The Pulse: June 9, 2021

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

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  • 18°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Becoming cloudy in the afternoon with 60% chance of showers late in the afternoon. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning. High 18. (forecast)
  • June 9-11: Alberta Health Services is offering drop-in first-dose COVID-19 vaccines at the Edmonton Expo Centre from June 9-11. (details)
  • 6,000: A weekly pizza party at Boyle Street Community Services funded by the Las Vegas Golden Knights and a very generous superfan in Reno, Nev. has handed out 6,000 slices to the city's most vulnerable. (details)

City of Edmonton commits almost $10M to help airport attract flights

City of Edmonton commits almost $10M to help airport attract flights

By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring in the Regional Roundup

The City of Edmonton and Edmonton Global are partnering to establish a $15 million air services opportunity fund to support the Edmonton International Airport (EIA), which has been struggling to maintain flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With borders closed and routes cancelled from these closures, as well as airline consolidation of assets ... the Edmonton International Airport faces significant challenges in delivering on its economic development purpose," said deputy city manager Stephanie McCabe in a city council meeting on June 7.

Council voted 11-2 to contribute $9.88 million to the fund over the next three years, with councillors Mike Nickel and Jon Dziadyk voting against the motion. EIA will seek the remaining $5.12 million from other municipalities in the region.

Mayor Don Iveson said supporting international connectivity through the airport is crucial to the Edmonton region's economic development.

"This is the ballgame," he said, "for the business community, for trade, for tourism, for investment attraction, for talent retention. If we do not protect the airport's competitiveness, air service in the aftermath of (COVID-19) will consolidate in Calgary."

During its annual public meeting last month, EIA said passenger demand fell by 68% in 2020 compared to the previous year and that it recorded a net loss of $89.3 million.

Despite the decline in passengers, the airport has been advancing other business ventures. Most recently, EIA announced it would be launching a food manufacturing facility in partnership with Edmonton-based Uproot Food Collective. The facility will be established using a $550,000 investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada, a federal government department.

"EIA is Canada's innovation airport," said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global, in a press release. "This is one more example of their creative approach to the economic impact an airport can have on a community."

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By Michelle Ferguson Michelle Ferguson

  • The mural depicting a residential school at the Government Centre LRT station has been covered with orange panelling in the spirit of reconciliation. On Monday, council voted unanimously to cover the mural and remove references to Bishop Vital Grandin, a proponent of the residential school system, from city property.
  • Edmonton's Muslim population is reeling from a violent, racially-motivated attack that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont. this weekend. Edmonton has seen a string of hate crimes targeted at Muslims in the past six months. On Tuesday, the province committed to boosting police focus on hate crimes across Alberta.
  • The city will begin piloting its new smart fare system on city and regional transit this summer. Anyone interested in participating in the pilot program can sign up on the city's website.
  • Edmonton may keep its mask bylaw in place until at least 70% of the city's population is fully vaccinated. Last week, a group of Edmonton doctors sent a letter to Mayor Don Iveson expressing concerns over the pacing of the provincial reopening plan.
  • The roughly 1,000 workers that were temporarily laid off by the City of Edmonton due to the pandemic will return to work during Stage 2 of the provincial reopening plan.
  • NAIT plans to reopen campus to in-class learning this fall. Programs offered entirely online will drop to 14% from 31% in winter 2021, as the polytechnic introduces more blended options.
  • Two Edmonton festivals have announced plans for outdoor concerts this summer. Trixstar's Together Again Outdoor Concert Series will offer physically-distanced concerts at Northlands Park, while Folk Fest will offer a series of small concerts in local neighbourhoods.
  • The province is considering moving up the timeline for second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, as demand for first doses continues to slow, reports the Edmonton Journal.
Kemet to build 'modular' manufacturing facilities to resolve global drug shortages, advance health equity

Kemet to build 'modular' manufacturing facilities to resolve global drug shortages, advance health equity

By Hiba Kamal-Choufi Hiba Kamal-Choufi in the Health Innovation Roundup

Kemet Advanced Manufacturing is tackling medical shortages in Canada and globally with a new innovative approach. The Edmonton-based company aims to build modular, portable, and digitally connected manufacturing facilities that can produce essential drugs based on the market's needs.

"We need smaller facilities that are interconnected," said Kemet founder and CEO Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan. "Prefabricated drug manufacturing facilities can be transported to any part of the world experiencing shortages. The way they would actually function is that they're hyperlocal but globally interconnected via a digital platform."

Kemet was founded in 2016 and is currently operating out of a pilot facility at the Edmonton Research Park. Ọláòṣebìkan said she is prototyping software to gather information about drug shortages and is also working with regulatory specialists to see if her concepts are feasible.

"In this pilot facility, we're going to test out some of our ideas around making drugs," Ọláòṣebìkan told Taproot. "The plan is to explore and develop our proof of concept around cleanrooms, fulfill drug shortages and get establishment licenses from Health Canada." A cleanroom is a space with a controlled environment required for drug manufacturing, she explained.

Ọláòṣebìkan, a registered clinical pharmacist, said getting those licenses from Health Canada could take up to a year. Kemet is also exploring drug shortages and demand within the Canadian market.

According to Health Canada, there is a shortage of 10 to 15% of drugs at any given time and almost half of all marketed drugs in Canada have faced a shortage at least once.

"We're going to supply the Canadian drug shortage market as well, and then with a proven model, proven facility, and proven processes, we'll transfer that knowledge to Africa," Ọláòṣebìkan told Taproot.

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Explore Edmonton releases Tourism Master Plan

Explore Edmonton releases Tourism Master Plan

By Andy Trussler Andy Trussler

Explore Edmonton has published the city's first integrated Tourism Master Plan. The almost 30-page document outlines "tourist experiences that match visitor expectations and position Edmonton as a year-round destination of choice."

Last fall, Explore Edmonton put together a steering committee with partners from across the tourism industry "to assist in the prioritization of efforts and investments to address the triple bottom line." That includes economic growth, the needs of visitors and residents, and the planet — striving to develop tourism experiences that are responsible, sustainable, and regenerative.

What's in the plan:

  • The committee developed seven strategic goals with concrete recommendations for each. The goals are:

    • Strengthen awareness and perception of the Edmonton place brand.
    • Support the development, enhancement and stewardship of year-round visitor experiences.
    • Activate the river valley to create a more vibrant destination and gathering place.
    • Create a dynamic, well-designed and accessible urban experience.
    • Improve access, mobility and connectivity.
    • Utilize a holistic, innovative and personalized approach to visitor servicing.
    • Expand tourism investment and regional collaboration.
  • Some of the recommendations linked to the goals include a continuous trail system in the River Valley, new street transformation policies to improve safety and accessibility, and inviting more festivals and events to the city.

  • Explore Edmonton said its overall vision for the city is for it to be "a vibrant urban centre serving up the perfect blend of big city vibes and exhilarating outdoor adventure" by 2030.

  • The plan was published following the April release of the City of Edmonton's Economic Action Plan. "Each complements the other and reinforces the roles that both tourism and economic development have a role to play in creating a more vibrant, prosperous and resilient Edmonton," said Maggie Davison, interim CEO of Explore Edmonton.

How was it developed:

  • COVID-19 debilitated Edmonton's "visitor economy" in 2020. There were more than six million visitors to the city from around the globe in 2019, according to Explore Edmonton.
    • Tourism Economics produced a 10-year forecast for visits to the city. Edmonton's economy is predicted to see "nearly 40% growth over 2019 visitation levels" despite COVID-19's impact on business. Visitor spending levels "are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2026."
  • Tourism consultation firm MMGY Nextfactor hosted focus groups, assessments, one-on-one interviews, and online surveys. Information was gathered from key stakeholders and residents of the Edmonton metro area.

What's next:

  • While implementing the plan's strategic recommendations over the next decade, Explore Edmonton said it will also offer residents and businesses assistance through collaborative initiatives and projects.
  • Any strategic initiatives resulting from the plan will be "incorporated into Explore Edmonton's annual business plans" to ensure "the work plan becomes a natural part of the organization's values and operations, not a one-time activity."

Photo: Mack Male/Flickr

Strathcona County councillor adds regional representation to FCM board

Strathcona County councillor adds regional representation to FCM board

By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring

Strathcona County councillor Katie Berghofer was elected as an urban representative to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' (FCM) board of directors during the organization's annual conference on June 2.

Berghofer is now one of two officials in the Edmonton region to sit on the board, alongside Coun. Bev Esslinger of Edmonton. She told Taproot that with help from Coun. Taneen Rudyk of Vegreville, who was elected FCM's first vice-president, the two will be able to bring attention to the Edmonton region.

"The fact that we're all within 40 minutes of each other to get together as board members and have discussions, we can really bring our region's issues to a national level," Berghofer said. "That's going to be really important going forward."

Berghofer was elected to Strathcona County council in 2017, and started getting involved with the FCM in 2019 following conversations with what she described as an informal support group for women in local leadership, consisting primarily of officials in the Edmonton area.

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