Keith Gerein: When words fail, numbers may best tell Edmonton’s story of 2021

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Among the countless changes the pandemic has wrought, one of the most unexpected for me is in how I keep track of life. Whether it’s a coping mechanism or merely boredom, I have found myself more often keeping counts in my head to make sense of things.


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On both a societal and personal level, numbers have become a more integral part of the daily experience — case counts, days working from home, pounds gained, occupancy limits, time until the next vaccine, et cetera.

As such, numbers may also be a useful way to look back on the past 12 months. Join me as I use a calculator to describe the trends, experiences and events that defined the story of Edmonton in 2021.

City hall

28: Years served in the military by the new city manager Andre Corbould.

14: Recommendations for policing reform made by the city’s Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force.

7-4: Council vote in June to sanction Coun. Mike Nickel for code of conduct violations. The motion failed, as nine votes were needed.


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40 km/h: New speed limit for most residential and collector roads.

14: Years served on city council by Don Iveson before he left office in October.


27: Age of Blake Desjarlais, the NDP candidate who won the federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach.

Three: Candidates who received more than 14,000 votes in Edmonton Centre, narrowly won by Liberal candidate Randy Boissonnault.

Six: Catholic school trustee candidates who won by acclamation.

Eight: Women elected to council, the most ever.

Four: Incumbent councillors who lost their seats, the most since 1995.

Five: Councillors elected who are parents to small children.

52: Percentage of Edmonton voters who voted “no” on the provincial referendum to remove equalization from the Constitution.


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Pandemic politics

35: Days in jail spent by GraceLife Church Pastor James Coates for refusing to agree to public health rules.

400: Approximate number of protesters who gathered outside GraceLife Church after it was fenced off by health authorities.

7-6: Council vote in June to discontinue the city’s mask mandate.

8-3: Council vote to reinstate the mask mandate in late August.

100: Approximate crowd size of anti-restriction protesters outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in early September.

3,500: Alberta health professionals who signed an open letter objecting to the requirement to be fully immunized.

Public health

378: Deaths in Edmonton from drug poisoning between January and August.

142,000: Vaccine bookings that were recorded on May 6, the first day those born between 1982 and 1991 could reserve time slots.


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266: COVID patients in ICU on Sept. 28, the highest number during the year.

394,000: Doses of COVID-19 vaccine for kids Alberta received as a first shipment from Pfizer.

Nov. 30: Date Alberta announced its first case of the Omicron variant.

185: Days in 2021 in which the Edmonton Journal’s front page had a story related to COVID.


Three: Years Hawrelak Park is expected to be closed for rehabilitation.

250,000: Single-family households that received new city compost and garbage bins this year.

$68.8 million: Money the city requested from Ottawa to build 480 units of supportive housing. The application was rejected because the city didn’t have provincial support.

4.5 kilometres: Length of extension to Ellerslie Road planned for the Capital Line LRT, which received federal funding this year.


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18: Months behind schedule for the Southeast Valley Line LRT, now set to open summer 2022.

Five: Years there was no connection between Riverdale and Cloverdale, until the path on the Tawatinâ Bridge was opened Dec. 12.


11.9 per cent: Unemployment rate in Edmonton in February, second-highest in the country.

7.6 per cent: Unemployment rate in Edmonton in November.

18.1 per cent: Youth unemployment rate in Alberta in June.

$1.3 billion: Estimated value of a blue hydrogen project announced for Edmonton, expected to be running in 2024.

21 per cent: Office vacancy rate in Edmonton through much of 2021.

240: Units planned for the Falcon Tower, the first downtown highrise to begin construction since the start of the pandemic.


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Fun and festivals

47: Designated picnic sites in river valley parks where Edmontonians were allowed to consume alcohol.

38,761: Responses Edmonton’s CFL team received from the public on potential name changes.

1879: Year of creation of Northlands, which began winding up operations this year.

149: Sold-out performances at this year’s slimmed-down Fringe Festival.

93,018: Fans who attended two Canada men’s national soccer team games at Commonwealth Stadium.

Two: Consecutive CEBL championships won by the Edmonton Stingers.

Crime and tragedy

17: Age of Jennifer Winkler, who was stabbed to death at a Leduc high school in March.

12.5 years: Length of prison sentence handed to Bradley Barton for the death of Cindy Gladue.


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Nine: Alleged hate attacks reported to police in a span of six months, most against Muslim women.

114: Age of the St. Jean Baptiste Parish Church in Morinville destroyed in an arson fire in July.

One: Death, along with six injuries, during a late-night shooting at the Duggan Community Hall in August.

Social issues

$1,200: Approximate cost to remove red paint splashed on a statue of Emily Murphy.

$8 million: Provincial funding offered Indigenous communities to research unmarked burial sites.

2,800: Estimated number of homeless Edmontonians this fall, more than double pre-pandemic levels

200: Beds created at Commonwealth Stadium to make up for a shortage of shelter spaces.

Facing the elements

-54 C: Temperature, with wind chill, at times during the world’s longest hockey game in February.

-31 C: Temperature, with wind chill, on the February day when homeless people sheltering in an LRT station were ordered out by police.

72: City spray parks that were well used during a heat wave in late June and early July.

35.2 C: Temperature reached on July 1, setting up a month that was the second-hottest July on record.

Eight: Number reached on Edmonton’s air quality index on July 15 due to wildfire smoke.


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