rental rates. “You don’t need to be on a main street to be able to deliver,” Choy says. “As long as the driver can find you and as long as you have a presence on an online platform, then you don’t need visibility, access, signage—all those things which are typical to the restaurant industry.”

The savings on overhead might allow current restaurateurs the opportunity to be innovative and experiment with different sub-brands. This is what draws Blue Plate Diner’s Williams to the idea, especially during the uncertain times of a pandemic.

“Say this continues on for us for months—we can always make another virtual restaurant and have that available through one of the third-party delivery apps or our own delivery,” he says. “I would consider doing something completely different than what we’re doing now just to give that distance from the Blue Plate brand.”

Convenience vs. dining experience

The popularity of third-party delivery apps has certainly risen over the past few years, and with it, the existence of ghost kitchens. Canadians spent more than $4.3 billion in 2018 on online food delivery, which was a 44 per cent increase from 2017, according to Restaurants Canada. An Angus Reid Survey in 2019 found that 29 per cent of Canadians had used a food delivery app at least once. This same survey predicted growth to slow from 2019 to 2021, with the possibility of an additional peak in 2022.

While ghost kitchens offer consumers convenience, some restaurant owners are skeptical of their longevity and ability to build brand loyalty.

“I think consumers have lots of options when it comes to food and delivery, and I’m not so sure that, in the long run, ghost kitchens will be able
to create the brand that’s necessary and get the repeat business that’s necessary to be successful,” says Gavin Fedorak, co-owner of Love Pizza (10196 109 St.).

His restaurant tried third-party delivery but eventually opted out due to the large cuts the apps take, which can be as much as 30 per cent, and issues with service quality of the drivers. “We put a lot of work into our restaurant, making the food from scratch, making the pizza, getting the order right, then we were handing it over to somebody that didn’t care,” Fedorak says.

Glenn Quinn and Kelsey Danyluk, co-owners of Tzin Wine and Tapas (10115 104 St.), have seen how both ghost kitchens and the business model of third-party delivery have disrupted the restaurant industry, but have chosen to focus on providing customers with a unique dining experience.

“You can equate meal-delivery disruption in the restaurant industry to Amazon’s disruption of the retail industry. We want convenience. We want everything without having to go and get it,” Quinn says. “I would like the consumer to be aware of where the money actually goes.

If people can get the convenience of offerings from six different brands all from one [delivery] fee, then all of the sudden that makes their life much more convenient.

Marc Choy, president, Ghost Kitchens Canada

“[This is a] big disruptor to experience-driven restaurants who make their business on food, service and atmosphere,” Quinn continues. “I understand it because it makes sense to some people to save on brick and mortar and things like that, but how do you have one kitchen doing nine different types of food with any authenticity?”

Neighbourhood specters

For those who care about neighbourhood walkability and supporting local, ghost kitchens have raised eyebrows for other reasons. Ian O’Donnell, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, questions the appropriateness of having ghost kitchens located on high streets such as Jasper Avenue.

“It’s important that we keep those spaces for their intended purpose, and that’s to front our walkable, inviting main streets,” he says. “Those retail bays and restaurant bays are meant to be people- forward [and] provide activation and add to the vibrancy of our streets.”

Because ghost kitchens can partake in a variety of activities, there is a range of use classes under zoning bylaws in which they might fit. Factors such as customer seating or whether the location is used for strictly food preparation all contribute to how a kitchen is classified.

“The city is currently reviewing the permitting and licensing for ‘ghost kitchens,’” said Karen Burgess, a communications advisor for the City of Edmonton, in a written statement. The statement explains that the kitchens are permitted and licensed on a case-by-case basis, depending on their location and on-site activities.

“It’s hard to say what their classification should be, and I think that’s where we wanted to make sure that there’s clarity, that there was an even playing field,” O’Donnell says, emphasizing that he believes the kitchens should follow the same regulations and requirements as anyone else would in the restaurant industry.

“We need to make sure that ghost kitchens, or whatever iterations there are of that world, have a proper classification, have proper zoning required, have areas that they are permitted and others that might be discretionary or not permitted.”

Ghost kitchens must meet all food safety regulations under the Public Health Act, says Alberta Health Services, and must be inspected and have a valid food handling permit.

Delivering the future?

With COVID-19, both third-party delivery apps and ghost kitchens seem here to stay as the restaurant industry innovates to survive. Even with his concerns, O’Donnell agrees that ghost kitchens may offer entrepreneurs a unique opportunity.

“Innovation in industry is great. It allows other businesses to shift and other ways for businesses to deliver offerings in new and innovative ways,” he says. Blue Plate Diner’s Williams agrees, especially as restaurants face COVID-19 and the impacts of the pandemic on their typical business model.

“These days, since the future is so uncertain, you need to be able to [pivot]. You have to be able to reinvent yourself, be flexible and change with the changing environment,” Williams says.

Greening your space, inside and out

Our guide to gardening in the core

Whether you’ve got a tiny yard, a balcony, or you’re a condo-dweller with no green space to call your own, anyone can have beautiful blooms and a delicious source of food right in their own kitchen. There are many reasons to make plants a permanent part of your life, no matter the season. Plants provide oxygen, beautify your space and reduce indoor air pollution by acting as mini green air purifiers. All you need is the right tools and a little know-how to get started.

Taking your houseplants from surviving to thriving

We all know one. Maybe you are one. The houseplant killers who bring home an armful of plants, keen to bring some green to their space, but despite their best efforts see their money and time wasted when their new babies inevitably shrivel up and die.

One thing you may not have considered? Light. The more light, the better. If you have south-facing windows, those are the absolute best spot for more houseplants. Putting your new plant babies there just might bring your killing streak to an end. West-facing spots are second-best. You can pretty much choose any plant you want for these locations.

“If you have lots of light, the world is your oyster,” says Miranda Ringma, co-owner of Zocalo, a nursery and florist in Little Italy. If you’re a fan of tropical or flowering plants, south-facing exposure is mandatory. Ditto for fans of cacti and succulents—while some of these plants can adapt to lower light conditions, they won’t thrive unless they get a lot of sun.

Low light will limit what you can grow successfully. Rooms that face due north receive the least amount of light and are best avoided unless you have no other options. Eastern exposure is better, as these spots catch the morning sun.

“If you look at the plants that grow in the mall, those are low-light plants,” Ringma says. “They’re not usually as sexy.” Nonetheless, she says there are still options for dim rooms. Bromeliads offer a great colour pop in low light, while spiky sansevieria and vining pothos provide interesting interior design opportunities.

Aside from proper light, house plants need water and fertilizer to thrive. Many people kill plants with kindness—too much water is often worse than not enough, as this causes the roots to rot and is almost always fatal. If your plant starts yellowing and dropping leaves, often that’s a sign of root rot. Let your plants dry out between watering—the top of the soil should feel dry to the touch. Just don’t let them get bone dry: if they start to wilt, they need water. In the summer, house plants usually need watering about once a week or more, depending on how hot and sunny it is. In the winter, plants can often go two or three weeks (or over a month for cacti and succulents) between watering.

Sun-loving houseplants: monstera3, ficus, succulents2, cacti1, any flowering plants

Shade-friendly houseplants: sansevieria (snake plant)4, peace lily, bromeliad, pothos5

Outdoor oasis: Plants on the balcony

You aren’t the only one who likes to enjoy the summer sun on a patio—your plants want a sunny holiday, too. Balconies are inevitably brighter than any room inside, even if you’re facing north or east, and even house plants love the opportunity to grow outdoors.

“Many houseplants are actually happy to photosynthesize outside with sunlight,” Ringma says. “Most plants will do quite well outside, except for the ones with big, sensitive leaves that are going to catch the wind.”

To get your houseplants used to the cooler night temperature and more intense sunlight, start by putting them outside for a couple hours on one day, then a couple more the day after that— ideally starting in a shady spot and then moving to full sun—and continue for at least a week, preferably two.

Another thing that does great on the balcony or in a small yard during the summer months is annual bedding plants. These beautiful blooms can add a pop of colour and cheerfulness to your space, and you can go as big or small as you’d like with your arrangements. Make sure you choose plants that are best-suited to the area’s light availability.

No matter what you choose, Ringma offers some simple advice. “I always tell people to try things and experiment. For any gardening, whether it’s inside or outside on a balcony, just try it. Do you like the idea of that thing being there? Then try it—it’s fun!”

Shade-friendly bedding plants: hostas², ferns, impatiens, ivy

Sun-loving bedding plants: everything else! geranium, marigold¹, zinnia³, petunia, begonia

Eat your greens: Growing your own veggies

You can grow plenty of vegetables in a small apartment or balcony. The easiest place to start is a container of sprouts on your kitchen counter—there are many types of sprout- growing containers you can purchase to grow your own alfalfa, radishes, lentils and other sprouts from seed. A sunny kitchen windowsill is also a great place for herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Herbs can be started from seed though this is a bit tricky; it’s easier to buy seedlings—nurseries will have these, but you can even find them in many grocery stores.

Balconies are also perfect spots to try your hand at growing some more substantial veggies that will make a tasty addition to your summer dinners. For beginners, a tomato plant can be a good place to start, especially if you have full southern exposure, but avoid those labelled “indeterminate” or “vining” as these tend to get too big for a container.

When choosing vegetables for containers, select smaller plants. Lettuce, spinach and any other type of salad greens do very well in containers and they don’t need as big a space. Root vegetables aren’t a great choice for containers as they need a deep space to grow, though radishes are small enough for container growing.

Unless you get a jump on the season by starting them indoors in early spring, it’s best to buy veggie seedlings. Choose a large pot—as big as your space will allow—and water them very frequently, whenever the soil becomes dry to the touch. If they are in a very hot and sunny south-facing spot, you may have to water container veggies every day (keep this in mind if you have any vacation plans).

No matter which direction your balcony faces, there are veggies that should work for your light. Take a look at the tag that comes with your plants, or the seed packet, to get an idea of what might work for you.

Sun-loving veggies: tomatoes, peppers (bell and hot), strawberries, herbs

Shade-friendly veggies: lettuce, spinach, green onions, chives

Community gardens

For those who want to dig in the dirt free from the constraints of containers and grow a larger crop of veggies, central Edmonton has several community gardens. To get involved, email the garden coordinator.

  • Oliver Peace Garden Park (10259 120 St.)
  • Urban Eden Community Garden (9836 Bellamy Hill Road)
  • Alex Decoteau Park Community Garden (10230 105 St.)
  • Central Community Garden (in front of the Prince of Wales Armouries)

For a map and contact information for all of Edmonton’s community gardens, visit Sustainable Food Edmonton

Edmonton Newcomers

Edmonton’s famous as Canada’s northernmost major city and folks from around the world and across Canada hear dread tales of our brutal, endless Prairie winters. We thought we’d ask some newcomers who live and work downtown to tell us what it’s really like, coming here to start a new life. Universally they are pleasantly surprised – especially when the days grow longer and the white landscape turns to green.

Name: MÉLISSA HAMBROOK | Age: 25

MÉLISSA HAMBROOK

Where are you from? Drummond, New Brunswick
When did you move to Edmonton? June, 2018
What do you miss most about your home? I miss mostly my family and friends. I also miss the low traffic any time of the day.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? When I first moved here in 2018, my husband and I lived in the Oliver area. I loved the area as it was very convenient for groceries, the farmers market, all the little shops on 124th Street, and I love running so it was close enough to the River Valley trails for a scenic workout.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Starting my social life almost from scratch. I am a fairly quiet person, so it’s been a big change from what I had in my hometown surrounded by cousins and childhood friends.
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? The cold! Coming from the East Coast, people would tell me that the “wet cold” was much worse than what we would have here… but it gets much colder than what I expected – skin burning cold!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? I had heard that Edmonton was a festival city, and that was confirmed my first summer. Taste of Edmonton, Heritage Festival, All is Bright on 124th Street, and the Deep Freeze Festival, to name a few. I would have to say that I expected the public transportation to be better than what it is in a bigger city like Edmonton.

Name: SOKHANA MFENYANA | Age: 20

SOKHANA MFENYANA

Where are you from? Pretoria, South Africa
What’s your connection to Downtown/Oliver? Attending Grant MacEwan studying Arts and Culture.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Well the cold of course, but I was surprised people take off their shoes when they go in someone’s house. In fact I sometimes think about where I’m going and if I have to take off my shoes. I don’t want to spend an hour in a hallway tying up my shoes.
What differences have you noticed? I have noticed differences in talking to people, in stores, in government offices. In South Africa we talk. We ask “Hi, how are you?” In Edmonton it is more fast-paced. In South Africa everyone you encounter is like a sister, or an aunt, or an uncle.

Name: KELSEY SPEED | Age: 28

KELSEY SPEED

Where are you from? London, Ontario
When did you move to Edmonton? March, 2017
What do you miss most about your home? The fall season in Edmonton lasts about 2 weeks and lacks the gorgeous colours of a true Ontario fall. Being around water – growing up, everyone I knew had a pool or a cottage on a lake, and we spent most of the summer hopping between them, swimming and doing water sports.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I live in Oliver.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? How long it takes for the city to clear the snow. I walk to work each day, and the sidewalks are always covered in snow or ice during the winter.
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? How amazing the summers are here!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? That the winters are super long – although I love snowboarding, so it is worth it!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? That West Edmonton Mall is the only exciting place to go in Edmonton. There are so many unique and fun things to do in Edmonton that do not involve the mall.

Name: LAINIE RËHN | Age: 25

LAINIE RËHN

Where are you from? Red Deer, Alberta
When did you move to Edmonton? July, 2018
What do you miss most about your home? As cliché as it sounds, there’s a certain feeling of connection, comfort and familiarity of living in a small (to me) town that I miss; the nostalgia and safety of somewhere so familiar is really powerful.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I recently moved to Downtown and have loved living here! I love having access to such great food, retail and fitness facilities, as well as access to some really great events!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? I sold my car when I moved to Edmonton, so I occasionally find the coverage public transportation offers a bit tricky. I’ve had to say no to some plans because it would take me 30-60 minutes to get there, and as a student, Ubering isn’t always in the budget!
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? How much different the weather is as compared to Red Deer! The winters here are much colder, and the air is very dry. I miss experiencing Chinooks!
Did you have any preconceptions that were confirmed? That Edmonton is the place for all the good festivals, year-round. There is always something to do/see/eat! Also, living near Rogers Arena, I’ve also been able to confirm that Edmontonians truly love their Edmonton Oilers.
Did you have any preconceptions that turned out to be unfounded? That Edmonton was a boring government city with a big mall. Day in and day out it’s being proven otherwise to me.

Name: MICHAEL TAIT | Age: 31

MICHAEL TAIT

Where are you from? Edinburgh, Scotland
When did you move to Edmonton? January, 2020
What’s your connection to Downtown/Oliver? My wife and I were married and lived in Scotland for several years. During that time, she owned and rented out a condo in downtown Edmonton, so when we decided to move here, we moved into her condo.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? So far, the winter! I’m currently not working and looking after my son full-time, so when it’s really cold walking places isn’t an option. Thankfully there have not been too many really cold days! The buses are pretty good as well!
Has anything about living downtown surprised you? I’m very new living downtown but from what I’ve experienced so far I’m surprised how friendly people are and how I can enter into conversations with complete strangers. Everyone seems to have a Scottish relative!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? Although I’m very new to living here, I’ve visited many times. Over the last 7 years, I’ve experienced nothing but great food and excellent service surrounded by fun, friendly people!

Name: ABDI FETAH (NOT SHOWN) | Age: 23

Where are you from? Somalia
When did you move to Edmonton? February, 2019
What do you miss most about your home? Mostly I miss my family and friends. Before moving here, I lived in Thailand. Some of my friends moved here before me, so I did know a few people, but not many.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I live Downtown.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Starting from scratch. It is very difficult to learn a new way of communicating and a new culture. Also, since I have no experience working Canadian jobs, it has been difficult to find full-time work.
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? I heard you can make money easily and that life is easy and very simple. I was surprised how difficult it was to find work, and even had to learn how to apply for jobs and write a resume. I had heard that Canada is peaceful and free, and I’ve found that it is true.

Fitness in the core: Coming out of hibernation

Health is more than just being at a good weight and exercising regularly. Overall health means addressing mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Spring is the ideal time to make a fresh start and approach your health from a holistic point of view. Now that the harshness of Edmonton’s demonic winter is nearly past us (it is almost over, right? RIGHT?!), Edmontonians no longer have the same excuses we drag out every winter to avoid exercising, eating well, and getting enough fresh air and sunshine. Here’s how to improve your overall health this spring.

Find Your Exercise Groove

Sure, there are winter warriors who thrive by doing winter sports and actually look forward to the first snow. For those cold weather fitness fanatics, spring is the time to up your game and challenge your body with new and interesting workouts. Maybe you excel at running outside no matter how low the mercury drops, or perhaps you’ve learned to embrace the treadmill when it’s simply too cold out to function.

Kick it up a notch by cycling to work, or training for a marathon. Give Pilates or Spinning a try to challenge different muscles in your body. The point is to set new goals, and challenge yourself. Integration Pilates Studio (10565 114 Street) starts their spring session of courses in April.

It could be your first attempt at establishing a regular workout routine (or maybe it’s the eighth time – no judgement!). Spring represents an opportunity – you can leave the house again! – and a challenge. There will be nice days and there will be crappy days where you still feel housebound. Don’t let the weather be the barrier that stops you from getting your sweat on. Ideally, you’ll develop a routine that is flexible enough that it incorporates both indoor and outdoor activities. If your building has a gym – even a tiny one – use it! You’re already paying for it, and you don’t have to drive or go outside to get there. It’s literally the most low- maintenance workout you can do, except maybe some gentle stretching in your apartment.

If you don’t have access to a gym, sign up for classes at a studio. YEG Cycle offers daily 50-minute Spin classes taught by their team of “Motivators.” Orange Theory has multiple locations in the city and offers a workout that’s different every time, making it ideal for those who get bored easily. If you find yourself skipping workouts regularly, paying for a class or personal trainer in advance and scheduling those workouts can incentivize you to go even when you’d rather enjoy a Netflix marathon.

For social butterflies who like fresh air, try Coffee Outside, Edmonton’s outdoor coffee club. They meet every Friday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at Ezio Faraone Park, regardless of the weather (within reason – they’ve moved their meetings indoors occasionally when the temperature gets too close to minus 30. They’re not monsters). “We’ve been not just a community of cyclists but also people who enjoy each other’s company,” Dr. Darren Markland, the organizer of the weekly meet-up, says of the unique club. Follow @coffee_outside on Twitter for updates.

The City of Edmonton recently rolled out a new campaign called Live Active, meant to encourage citizens to learn about and use the city’s recreational facilities and numerous parks in all seasons. The new initiative launched Feb. 2 at Rundle Park, drawing hundreds of snowshoers, skaters, marshmallow roasters, and sledders. The City also created a list of 97 ways for people to be active year- round, and encourages participants to share on Twitter with the hashtag #LiveActiveYEG.

Quick Tip: Find an exercise mate. Hold each other accountable. Or post your fitness goals on your social media accounts and rely on community encouragement, or the opposite, to keep you motivated!

Stretching: Worth the time?

What the expert says: “There’s no real compelling research to show any benefit or detriment to stretching, regardless of before, after or at all in terms of health or performance. Some of the best ways to warm up prior to a workout would include doing big joint ranges of motion through compound movements such as lunges, long deep squats, push ups, and other types of active mobility that can have the benefits of moving the muscles, but also increasing the blood flow into them and make them contract to produce force for the more challenging exercises to come in the main workouts.” – Dean Somerset, CSCS, CEP, MES, Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer at Evolve Strength Downtown.

You Are What You Eat

Winter means we often don’t pay much attention to healthy foods. The pervasive cold doesn’t exactly spark a craving for greens, and finding fresh fruit at a decent price can be Mission Impossible. And the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas usually equals parties, drinking, deep-fried appetizers as well as sugary treats Mom only makes for the holidays.

But spring – oh, spring! Spring offers a rebirth of better eating habits. But remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. And, let’s be honest – the easier something is, the more likely we all are to do it. If, like many people, you find yourself struggling to put in the work required for healthy eating, you do have options. Like to cook but don’t have time to shop or prep? Or maybe you’re just bored with all of your usual meal staples. Sign up for a meal plan service, which takes most of the work out of eating well. MealPro is an Edmonton- based meal delivery company that allows you to customize your menu. These vacuum-sealed meals take the guesswork out of portion sizes and calorie counting. Easy As Pie is another company that delivers ready-made meals in Edmonton.

If you want to do the cooking yourself but find yourself short on time for shopping (or maybe your fruit and veggie supply keeps spoiling before you can eat them), try The Organic Box, an Edmonton owned and operated company that works with local producers to deliver boxes of fresh goodies. And, their catalogue lists where each item comes from, so you can make conscious decisions as a consumer. Another time-saving method is ordering your groceries online and having them delivered or picking them up at the store. Save-On Foods, Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, Spud.ca, and EdmontonGrocer.com all offer online shopping. If you prefer to pick out your potatoes and peaches in person, shop at Edmonton’s Downtown Farmers’ Market, now indoors year- round, for the freshest available fruits, vegetables, and locally-sourced goodies.

Quick Tip: Need some nutritional guidance? Book an appointment with a nutritionist or ask your doctor to refer you to your Primary Care Network. The Edmonton Oliver PCN provides free, personal nutrition counselling, plus group classes for those who could use some extra support for their weight management. (11910 111 Avenue)

April is the Cruelest Month

Our own mental health is often the first thing we throw under the bus when we get busy, or life gets stressful. But it’s an important piece of the overall health puzzle. Now, don’t automatically assume that once winter starts to crawl back into the hell-hole from whence it came, that your mood will automatically lighten. Poet T.S. Elliot once called April “the cruelest month,” because the blooming flowers and lighter days can provide a stark contrast to your actual mood.

There are various ways to keep your mental and spiritual health game on point. Just like physical fitness and healthy eating, the path towards success relies on you finding what works for you. For some, self-care means face masks and bubble baths. For others, it’s taking time for hobbies, like reading, making art, or baking. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, depression, or simply want to talk to someone about how you feel, counselling is an option, no matter your income bracket. Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Networks offers mental health courses and workshops if you feel comfortable in a group setting. Edmonton’s Momentum Walk-in Clinic provides solution-focused counselling on a sliding-fee scale – plus, you can see someone without a long wait period. The Boyle-McCauley Health Centre has two registered provisional Psychologists on their psychological team, which provides “therapeutic support for individuals and families with multiple systemic barriers to accessing mental health services,” according to their website.

Chances are, you’ve already heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which focuses on changing thinking patterns. But do you know about Dialectical Behavourial Therapy? It’s a type of therapy that focuses on problem- solving and acceptance-based strategies. Redtree Psychology, located in Grandin, offers both CBT and DBT, along with many other types of therapy.

Quick Tip: Ninety minutes in a sensory deprivation tank can make a world of difference to your stress levels. You are literally forced to unplug. It’s also a good way to relax tight muscles and improve sleep. Try Modern Gravity Float Studio (10945 120 Street).

Does where you live have an impact on your overall health?

What the expert says: “We are unlikely to be successful in our quest to be healthy and fit individually if we go it alone in an unsupportive environment. We need to make collective efforts as a society to make our community environments healthier and supportive of our individual health efforts. For example, can we walk, bike and take transit regularly to get to places? Is healthy food nearby, available and affordable? Are we surrounded by less unhealthy food? Can we be less sedentary in our buildings because the stairs are available, easy to find, safe and pleasant to use? Do we have office furniture like standing desks that helps us be less sedentary throughout the day? Do our restaurants give us information like calories on menus so we can make healthier food choices since many people now eat out often?

Besides intentions to change our individual behaviours, citizens need to let our decision-makers and policy makers know they want – and expect – healthier amenities in their neighbourhoods; they need to let developers know they want healthier buildings and residential developments when they are looking for places to buy or rent; they need to let the restaurants and stores they spend money at know they want healthier food options. There are things that can be done to make our daycares and schools healthier for our kids. But these things won’t happen unless we know what’s worked in other places and then make it known that we want and expect these things too in our own communities.” – Dr. Karen Lee, MD MHSc FRCPC, Associate Professor, Division of Preventive Medicine, Dept of Medicine, University of Alberta, and author of Fit Cities. www.drkarenlee.com

Best in the Core

Each year the Yards staff and board members sort through a myriad of great things to do, places to eat and sights to see in Edmonton’s downtown and beyond. We try to bring you experiences we love; food that brings joy, new experiences for readers to try, and great places to go. And if there’s something we missed, let us know! Tell us on social media, snail us a mail, or even collar us in person. We’d love to hear from you.

Best Place to Be Seen

JW Marriott Lobby Bar (Photo: William Frost)

WINNER: JW Marriott Lobby Bar
High ceilings, gleaming marble bar, and a variety of seating arrangements ranging from cozy to comfortable-group, make this the ultimate hangout when you’re in the mood to be noticed. Signature cocktails, charcuterie and cheese boards, and fresh seafood to please all of your senses. Hit up Happy Hour every day 3 – 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close. (10344 102 St, 780.784.8580, Braven – The Lobby Bar)

RUNNER UP: Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market (new location)
The Quarters on the east edge of downtown is the new home of the farmers’ market, and it’s still a hot destination every weekend. Pick up everything you need while staying warm regardless of the weather. (YEGDT Market)

RUNNER UP: Archetype
With four custom designed workout studios for yoga, HIIT, spin and boxing classes, plus specially trained coaches, this is more than a gym – it’s an Instagram-worthy lifestyle. (10344 102 St Suite 501, 780.784.8585, Archetype)

RUNNER UP: Alex Decoteau Park – Dog Off-Leash
You and Fido are sure to make new friends at this popular off-leash park–bring a ball and show off your pup’s fetching skills. (10230 105 St, Alex Decoteau Park)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Brunch

OEB Breakfast Co.

WINNER: OEB
This all-day breakfast spot has risen well above the classic eggs benny fare with its exquisite breakfast poutines featuring everything from philly-style beef short-rib and brown butter hollandaise to lobster and shrimp scrambled eggs. Sides include duck-fat fried potatoes and chicken blueberry sausages. It’s open every morning and serves breakfast all day so Tuesday morning can be the new Sunday brunch. (10174 100A St, 587.520.0936 or 110240 124 St, 780.250.0788, Eat OEB)

RUNNER UP: Blue Plate Diner
After faithfully patronizing this restaurant for 15 years in the warehouse district, fans were devastated when co-owners John Williams and Rima Devitt announced they were leaving 104 Street, but their new larger location near 124 Street does not disappoint. They’re also running brunch every day of the week. Try the Blue Plate Breakfast–it comes in a large and a small size for $14 and $9. The new space houses a bar and a spot for coffee drinkers. (12323 Stony Plain Rd, Blue Plate Diner)

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead – Drag Brunch
Once a month Yellowhead Brewery runs Drag Brunch. You purchase tickets for one of two seatings at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. and for $30 you get an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch. It’s an all-ages venue but patrons are warned there could be use of adult language and subject matter. (10229 105 Street NW, search Eventbrite for Yellowhead Drag Brunch)

– Jodine Chase

Best Below Ground

Prairie Noodle Shop

WINNER: Prairie Noodle
You cannot get more underground than the radical mix of Alberta flavours and ramen. The wizardry of Chef Eric Hanson and the crew of the locally owned shop is featured in seasonal menus, but they are constantly exploring their passion for original and inviting cuisine. This winter, experience their latest creation or savour a ramen bowl with one of the shop’s sensational umeboshi eggs. (10350 124 St, 780.705.1777, Prairie Noodle Shop)

RUNNER UP: Cavern
Descend to Cavern for a morning caffeine injection, a stimulating lunch meeting, or to snag some triple crème brie for your evening. Visit this charming space to get cultured. (10169 104 St NW, 780.455.1336, The Cavern)

RUNNER UP: The Shoe Shine Shack
Get your kicks collecting sneakers? Have them detailed at this subterranean secret. Shane and his team offer dazzling results while you wait–or drop your dressier shoes off for a polish and do curb-side pickup. (10359 104 St NW, 780.236.5428, The Shoe Shine Shack)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Reason to Download an App

WINNER: Ritual
A must for any downtown foodie this app helps you find walking-distance deals at restaurants and coffee shops. Skip the lines and pre-order meals, or be the office hero by mastering the group-ordering function. Collect points for all of your actions (bonus points if you choose from the Wellness Menu), and earn reward money to cash in at any of nearly 30 spots. ritual.co/

RUNNER UP: What’s the Deal?
Never again miss a Caesar Sunday or a Taco Tuesday with restaurant specials all in one place. Find local deals sorted by day of the week or location. What’s the Deal

RUNNER UP: Lime/Bird Scooters
E-scooters mean going out for lunch and making it back on time for the afternoon meeting. Cover a lot more ground downtown while revisiting your youth. Just try it. Lime | Bird

– Miranda Herchen

Best (reason to visit) Lobbies

WINNER: Hotel MacDonald
Stop into the lobby of downtown’s 100–year–old railway hotel at any time of the year and you’re in for a treat. There’s always something on display–sometimes it’s a Lego replica, other times you’re greeted by Smudge, the hotel’s canine ambassador. At Christmas time, the replica gingerbread hotel is not to be missed. (10065 100 St NW, Fairmont Hotel MacDonald)

Hotel MacDonald (Photo: Mack Male)

RUNNER UP: EPCOR Lobby
Epcor is using the spacious lobby of its building in the core to showcase artists with permanent installations, visiting shows, and musicians. The lobby is a welcoming public space with free wifi and collaborative seating which makes it a great gathering place. The rotating exhibit space features local artists, complementing the massive permanent sculpture of a Grizzly bear feeding on salmon, by Edmonton born artist Dean Drever. Over the lunch hour there are sometimes musicians. The lobby boasts the country’s only Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Piano, one of twelve in the world. (10423 101 St NW, EPCOR Lobby)

– Christopher Sikkenga

Best Day Trip

WINNER: The University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Although closed for the season, from Dec. 6-8 the Garden hosts the Luminaria, lighting the paths with thousands of candles. And the events calendar of the former Devonian Garden highlights upcoming date nights, operas, tea ceremonies, festivals and more. Come spring, beauty and magic await. Explore the first Indigenous Garden in Canada and wander through the five-acre Alpine Garden. Find serenity in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden and meditate in the breathtaking new Aga Khan Garden. (51227 AB-60, 780.492.3050, University of Alberta Botanic Garden)

RUNNER UP: Bruce Hotel Steak Dinner
For more than 20 years the hamlet of Bruce has been the answer to the age old question “Where’s the beef?” Make a reservation for you and your arteries chop-chop! (104 Main St Bruce, AB, 780.688.3922, Bruce Hotel)

RUNNER UP: Blindman Brewing
With wheat and barley surrounding Lacombe, there’s no better place to have a local, craft beer. The taproom is all about savouring local flavours and sampling their award- winning ales. (3413 53 Ave, Lacombe, AB, 403.786.2337, Blindman Brewing)

– Christopher Sikkenga

Best Indoor Oasis

WINNER: The Citadel
When the weather outside is chilly and unwelcoming you can take refuge in the forest of the Citadel. Get closer to the sun seated near the second floor pond or sink into the cozy solitude of the flora below. The lush environment is a wonderful escape from the day’s task list. Grab a coffee in the cafe or contemplate the sculptures populating the space. (9828 101A Ave, 780.425.1820, The Citadel Theatre)

RUNNER UP: City Hall
The striking architecture and pale stonework provide a glowing space for quiet reflection. Plus, there are numerous displays on local history and pieces from the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection. (1 Sir Winston Churchill Square, 780.442.5311, City Hall)

RUNNER UP: EPCOR Tower
Food can be a comfort for many and is what makes this spot a sanctuary. Wind down in Epcor Building lobby that houses Buco Pizzeria and the enticing sandwiches of MilkCrate. (10423 101 St, Epcor Tower)

— Christopher Sikkenga

Best Date Night

Tzin Wine and Tapas

WINNER: Tzin Wine and Tapas
This wine bar keeps things intimate with room for only 24. With its renowned wine list, there’s a pairing for any of the delectable small plates. If you can’t decide on what to share, Executive chef Corey McGuire makes things easy with his carefully selected “feed me” option of multiple tapas, complete with dessert and wine pairings. Reservations recommended. (10115 104 St, 780.428.8946, Tzin)

RUNNER UP: Partake
This warm, French-inspired restaurant is known for its welcoming atmosphere where guests can take their time enjoying rustic small plates, a rotating wine and vermouth list, and specialty cocktails–one of which is purple. (12431 102 Ave, 780.760.8253, Partake)

RUNNER UP: The Lobby Bar
Inside the JW Marriot, the newly opened, living-room style bar has signature–and stiff– cocktails, a daily happy hour and daily drink specials to go with small-plate creations. (10344 102 St., 780.784.8580, Braven)

– Miranda Herchen

Best Grab-n-Go

Farrow, 10240 – 124 Street (Photo: Maxwell Poulter)

WINNER: Farrow 124 Street
Best known for their creative rotation of sandwich options, you’ll find lots to love here (including a vegan choice), like the Grick Middle, complete with a fried egg from Four Whistle Farms, bacon, smoked cheddar, rosemary aioli and greens. Factor in fresh baked goods such as cronuts, muffins, brownies, and puff tarts plus coffee made from premium beans and you have the perfect lunch to go. (10240 124 St Suite 6, 780.249.0085, Farrow Sandwiches)

RUNNER UP: Culina 2 Go
Fresh food made from locally sourced ingredients, available in individual sizes for lunch and family style sizes for dinner. Don’t forget about breakfast to go on the weekends! (12019 A 102 Ave, Oliver Exchange Building, 780.250.7044, Culina Family)

RUNNER UP: La Mision Burritos
The food you love but faster: the popular restaurant Rostizado holds a burrito pop-up on their patio daily between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (10359 104 St, 780.761.0911, La Misión Burritos)

RUNNER UP: Tiffin
Build your own plate with one, two or three items, plus rice or noodles. Choose family style or a signature dish, and throw in some made-to-order samosas for good measure. (10404 Jasper Ave, 780.424.4829, Tiffin | India’s Fresh Kitchen)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Reason to Leave the Core

Italian Centre Shop

WINNER: Italian Centre Shop
For 60 years, the late Frank Spinelli’s business has been the city’s primary one-stop shop for specialty food items from Italy, Europe and around the world. It’s much more than pasta and gelato. The store features a deli with a selection of more than 200 cheeses and 100 meats for all your charcuterie needs. With three locations, including the landmark shop in Little Italy, a good cannoli is never far away. (10878 95 St, Italian Centre Shop)

RUNNER UP: IKEA
The wonderland of affordable furniture and household accessories is worth the visit, even if you don’t buy anything. Stock up on essentials under $10 and dig into a plate of Swedish meatballs. (1311 102 St, IKEA)

RUNNER UP: Jollibee
This is a must-try-at-least-once restaurant where sweet-style, loaded spaghetti meets crispy chicken and a Big Yum. The pineapple juice is an essential accompaniment for the Filipino fast-food chain’s favourite features. (3803 Calgary Trail, 587.405.1333, Jollibee Canada)

– Miranda Herchen

Best Ways to Volunteer

WINNER: Oliver and Downtown Edmonton Community Leagues make important contributions to the vitality of the core. Like to gather with your neighbours? Can play a role supporting your league to host events bringing neighbours to get together? Are you an urban planning wonk? Lend your skills to your league’s efforts to bring the voices of residents to the planning and development table. Start with a membership if you haven’t joined already and benefit from perks like free access to the downtown Y or the Rogers community rink once a week, membership in the community tool library, and discounts on admission to city community rec facilities. (Oliver Community League | Downtown Edmonton Community League)

RUNNER UP: NEXTGEN calls on those ages 18-40 to take the city’s future into our own hands by creating a city that attracts and gives voice to the next generation by connecting people, places, communities, and ideas. Volunteer for working groups or events like Pecha Kucha Night, bank hours, and get tickets to Sonic Field Day events. (Edmonton’s Next Gen)

Best Public Service

WINNER: 24-Hour Mental Health Service at Royal Alex
In June a new 24/7 mental health service launched out of the Royal Alex, The program offers support to those struggling to navigate the sometimes complicated variety of mental health and harm reduction services on their own. A team of healthcare professionals offers a centralized point of contact for service access. Seek out services by phone at 780.424.2424 or visit Anderson Hall at any time. (10240 Kingsway, 780.735.4723, Royal Alexandra: Addiction & Mental Health Access 24/7)

RUNNER UP: Business Link
Do you have a business idea? Business Link can help turn your business dreams into reality. This non-profit team supports entrepreneurs to start and run their small businesses. They have specialized units for Indigenous and newcomer entrepreneurs and can provide advice on everything from creating a business plan, to legal and accounting matters. (#500 10150-100 Street NW, 780.422.7722, Business Link)

– Jodine Chase

Best Event Spaces

WINNER: Foundry Room
Occupying much of the second floor of the Oliver Exchange, this space is perfect for a medium-sized get-together. Friendly staff help event organizers. There are no problems getting liquor licences. Odd Company local beer is on tap and if there’s anything missing for your gathering it could well be available from the retailers on the main floor. (12021 102 Ave, 780.905.9380, Foundry Room)

Foundry Room

RUNNER UP: AGA Lobby
The entry space of the Art Gallery of Alberta has become the go-to venue for all manner of events, from political announcements (Stephen Mandel announced his Alberta Party run here) to a myriad of weddings. The adjacent Zinc restaurant is ready to cater and has a tradition of hiring supérieure sommeliers ready to assist in drink selections. (2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Art Gallery of Alberta)

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead Brewery
This down home space fits the bill for all manner of gatherings with a casual feel that can be dressed up for a formal Saturday night. It can be a challenge finding one of those Saturdays due its popularity as a wedding venue. (10229 105 St NW, Yellowhead Brewery)

RUNNER UP: CKUA
The restored Alberta Hotel building has a fabulous roof-top terrace with sweeping views of the river valley. The building also includes the versatile main floor two-storey performance event space complete with a green room and catering kitchen that can handle 140 seated and 180 standing. (9804 Jasper Ave, CKUA Radio)

– Rob McLauchlin

Best Instagramable

WINNER: Oliver Exchange Building
Formerly the West End Telephone Exchange, the Oliver Exchange Building houses a variety of cool businesses, including Brio Bakery, Culina To Go, Iconoclast Coffee Roasters, and The White Gallery. Snap black and white shots of your cronut and café au lait, or take advantage of the exposed brick walls for an artistic selfie worthy of being reposted. Bonus: the outside of the building is just as beautiful and photo worthy as the inside. (12021 102 Ave)

Oliver Exchange

RUNNER UP: Victoria Promenade
Lined with benches and trees, this stunning promenade promises a picturesque view of the river valley. With wide paths for biking, jogging, or strolling, it’s ideal for taking workout selfies. (11701 100 Ave)

RUNNER UP: Warehouse Area brick walls (behind Birks Building/ Armstrong Block)
Love a solid brick wall background for your Instagram videos and photos? You’re in luck – this historic area has plenty of heritage buildings with red brick facades. (10125 104 St)

RUNNER UP: Legislature Ground #ableg
A favourite spot for summer selfies in front of the fountain, or fall selfies with changing leaves twirling around from the many trees on the grounds. (9820 107 St 780.427.7362, Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best place to E-Scoot

WINNER: Railtown Multi-Use Trail
This north-south route features an urban ride adjacent to 109 Avenue that morphs from a pleasant parky feel with shops and groceries, trees and strollers–down a gentle slope past The Ledge and on to the caged confines of the High Level Bridge. Lots of variety!

RUNNER UP: Oliver Exchange
Located on the east-west “Oliverbahn” bicycle thoroughfare this former telephone exchange building makes a great stopover and destination. Its businesses are sweet and savoury and its leafy location makes you forget you’re on the prairie.

RUNNER UP: Legislature
Although Edmonton’s rental scooters are put away for winter, The Alberta Legislature Grounds feature acres of concrete highlighted by fountains in summer. “The Ledge” is ideal for your Bird scooter, or custom ride. (A caveat: some scooters are slowed down on the grounds)

– Rob McLauchlin

Best Child-Friendly

Love Pizza

WINNER: Love Pizza
Sunday dinner out with the kids is sure to be a hit when you tell them where they’re going, because who doesn’t Love Pizza? Kids eat free when the adults buy a regular pizza, and they can choose their own toppings. They’ll also love the Wilki Stix that come with the meal.

RUNNER UP: McKay Avenue Playground
This school playing field has always been a fun place to poke around with its gazebo and old schoolhouse, but the new playground works for kids of all ages with its slides, spongy soft play surface, rope-climbing structure and mesh-bottomed saucer swing.

RUNNER UP: Playgroups!
You don’t need to leave the core to find places for you and your little one to play indoors this winter. Urban Kids Playgroup runs Fridays from 9:30-11 a.m. at 10042 103 Street. Robertson Wesley Church runs a Moms and Dads group for parents with babies and toddlers every second Thursday from 10-11 a.m. The downtown public library has three different drop-in classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers as well as family film screenings.

– Jodine Chase

Best Sports for less than $100

WINNER: Edmonton Oil Kings
Just like the grown-up Oilers except these young guys have a recent winning history. Last year the Oil Kings went 42-18-4-4, and finished first in the Central Division. The cheapest tickets are around 20 bucks–$23.50 with fees and taxes. Beware if you’re on a budget though, Rogers Place still charges NHL prices for food and drink. Fill up the fam before and afterward. There’s fast food nearby at City Centre Mall, but be careful, the hours are shorter than other malls–closing at 6 p.m. most days, 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

RUNNER UP: FC Edmonton
This professional soccer squad plays out of the rather antiseptic Clarke Stadium but the fans warm up the atmosphere as Commonwealth Stadium looms to the north. The Canadian Premier League team finished last season out of the playoffs but with a much better record and attitude at season’s end. This is a micro-local team that saw as many as seven Edmonton-area players on the pitch. You might recognize some of them from community soccer!

RUNNER UP: Edmonton Prospects
These boys of summer would be on top, if it was summer. Unfortunately, the Best of the Core is frozen to the core at this time of year, so the Prospects hibernate at the bottom of this list. Come summer though, picturesque ReMax Field in Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley will reverberate to the crack of the bat and adult snouts will be immersed in cool foam. It might not be the Prospects, though. The lease is still up in the air. Pro tip: Don’t park next to the ballpark–stay a block away. That “rock star parking” you snagged could earn you a cracked windshield or a major dent, courtesy of a foul ball.

– Rob McLauchlin

Hidden art treasure

The Royal Alberta Museum

Carefully unfurling the edges of Blood Tears, the iconic canvas she was reframing, conservator Cyndie Lack was delighted by what she found. Hidden beneath the original wood strainer was a line of text–the missing conclusion of a lengthy inscription.

It reads: “God bless the survivor who spoke to live.”

Painted by revered Indian Group of Seven artist Alex Janvier (age 86), Blood Tears is a visual diary of the artist’s ten years at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School, near St. Paul. The reverse of the canvas features a handwritten list of the losses experienced by residential school students–loss of language, loss of culture, loss of family–which, until Lack’s discovery, ended on a bleak note.

Now it speaks of outspoken survival. An expert with 30 years experience, Lack was hired to stretch the double-sided canvas that serves as the centerpiece of the Royal Alberta Museum’s new residential school exhibit.

While the conservator expected to uncover several hidden design elements (the original frame was too small for the artwork), she certainly hadn’t expected to add a new layer of meaning to this already significant canvas.

A statement of loss–and of resiliency–Blood Tears was featured on the cover of early Truth and Reconciliation reports. It became emblematic of the trauma caused by residential schools. The missing line underscores the importance of sharing this story, and its discovery came at a time when the RAM was changing the way it approached Indigenous content.

“There’s a sincere effort by this museum to make sure that they tell the right story; tell the truth,” says Tanya Harnett, professor of art and native studies at the University of Alberta and a member of the Carry-The-Kettle First Nation. Harnett serves on the museum’s Indigenous content advisory panel and was guest curator for the residential school exhibit.

Formed in 2014, the 24-person panel helped develop storylines and exhibits, as well as choose objects for display within the new human history gallery.

This level of engagement with Indigenous peoples has been a long time coming.

In 1988, an exhibition of First Nations artwork at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, called Spirit Sings, sparked controversy across the globe. What made Spirit Sings particularly contentious was the sponsorship of Shell Canada Ltd.

The Lubicon Lake Nation said the sponsorship gave the false impression that Shell supported Indigenous rights, when it had in fact been drilling on disputed lands for years.

Initially intended to support the Lubicon land claim, the boycott expanded into a critique of the power relations and representational practices of Western museums and resulted in the creation of a task force on museums and First Peoples.

“There’s a sincere effort by this museum to make sure that they tell the right story; tell the truth,”

Tanya Harnett, professor of art and native studies at the University of Alberta and a member of the Carry-The-Kettle First Nation

Jointly sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Museums Association, this national body put forward guidelines for establishing lasting partnerships between these two parties.

One of the recommendations in the task force’s 1992 report was to ensure Indigenous peoples were involved in the planning, research and implementation of exhibits and programs that include Indigenous cultures.

Blood Tears
Painted by revered Indian Group of Seven artist Alex Janvier (age 86), Blood Tears is a visual diary of the artist’s ten years at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School, near St. Paul.

“The Spirit Sings was a flashpoint,” Harnett says. “Everyone around the world changed their philosophy: [museums] had to be including first peoples globally.”

The task force report went further than consultation. It dealt with issues of repatriation, addressed the need for diverse hiring practices and challenged the representation of Indigenous cultures as dying populations on the verge of extinction due to their inability to adapt. It’s taken more than 25 years, but when visitors walk through the doors of the RAM’s human history gallery, they won’t see dioramas or mannequins that treat Indigenous people like exhibits. Instead, archeological sites and ancient ways of living from building pithouse shelters to hunting pronghorn–are brought to life through illustration, maquettes and animated videos.

Indigenous stories are woven throughout the gallery, not clumped together or relegated to a pre-history space. And contemporary stories and traditional knowledge alike are told through a first-person narrative.

“The museum tried very hard to have people speaking behind the objects,” says Peggi Ferguson-Pell, president for the board of the Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society when the group purchased Blood Tears for the museum.

“The Spirit Sings was a flashpoint. Everyone around the world changed their philosophy: [museums] had to be including first peoples globally,”

Tanya Harnett

From the sinister outline of a priest to the disembodied leg, splayed across the centre of the canvas, the painting relays the experience of residential schools in a way that no other object could. “It’s pain personified,” she says.

The What Makes Us Strong exhibit examines how Alberta’s Indigenous communities share knowledge and values, passing them down through generations.

Earlier exhibits were criticized for presenting a culture in decline, instead of a vibrant, living one. “They seemed to be talking about us,” Harnett says. “Not to us. And not with us.”

The gallery may no longer treat Indigenous people as a “civilization from long ago,” but it’s far from perfect, says Miranda Jimmy. A member of Thunderchild First Nation, Jimmy is the co-founder of RISE, a group of citizens in the Edmonton region committed to reconciliation. “I feel like they took one step forward on a path where they could have taken a hundred steps easily,” she says.

Her biggest concern is the museum’s repatriation practices. While the museum’s website indicates it is working on building new relationships, current regulations only apply to Blackfoot items.

The Royal Alberta Museum declined to provide comment for this story.

In the absence of new repatriation agreements, Jimmy would like to see the question of acquisition addressed. While many objects in the museum were bought or donated, others were obtained in more questionable ways.

Jimmy would know better than most about these questionable methods. In 2016, she spent two months reviewing audio tapes and textual materials of John Hellson for the provincial archives.

At one time the Curator of Ethnology at the Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta, Hellson developed a reputation as both a respected anthropologist, and a thief. (In 1981, he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property from the University of California’s Lowie Museum of Anthropology. “While working for the Government of Alberta, he was paid a finder’s fee for items that were acquired, sometimes by any means necessary,” Jimmy says.

Earlier exhibits were criticized for presenting a culture in decline, instead of a vibrant, living one.

“Let’s start telling the truth about museums,” Jimmy says. “Let’s talk about how [to find] these arrowheads, someone decided to rip up a bunch of land that was a ceremonial space and took everything they could.”

“[Let’s] say 50 or 100 years ago, that’s the way we did things, and we try to do things differently now.”

Harnett acknowledges there are gaps and flaws in the new museum. For example, she doesn’t believe the annihilation of the buffalo–an event responsible for ending the traditional way of life for many Prairie nations is adequately covered. “The loss of the buffalo was everything to culture,” Harnett says.

Still, she is proud of what the advisory panel has achieved.

On a Sunday afternoon in November–a little over a year after the museum opened downtown–a woman listens intently to a recording of Janvier in the residential school exhibit. Her daughter watches also, as the artist recalls being “thrown into the back of a truck” and taken to residential school.

“A lot of people went to their graves without telling their story,” he says, his gravelly voice suddenly cracking with emotion. “That’s why I painted Blood Tears. It’s the story of Canada.”

It’s hard to tell if the girl understands–if she grasps the pain in Janvier’s voice or the trauma depicted in his painting.

But at least it’s there–for her and for the other 400,000 people who visited the new museum in the past year.

“That’s what I love about the last line,” says Ferguson-Pell of the Friends of the RAM. “We are speaking about it; we’re not covering it up. We’re having those conversations, as painful and as difficult as they are.”

Real Change – Building A Sustainable City

It is the height of the day in the downtown core, but you wouldn’t know it. The streets are bare except for the odd person, wrapping whatever they can around their face to try and filter out the yellow haze filling the space between the darkened buildings. The sun casts a sick glow on anything it touches as health experts advise people to stay indoors.

This isn’t the trailer for a new science fiction dystopia film – this was Edmonton twice in the last year as smoke from forest fires elsewhere blew over the city.

Heavy smoke and heat waves are two weather phenomena experts are trying to re-align the city to face as climate change progresses.

“Forestry experts tell us the forests are drying from climate change,” said Alberta Capital Airshed executive director Gary Redmond. “They anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”

Redmond emphasized smoke isn’t the only significant air pollution problem facing Edmonton. Cold air in the wintertime can keep pollution closer to the ground and lead to air quality warnings, though ash and carbon particles from forest fires are several orders of magnitude worse.

A non-profit air quality monitoring group, part of the Airshed’s work is to bring stakeholders together to identify potential problems and brainstorm solutions.

Redmond advises people in good health to keep physical activity indoors during smoky days, where the Air Quality Index is at least seven. People with health issues should take precautions if it’s as low as three. Covering your face with a scarf may actually do more harm than good, because it pulls particulate matter in your airway. 

One solution Redmond advocates is Community Clean Air Shelters, retrofitting public spaces with air filtration systems to give people safe places to breathe, which have been effective at improving people’s health.

Working from the other end is Shafraaz Kaba, principal architect of Ask for a Better World and Energy Efficiency Alberta board director. Kaba has ambitious ideas for dealing with air quality and other problems facing the Edmonton downtown.

“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?” he asks while looking gloomily out at yet another stormy day in Edmonton. “Or ways to mitigate the effects of massive amounts of rain?”

Preparing for a hotter downtown

Kaba is keenly aware of the challenges Edmonton is facing. As part of the Energy Transition Advisory Committee, he helped develop the “Climate Resilient Edmonton: Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan,” an examination of environmental, health and economic issues and strategies. It was presented to city council in November 2018.

Well past arguing whether climate change is real or not, Kaba says the real questions are how is it affecting us and what are we doing about it? The solution is to both develop resiliency against Mother Nature’s wrath while simultaneously reducing the city’s carbon footprint to placate the elements.

Kaba explains this requires a more holistic way of thinking about building structures, ranging from things like the thickness and insulation of the walls, the glazing and size of windows and even simple things like the material used around them all contribute to the amount of heat a building can hold on to.

“[Forestry experts] anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”

Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed

“An example is thermal bridging, where heat transfer happens,” he says as he motions to the aluminum trimming of his 10-foot tall window. “The aluminum frame that holds the glass is a massive conductor of heat, from the inside to the outside in the winter and vice-versa in the summer.”

A more extreme example is skyscrapers, which effectively act as giant greenhouses, even in the wintertime. While not the best holders of heat, they pull enough in over a cold winter day that many commercial buildings use much of their power cooling the inside of the building in spite of below-freezing temperatures outside.

“We basically took in a global mechanical system and said ‘We’re going to do that too,’” said Kaba. “We need to design buildings that say, ‘Okay, it’s sunny and –30 C out. How do we have a mechanical system that warms cold air instead of using air conditioning?’”

Better heat efficiency not only reduces the carbon footprint of buildings, it also helps to minimize the Urban Heat Island effect – concrete and other materials like aluminum hold heat and downtown Edmonton has a lot of concrete.

This makes heat waves of particular concern. People with health complications may not be able to cool off quickly enough. This happened in Europe in 2003 where eight consecutive days of over 40 C highs killed over 50,000 people across the southern part of the continent. Sixteen years later, the United Nations now says weather events like heat waves, smoke, flooding and/or either too much or not enough rain are happening once a week on average.

“There’s a bit of a reckoning coming,” said Kaba. 

A huge variety in designs of buildings makes things even more complicated, each requiring their own solutions. Smaller buildings are better suited for solar panels because they have more surface area exposed to the sun, whereas a taller building only has one good side at best for solar generation.

“In a tall building, you have a lot more wall surface area and very little roof,” explained Kaba. “So you’re forced to consider how much of that wall you need for windows to let in daylight versus if you’re going to make them thick, insulated walls to prevent heat loss.”

Regardless of the challenges, he said the goal should be to have every building generating at least some of its power – and potentially even food – to offset the costs of building and maintaining the structure.

“It’s not if or should – it’s a must,” he said. “Every client I have, I can show them it’s a no-brainer to add solar modules to be able generate power because it’s also a risk mitigating system.

“As we decarbonize our grid, we will need any amount of electricity that’s green fed into our grid. Installing renewables now in a new building or a retrofit is far cheaper than ripping out what you put in 10 years from now to put in solar.”

“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?”

Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed

Redmond agrees pointing out that adverse health effects from excessive heat and poor air quality can have far-reaching economic implications.

“If someone works in an office building and they’re having trouble breathing, that affects the business of that building,” he said. “Air quality is going to become a business necessity.”

Kaba notes the plan to develop a central park out of four vacant parking lots downtown is a good start for offsetting both pollution and the concrete jungle heat. The next step is finding ways to establish more indoor green spaces, since winter is still going to be with us for a long time.

“Plants are a natural pollutant scrubber. The challenge in our climate is we can’t incorporate greenery into the façade of our buildings because in the winter they will freeze and die,” he said, adding that exception did not include green roofs. “You can create a green roof out of grasses and other things that survive the winter, absorb water and reduce heat.”

Another hurdle is regulatory. To pave the way for green roofs on top more efficient structures and more renewables built into them requires legal definitions, which are the purview of the provincial and federal governments.

For its part, Ottawa has been busy. Changes to the National Building Code are expected to roll out in 2020 by standardizing durability guidelines to reflect climate change trends.

Kaba maintains it makes sense for Edmonton’s downtown be ahead of the green wave and said the construction industry should lead the way.

“Buildings contribute almost a third to the energy we consume as a society and 40 per cent of our landfills are construction waste,” he said. “As an architect, I need to design something and show people how to build it without that much waste.”

“We have better ideas. Now we just have to start using them.”

There’s an app for that

Homeowners hoping to keep the smoke out will soon have a new tool at their disposal. Kaba has just finished a project with All Sky One Foundation to be officially launched in September. The Climate Resilient Virtual home will allow people to see how their home stacks up in terms of both energy efficiency and its capacity to withstand a changing climate in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

“We have a website that will ask what kind of environment you are in, if it’s a new or old home, and what kind of climate issues you are concerned about,” he said. “Then it will give you a model with all the things you should think about for your house in terms of structure, roofing, walls, landscape design… Everything down to making sure you anchor things in your yard, otherwise a high wind could blow it away.

“It’s giving people the tools and ideas to start thinking big picture.”

Health Care in the Core

There are many avenues to access health care in central Edmonton, the key is deciding what’s right for you.

Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network. PCNs have an online tool to help in finding a family doctor – Alberta Find A Doctor. You can also call Healthlink at 811 if that tool doesn’t work for you. There were more than a dozen physicians accepting new patients in July this year.

Healthlink also offers nurse advice and general health information which can be accessed by calling 811. This option is often criticized because of a perception that the go-to response is to tell the caller to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.

There are also two emergency wards nearby, at Royal Alexandra and University hospitals. These are the places to go when facing life-threatening emergencies. AHS provides a handy tool listing emergency ward wait times here. Click on the Edmonton tab for local waits.

The Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network offers a list of family physicians in the Oliver vicinity who are accepting people into care including those practising at the Allin Clinic at 10155 – 120 Street, West Oliver Medical Centre at 10538 – 124 Street, and Generations Family Physicians at 12220 Stony Plain Road.

They also offer some excellent health prevention services including a series of free nutrition classes including Healthy Meal Planning and Cooking For One. Their fitness support includes a free weekly exercise program offering 90 minute river valley walk accompanied by a family physician and a kinesiologist, and you can request a Prescription to Get Active which is a one-month fitness pass to GoodLife Fitness in the Brewery District, the MacEwan University Sport and Wellness Centre, or the Don Wheaton YMCA.


Medical clinics and medicentres are an option for those without a family doctor. There are several in Oliver along Jasper Avenue, and there is one downtown. These clinics accept walk-ins but don’t do medical emergencies. The first thing their recorded messages tells callers is to phone 911 if the call is an emergency. Downtown east of 109 Street has been known as a bit of a health desert but there are a few new options that have opened up in recent years – notably the innovative SAGE seniors centre. SAGE, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton at 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square, offers comprehensive health services, mostly provided by nurse practitioners, who can do much of what doctors do. SAGE medical office assistant Shay Brooks says they can do wound care, foot care, and much more. They can also do home visits in the central area from Westmount to Gretzky Drive. And their care is not strictly limited to seniors, anyone over 50 is welcome. There is also a bus program available.

Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network.

On the east and north edges of downtown, there is the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street and a number of clinics north of downtown along 107 Avenue, including those which provide services in languages other than English including Arabic.

MacEwan University students at the downtown campus can avail themselves of a collaboration with the Faculty of Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The MacEwan University Medical Centre is touted as a clinical teaching space that trains doctors, medical students and residents, as well as nurses and medical assistants. Students are assigned a family doctor on first visit staff try to book subsequent visits with this physician. Trainees are supervised by this doctor. And there are mental health professionals on site.

Prenatal Care is available by referral at the Mom Care Docs Low Risk Obstetrics Clinic at the Allin Clinic. A shortage of midwives means midwifery care is hard-to-come-by in Edmonton, and it’s even harder to come by in the core as all of the midwifery clinics have moved to the ‘burbs, but you can fill out a request for care at the central intake registry at Alberta Midwives. And if you know one of the approximately 100 pregnant women in Edmonton experiencing homelessness, you can connect her to the Pregnancy Pathways Program at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, 780-249-7002. Newcomers needing culturally responsive perinatal care and referrals can contact the Multicultural Health Brokers at 9538 – 107 Avenue, 780-423-1973.

If you think you may have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, there’s a clinic for that, at 11111 Jasper Avenue open during office hours. You can also call 811. There is a separate STI clinic for gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men with drop-ins Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 11745 Jasper Avenue (Bath House; Entrance in back alley, downstairs; Outreach Office in the Steamworks Building). The STI clinics do not offer birth control services but teens and young adults experiencing barriers to sexual health and birth control services can access free birth control and other care at the Birth Control Centre at 405 North Tower, 10030 107 Street, 780-735-0010. Sexual health and wellness services including education for community groups around sexual health, healthy sexual relationships, and consent; support for individuals around sexual health, STIs, pregnancy testing, and reproductive rights; and multicultural community outreach are available at the YWCA at #400, 10080 Jasper Ave, 780-429-3342. YWCA of Edmonton

Mental Health information is available from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Their downtown office is at 10010 105 St NW #300. There is 24-hour help available at 780-482-HELP (4357).

After seeing a physician or nurse practitioner laboratory services are often called for. Dynalife has locations downtown at 250,10405 Jasper Avenue – and in Oliver, 11936 104 Ave. There is also a lab located at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street.

If you need urgent care but aren’t able to get into a medicentre and aren’t sure you need the ER, you may want to contact a prescribing pharmacist. They can renew, adapt or modify prescriptions, and can provide prescriptions in an emergency. Oliver Place, Standard Life and Jasper/117 Shoppers and Rexall Ice District and Jasper 118 all offer the service. Hours vary, but the late-night pharmacy on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street is open until midnight.

Downtown / Oliver and area Walk-in Clinics

medimap.ca

Downtown Medicentre
medicentres.com
11807 Jasper Ave
780-488-1222
Mon: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tue – Sat: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun: Closed

Edmonton Medical Clinic
edmontonclinics.ca
11722 Jasper Ave
780-488-4242
Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat – Sun: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Jasper Avenue Medical Clinic
jasperavemedicalclinic.com
Same-day appointments, walk-ins welcome
11464 Jasper Ave
780-756-9212
Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Medicine Place Walk-in Clinic & Pharmacy
medicineplace.ca
10660 – 105 St
780-784-0475
Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. 6 p.m.
Sat – Sun: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Oliver Medical Clinic & Pharmacy
11423 104 Ave
780-761-0010
Mon – Fri: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sun: Closed

West Oliver Medical Clinic
10538 124 St
780-756-3090
Mon: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tues, Thur, Fri: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wed: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Sun: Closed