The Pulse: June 1, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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Essentials

  • 28°C: Mainly sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h near noon. High 28. (forecast)
  • 40%: COVID-19 cases have dropped 40% over the past week. (details)
  • B.1.617: The province is once again testing all positive COVID-19 cases for variants, due to mounting concerns over the B.1.617 variant, first identified in India. (details)

A work-in-progress map of Edmonton's startup ecosystem by the A100.

Innovate Edmonton and Urban Living Futures team up to map the city's innovation ecosystem


By Emily Rendell-Watson Emily Rendell-Watson in the Tech Roundup

Innovate Edmonton and Urban Living Futures are joining forces to work on a database platform and map of Edmonton's innovation ecosystem, which will aim to help local companies connect with customers and investors.

The Edmonton Great Innovations portal, EDGI, "will provide innovation ecosystem members with personalized dashboards to maintain their organization's profile, view emerging commercial and funding opportunities, and log their progress and achievements," a press release explained.

"Mapping the innovation ecosystem allows us to better see who is working on what solutions, which solutions target global mega-trends and global challenges, what the needs of the ecosystem may be, and to see what funding opportunities might exist - creating connections for innovators, investors and potential strategic partners," Innovate Edmonton CEO Catherine Warren told Taproot.

While there have been other attempts to map the ecosystem, like A100's recent initiative to generate a graphic of Edmonton companies or Start Alberta's mapping initiative, Warren explained that this current project is crucial to moving forward.

"Technology to map the system has evolved, we have willing and able partners to help us make it happen, and it is critical for us to get current data collated and out to the world," she said.

"There are companies and groups doing impressive, ground-breaking innovation work in our community and we don't want to miss any of them - we want to build the best mapping system we can to show off our community's innovators - big, small, tech, and other."

Warren also said she believes that initiatives like the Start Alberta project and EDGI are complementary.

"Where the Start Alberta project is primarily tech-focused, and links Alberta-wide ecosystem partners, the EDGI platform is specifically Edmonton-focused, but more broadly defined beyond tech to innovation of all stripes, and incorporates more than scaleup and startup community members that may be innovating," said Warren, pointing to emerging and established innovators, investors, and those who support the ecosystem through programs.

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Headlines


By Michelle Ferguson Michelle Ferguson

  • The city's independent naming committee is working to create a renaming process, after calls to remove the namesakes of residential school supporter and advocate Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin were renewed this week. The report is expected to go to council Aug. 24, reports the Edmonton Journal.
  • Canada's big city mayors are pushing the federal government for a timeline on ending chronic homelessness. They also want to see additional Indigenous housing supports. "There would be no time like the present as a gesture of reconciliation to lay out a very clear timeline involving Indigenous organizations in providing adequate housing to end chronic homelessness in this country," said Mayor Don Iveson.
  • The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board is finalizing an agricultural master plan aimed at conserving some of the province's highest quality farmlands, reports the CBC. The final public engagement sessions will be held in early June.
  • The city's spray parks will reopen starting today and city golf courses will allow non-cohort play, as the province moves into Stage 1 of the reopening plan. Many city-run facilities remain closed until Stage 2, the city said in a press release.
  • The city is becoming a North American leader in progressive urban design and city building, according to an analysis by the Winnipeg Free Press.
  • Cheryl Whiskeyjack, the executive director of Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta on Monday. She was recognized for "bridging relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples in the spirit of reconciliation."
  • The province announced it will fund a program to uncover undocumented burial sites at former residential schools. Details of the funding will be announced in the coming days.
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Rocky Mountain Icehouse patio

Outdoor dining returns in first stage of Alberta's summer reopening plan


By Sharon Yeo Sharon Yeo in the Food Roundup

The first stage of Alberta's "Open for Summer Plan" starts June 1, enabling outdoor dining to resume with a maximum of four people per table, made up of one household or two close contacts for those living alone.

Stage 2 is projected to come into effect as early as June 10 and would permit indoor dining along with a maximum of six people per table.

Many restaurants have embraced the return to in-person dining, and have been preparing patio spaces to welcome the return of patrons. According to the City of Edmonton, 125 requests for temporary patios or outdoor retail spaces have been approved and installed as of May 27 with another 19 in process.

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Chart of the week: Record-high lumber prices

Chart of the week: Record-high lumber prices


By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the price of a 2x4 in Canada has more than doubled.

This chart shows the change in softwood lumber prices since December 2019, using data from Statistics Canada's industrial product price index. The index shows prices relative to January 2020, which represents 100 on the chart. In April, the latest month available from Statistics Canada, lumber prices reached 263.4 on the index, indicating a 163.4% increase since January 2020.

A lumber shortage caused by pandemic-related disruptions to supply chains has been the reason most often credited with the drastic price increase.

Madison's Lumber Reporter, an industry newsletter, said lumber prices have continued to rise throughout May as well, reaching a record-setting US$1,600 per 1,000 feet.

Paul Jannke, principal of Forest Economic Advisors, said that Canadian lumber prices are going to remain high through the rest of the year.

"If you're going to build a deck this summer you will be paying three times more for your lumber than you would have two years ago," he told CTV News in April.

Rising lumber prices are in turn increasing the cost of building a new home. The chart also shows home construction costs in the Edmonton and Calgary metropolitan areas relative to 2017, using quarterly data from Statistics Canada's building price construction index. Between Q2 2020 when lumber prices began to take off and Q1 of 2021, the cost of constructing residential buildings in the Edmonton area has increased 13.3%, while in the Calgary area it increased 17.1%, the highest of any metropolitan area in the country.

While construction costs are influenced by many factors, such as permit fees and workers' wages, lumber prices appear to be driving much of the construction cost increases over the past few months. Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders' Association, said that rising lumber prices alone raised construction costs nationwide by tens of thousands of dollars, and a survey conducted by the organization concluded they have led to an increase in the average price of a new home by $20,000.

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Conversations: Innovate Edmonton's Catherine Warren

Conversations: Innovate Edmonton's Catherine Warren


By Emily Rendell-Watson Emily Rendell-Watson

The latest episode from Taproot Edmonton's Conversations features the new CEO of Innovate Edmonton, Catherine Warren.

Since Warren took the helm last December, she's been working to establish the organization as a leading voice for the local innovation community, and on a broader scale position Edmonton as a preeminent innovation city that can tackle global challenges.

Note, this interview was recorded in mid-April and the story that followed it can be read here.

Listen to audio