The Pulse: Sept. 7, 2021

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

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  • 23°C: Sunny. High 23. (forecast)
  • 32-20: The Elks won the first Labour Day Classic in a decade, beating the Stampeders 32-20 on Monday. (details)
  • 300: New modelling from the province shows that ICU cases could hit 300 by the end of September. (details)
  • 75%: Over 75% of Albertans would support vaccine passports, a new national survey suggests. (details)

The faces of Edmonton's 10 mayoral candidates

How Edmonton's mayoral candidates plan to tackle tech and innovation

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Tech Roundup

The municipal election is just over a month away, and some of Edmonton's mayoral candidates have released specific visions for the city's tech innovation sector, while others have pointed more broadly to plans to stimulate the local economy.

Here's a look at what's in those platforms and policies:

Amarjeet Sohi: Sohi promises to "build strong partnerships with the business community and other levels of government to attract investment and help our businesses grow and succeed." One of the ways he plans to do this is by establishing an innovation fund that would facilitate the expansion of local businesses, as well as attracting jobs and investment from companies looking to establish in Edmonton. It would be similar to initiatives like the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, and funding would be "tied to companies achieving key milestones, such as expansion/creation of new facilities, and new job creation."

Sohi would also establish a business advocate office — "a one-stop shop for small and medium enterprises to turn to for resources and guidance, a place that offers a streamlined process to encourage growth and development" as well as reduce the wait times for businesses that need permits.

Cheryll Watson: Watson says she would "create a municipal environment committed to ensuring we are competitive with a focus on accelerating opportunity by prioritizing impactful partnerships." One of the primary ways she would do this is by building a formal economic corridor partnership between Edmonton and Calgary. Some of that would involve supporting the work of Innovate Edmonton, Platform Calgary, the Edmonton Regional Innovation Network and the Calgary Innovation Coalition.

Watson also mentions the technology sector in her plans to designate 109 Street to 97 Street and 104 Avenue to 100 Avenue as Edmonton's central business neighbourhood, working with partners to provide high-speed internet throughout the area and designating downtown as a new tech and innovation test area. Watson says her overall plan for downtown would be a success if the "engaged technology and innovation community feels the value of the community connections and collisions, which result in new ideas and partnerships."

Kim Krushell: Krushell's platform points to her experience a tech entrepreneur. She says she would work to attract major tech competitions and esports events to Edmonton; develop a technology strategy with provincial partners that would involve advocating for industry incentives; and further capitalize on the city's post-secondary institutions "to build a learning city."

As mayor, she would also play a role in connecting tech companies with investors by "promoting, championing, and curating activity ongoing in the area to improve accessibility for both investors and tech companies."

Michael Oshry: Oshry says that "Edmonton is a city of entrepreneurs and innovators" that needs to be focused on winning, attracting investment, and helping entrepreneurs "get to yes." He would speed up the permit and business licence process, provide one-on-one support for small and medium-sized enterprises through an open window program, plus offer a large investor concierge service to allow the city to connect directly with potential investors. Oshry also promises to create "an economic plan that supports people working to seize economic opportunities, like the hydrogen economy and building a vibrant tech sector."

Mike Nickel: Nickel hasn't released any specific plans for the city's tech sector to date, but his platform indicates that he wants to "create the most fair and affordable place to do business anywhere in North America." He wants to end the "aggressive taxation of businesses" and "restore economic confidence." Nickel also promises to create a more efficient permit process for businesses.

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By Michelle Ferguson

A render of the proposed Horne & Pitfield redevelopment on 104 Street

Coming up at council: Sept. 7-10, 2021

By Mack Male

City council's final meetings before the municipal election will take place this week. The inaugural meeting of the new city council will take place in the afternoon on Tuesday, Oct. 26 following a swearing in ceremony.

Here are some of the items city council will consider this week:

  • The city's latest financial update shows that as of June 30 administration is projecting a year-end surplus of $18.7 million. The report suggests that transit revenue is not expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
  • Administration proposes approving a contract extension with Cubic Transportation Systems which provides the ticket vending machines at LRT stations. The current contract expires in December 2021. The machines are slated to be replaced next year by the smart fare system.
  • The emergency advisory committee will receive a COVID-19 update on Wednesday morning.
  • A rezoning application proposes to preserve and restore the historic Hangar 11 building as part of a mixed-use development that would have 260 units of student housing as well as commercial retail space.
  • Edgar Development has proposed changes to its Clifton Place development in Westmount, including the removal of a podium and ground-level rowhouse-style units.
  • If the rezoning application is approved, the Horne & Pitfield Building on 104 Street at 103 Avenue, described as "one of the more impressive and historically-significant remaining warehouse structures in the downtown," would be incorporated into the podium of a new mixed-use high rise development with a maximum height of 40-45 storeys.
  • Amendments to the Council Committees Bylaw (clarifications and housekeeping) and the Council Procedures Bylaw (related to remove participation) will be considered.

Meetings are streamed live on city council's YouTube channel.

Photo: The proposed Horne & Pitfield Building development on 104 Street at 103 Avenue would have a height of 40-45 storeys. The historic warehouse was built in 1911. (Supplied)

The Tomato's 25th anniversary cover

The Tomato turns 25

By Sharon Yeo in the Food Roundup

The Tomato, Edmonton's longest-standing food publication, celebrates a milestone this month as it reaches twenty-five years in business. The first issue debuted in September/October 1996.

Founder and editor Mary Bailey remembers those early days, driven by a perspective gained from inside the food scene itself.

"When I started, I was from hospitality and in the wine business and knew nothing about publishing magazine," said Bailey. "I really liked City Palate in Calgary and thought, 'We need to have one of those in Edmonton.'"

At that time, City Palate was a publication focused on Calgary's food culture that began in 1993. Bailey arranged to co-publish an Edmonton edition for a few years, paying them a royalty to use the City Palate name. Eventually, realizing that the shared identity wasn't necessary, Bailey rebranded the magazine as The Tomato in 2010 (City Palate folded in 2019).

"Funny thing about it was when we did it, everything – advertising, readership – went up," said Bailey. "That taught me a big lesson: you have to reinvent yourself every few years because it felt new and fresh."

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A chart depicting precipitation trends in Edmonton.

Chart of the week: A look at Edmonton's dry decade

By Scott Lilwall

It's the end of a very dry summer in Edmonton, and while 2021 was particularly parched, it's the latest of a decade-long trend that has seen less rainfall in the city, according to data from Environment Canada.

While Edmontonians got a bit of a break from the current dry spell with some cold and wet weather last week, 2021 has seen very little rainfall overall. As of Sept. 3, the city recorded just under 220 mm of rain at weather stations around the area. That's far less than Edmonton's long-term average rainfall.

However, this year isn't a wild outlier. Since 2008, the capital region has seen a striking lack of rain compared to the early 2000s, with recent years being among the driest in Edmonton's history.

That lack of rain can have serious consequences. The dry decade means groundwater wells are running low, as there isn't enough rain to replenish them. As well, the severe lack of moisture puts a lot of stress on the health of the city's trees. In the area surrounding the city, the dry conditions can cause millions of dollars in damage to the agricultural sector and make Alberta's wildfire season even more dangerous.

And it doesn't look like that trend will change anytime soon. While individual years might see more rainfall, it is likely that Edmonton, as well as the rest of the prairies, will see more drought in the coming decades. Climate change has been blamed as a factor in some of the recent droughts in Alberta and the situation will likely worsen as the planet's temperature rises.

The City of Edmonton has identified drought as one of the main concerns it faces due to climate change, going as far as to make recommendations to help Edmontonians prepare for drier years ahead.

An Instagram image from the Edmonton Corn Maze.

Coming up this week: Sept. 7-10, 2021

By Andy Trussler

Photo: Edmonton Corn Maze/Instagram