The Pulse: Oct. 12, 2021

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

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  • 10C: Mainly sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 10. Wind chill minus 7 in the morning. (forecast)
  • Oct. 13: The Edmonton Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks in the season opener on Wednesday at 8pm. (details)
  • 30-3: The Edmonton Elks lost 30-3 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday. (details)
  • 1,334: Healing Hearts is hoping to collect 1,334 socks for the city's vulnerable — the number of opioid-related deaths Alberta saw in 2020. (details)
  • 300: NAIT culinary students made 300 meals to be handed out at Boyle Street Community Services over the weekend. (details)

An array of racks for solar panels surrounded by trees

River valley solar farm not popular among most council candidates

By Emily Rendell-Watson

The E.L. Smith Solar Farm does not have a lot of support from those running for Edmonton's next city council — but it's already under construction.

The Epcor project was approved by city council in October 2020, with the aim to build a roughly 51-acre solar farm adjacent to the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant.

Fifty-four candidates who answered the Taproot Survey question on the solar farm say they support solar power but don't like the location, which is in the river valley. Among those supporting the decision are four incumbents (Moe Banga, Tony Caterina, Sarah Hamilton, and Bev Esslinger), sticking by how they voted last year, along with a handful of others, including mayoral candidate Cheryll Watson.

The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition (ERVCC) filed a legal challenge against council's decision, arguing that "this development should not happen at the expense of the river valley." The court date is on Nov. 19, where it will be determined if city council erred in not deeming the river valley location essential as per the North Saskatchewan River Valley area redevelopment plan.

"If we are successful in our judicial review in November, this issue could go back before the new mayor and city council in a new public hearing. If this happens, (they) have an opportunity to protect our river valley and vote that the project is not essential (there) and so cannot be approved for that location," ERVCC chair Kristine Kowalchuk told Taproot. "In other words, they would be requiring Epcor to put the solar farm somewhere else."

Despite the impending judicial review of council's rezoning decision, Epcor began construction in summer 2021 because it received all necessary city and provincial approvals to proceed. It expects the project to be finished in spring 2022.

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By Michelle Ferguson

Edmonton Startup Week will be held in a virtual format for 2021.

Edmonton Startup Week to celebrate local innovation community

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Tech Roundup

The eighth annual Edmonton Startup Week is days away from kicking off, with more than 50 events scheduled between Oct. 18-22. The five-day event brings together entrepreneurs, business leaders, community champions, and those interested in startup culture to learn, discuss, network, and build momentum in the community.

This is the second year the event is happening virtually due to COVID-19. While gathering online is a departure from the usual in-person networking, the head of Startup Edmonton said the goal is to build on last year's success.

"COVID has challenged all of us. It's changed how we live our lives, how we collaborate, network, and innovate. But it's our community — and how we come together — that amazes me," said Christian Tokarski. "We keep going, looking out for one another, collaborating, pivoting, and hustling every day. This year's event is virtual again, but that means we're extending Edmonton's innovators and innovations to viewers from across Alberta and beyond."

Startup Week begins with a treasure hunt of downtown Edmonton to win startup freebies and launch party swag. Follow Startup Edmonton on Twitter and Instagram closer to Oct. 18 for clues and more information.

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The Addicting Games founding team: Bill, Jimmy, Becky, Celina, Matt, Chris, Rhys, Erin, and Kevin. (Supplied)

True to its roots: Addicting Games to keep growing in Edmonton

By Mack Male in the Tech Roundup

Addicting Games plans to continue building in Edmonton, even after being acquired last month by Toronto-based Enthusiast Gaming for about $35 million US.

"We're pretty excited, it's a big milestone for us," Bill Karamouzis, Addicting Games CEO and co-founder, told Taproot. "The future is very promising."

Addicting Games is based in Los Angeles but its roots are in Edmonton, where Karamouzis was born and raised. He moved to L.A. about five years ago.

When it came time to build the new Addicting Games, Karamouzis made Edmonton part of the foundation. The company spent about six years at Startup Edmonton before leaving to establish its own space in the city.

Enthusiast will retain all of Addicting Games' roughly 30 employees, including the six to eight who are based in Edmonton. "A move out of Edmonton wasn't even part of the conversation," Karamouzis said.

It was a very different conversation in 2011 when he sold a previous company, Hallpass Media, to L.A.-based Jam City. Karamouzis attributes the positive change to more stories coming out of Edmonton since then, an area where there's still room for opportunity, he said.

What's missing is that no one wants to look "boastful or arrogant" when there's a success story, he said. "But then people don't hear about the success and having a good outcome, which makes it harder for the people that come after."

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A screen capture of a tweet from Troy Pavlek reading "Advanced polls just opened. You can now vote for your preferred #yegvote candidate. Many of them have committed to disclosing their donors before election day.  Looking at the "frontrunners" 44 have not, and only 9 have proactively disclosed so far.  Let's take a closer look"

Speaking Municipally takes a look at donor disclosures

By Karen Unland

Accountability was the word of the day in Episode 150 of Speaking Municipally, Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

Co-host Troy Pavlek dug deeper into the answers to this Taproot Survey question: Should candidates disclose their donors? He noted that the majority indicated they believed that candidates should disclose their donors before the election, even though legislation passed by the UCP government in 2020 does not require such disclosures until after the election. And yet, when Pavlek went looking, only a few candidates had posted their donors.

"The Taproot Survey has been a gamechanger for this type of coverage," he said. "It's an accountability mechanism that we have not had in any municipal election before without a significant amount of work."

After he tweeted his findings, more candidates came forward with their donor lists. Taproot is compiling these disclosures and intends to display them in a future version of the Election Guide.

In his conversation with co-host Mack Male, Pavlek noted that it is possible for a candidate to believe that everyone running should disclose their donors before the election, but also feel they would be at a disadvantage to do so if their competitors don't have to do the same.

"When there's a legislated rule that by 'this date,' everyone has to disclose, that's an even playing field," he said.

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Drift Food Truck

Drift Food Truck celebrates a decade in business

By Sharon Yeo in the Food Roundup

Drift Food Truck, which was among the handful of businesses that helped usher in the golden age of food trucks in Edmonton, just celebrated a decade in business.

Run by the husband and wife team of Nevin and Kara Fenske, Drift has built up a fan base ravenous for its sandwiches and seasoned fries over the years. It has been a fixture on the streets and at farmers' markets since 2011, and though the Fenske's once had a brick and mortar of their own (Dovetail Delicatessen was open for about a year in 2015-16 on 124 Street), since 2017, they've made Shamrock Curling Club their home in the winter months.

Kara Fenske shared that this 10-year milestone was reached with many ups and downs.

"The high was definitely with the first five years, being at the forefront of our industry in Edmonton, helping other mobile entrepreneurs, and creating an awareness for the food truck industry," said Fenske. "Losing our restaurant on 124 Street was a low, but not for long as it allowed us to analyze our vision for our company once again, and create a new path."

After the truck is retried in the fall (lovingly referred to as "Drifty"), Drift offers a modified menu at the Shamrock in addition to continuing with catering engagements.

"It has allowed us to have an affordable home base year-round, as well as reaching a winter customer base, which we didn't have the first 5-6 years," said Fenske (this season, their Shamrock operation begins on Oct. 12).

Despite the complementary success in the cooler months at Shamrock, every spring, Drift has had to find ways to stay current. "Since we aren't open year-round in the truck, we do lose momentum," said Fenske. "It can be tricky to try and predict the next season during the off-season."

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A fall image of Edmonton.

Coming up this week: Oct. 12-15

By Karen Unland

Photo: Yeg Captures