2009 filled with unexpected changes - Metro US

2009 filled with unexpected changes

Stranger-than-fiction tales of a provincial deficit, the mass vaccination of almost a million people and a tug of war over a 9,000-pound elephant are real-life stories that gripped Edmonton and blanketed the pages of Metro in 2009.

By spring, municipal, provincial and federal politicians jumped on the virtual bandwagon known as Twitter. Local Twitter expert Mack Make says over two million tweets were posted by Edmontonians who flocked to the site in 2009, sharing thoughts and links on the city in 140 characters or less.

May brought an economic red zone never before seen in the lifetime of some Albertans — the first-ever provincial deficit in 16 years.

“The deficit should be a reminder not only to the government but to Albertans of what happens when you drive up your spending by 11 per cent a year while relying on one-time oil and gas revenues to pay the bills,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman Scott Hennig told Metro.

Despite cries from protesters, parents and educators, controversial legislation Bill 44 passed in June, which will mute classroom talks on sex, sexual orientation and religion.

The current climax in the battle for Lucy the elephant peaked in September, when TV icon Bob Barker and a team of animal experts arrived in Edmonton with hopes to move her from the Valley Zoo, to no avail.

The same month brought news a Strathcona County group home would be closing its doors, after two 14-year-old boys escaped the facility in late May and were later charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Barry Boenke, 68, and Susan Trudel, 50.

A man allegedly frustrated with the provincial workers’ compensation system stormed the WCB building in mid-October, taking employees hostage for hours before eventually surrendering.

“I think it made people realize how vulnerable they actually are,” Calgary-based hostage negotiations expert Daniel Clayton said.

In November, a Sylvan Lake-born journalist was freed from 15 months in captivity after she was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia. Amanda Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan were freed from their captors after a ransom was paid by their families.

“Through the media, we hear about kidnappings in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis, but when the story is closer to home, as with Amanda Lindhout, people then start to pay attention,” Clayton added.

Mid-April deaths in Mexico and the announcement of an impending Canadian pandemic were the beginnings of the largest mass vaccination in provincial history. By December 1, 850,000 Albertans had been vaccinated for H1N1.

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