Edmonton Should Pass An Omnibus Climate Change Bylaw


The city does not support building more than one house per property. Next to an LRT line. In the middle of the city. In a climate emergency.

I spent the weekend attending a workshop about the city’s latest bike plan and browsing Twitter about Edmonton-based issues. You know, as normal people do. And two things happened that crystallized the state of the city and its administration in my mind.

Bike Plan Consultation (Boo!)

First the bike plan. The consultation was predictably disappointing. The plan presented to us had these very light dotted lines that represented bike “areas” (These are NOT proposed routes, they made sure to emphasize.) Other, solid lines on the map were supposed to be “existing routes”. When a few of us at my table pointed out that, in fact, a bunch of the solid lines are complete bullshit routes that are in no way acceptable, we were quickly hushed. It’s not time to get so specific, children. There will be some other time for that. We won’t tell you when that time is.

Furthermore, there was casual disinformation about bike share in Edmonton. Bike share “was tried in the early 2000s but was shown to be unsustainable” (paraphrase). Uh, what? In the early 2000s, Bike Edmonton made a heroic effort to create a low-tech bike share system entirely on their own dime. They cobbled together 30 bikes, stripped them of the valuable parts, painted them red, and then set up a few racks at which members could extract a bike key from a combination lock box. These “People’s Pedal” bikes were all stolen within a few months. Edmonton has absolutely not tried what is commonly known as bike share, the kind they have in most other cities in North America. If we had tried real bike share, it would have been a success, just like it has been in virtually every jurisdiction in the world.

The bike plan is being developed, yes, but it’s all very casual. And the city clearly does not want to increase bike riders with bike share.

Zoning Fail (Ugh!)

The second thing that happened is that the city tweeted out a bunch of rezoning applications that are headed to council this week. Two of them are to rezone properties from single-family to row houses. And administration indicated that it is against the rezonings! After all, they would add density in the middle of the city and increase the tax base without increasing servicing costs.

Here’s an example of a modern row house by the way:

Calgary row house

The horror of Calgary row houses, laid bare. (picture credit Tim Querengesser)

The bylaw that makes row houses illegal in most of Edmonton is based on a 1960s and 1970s (racist) view of the world, one in which people with less money were to be kept out of “good” neighbourhoods. It is completely at odds with a vision of urbanism that is attractive, healthy for its residents, and energy-efficient.

In one weekend I saw two discouraging examples of complacency at the city. Just plain old lethargy. There’s no hurry, there’s no rush, there’s no sense of emergency.

4,000 people marched in Edmonton’s streets in September. Then 10,000 came out in October. There is a climate emergency and the kids are rising up. Many of us oldies are too. But the city is completely aimless and insulated. When city managers saw the demonstrations they somehow didn’t think it applied to them.

Something needs to be done. And it will be Climate Action Edmonton’s first big move.

A Climate Change Omnibus Bylaw For Edmonton

The climate movement has exploded unto the Edmonton scene over the past year, and while the energy has been intense, the political ask at the local level has been modest. To my knowledge, the only concrete ask that the climate movement has made of city council was for it to declare a climate emergency in August of 2019. And sure enough, administration is strutting around as if everything is normal and okay.

om·ni·bus, adjective

comprising several items.
“Congress passed an omnibus anticrime package”

An omnibus law is a collection of laws (or bylaws in the city’s case) that is passed in one fell swoop, solving multiple problems at once.* Edmonton city council should pass an omnibus climate change bylaw in fall 2020. It would address the (relatively) quick, easy wins that can start to bend our emissions curve downward. As you may remember, Edmonton emits 55,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per FUCKING DAY, AND IT’S AN EMERGENCY.

The 2020 Climate Change Omnibus Bylaw would take quick action, and it would set the stage for a massive push in 2022, when the next capital budget is passed by city council.

Climate Action Edmonton will hold a series of events in early 2020. People from around the city will be invited, including the Beaver Hills Warriors, Extinction Rebellion Edmonton, and Climate Justice Edmonton. Together, I hope that we’ll design Edmonton’s 2020 Climate Change Omnibus Bylaw.

Then we’ll ask Edmonton City Council to pass it.

*This is the optimistic take. In my lifetime, omnibus bills have been used by right-wing governments to hide bad things that they’re doing.