The Pulse: Dec. 15, 2021

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

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  • -20°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 20. Wind chill minus 32 in the morning and minus 24 in the afternoon. Risk of frostbite. (forecast).
  • 81: Tuesday's deluge of snow caused 81 traffic accidents to be reported to EPS, including one unmarked police vehicle which slid into a traffic light. (details).
  • 20: Alberta announced 20 new cases of the Omicron variant on Dec. 14, bringing the province's total to 50. (details).
  • 5-1: The Oilers (16-11-0) lost to the Maple Leafs (20-8-2). (details).

Rayanne Haines smiles in front of a concrete pillar

Incoming regional writer in residence to focus on supporting rural writers

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Regional Roundup

The Metro Federation of Libraries has named Rayanne Haines as its 2022 regional writer in residence, with her time to be split between Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, and St. Albert.

"I grew up in a rural community so I really wanted to have that opportunity to work with writers who are in the same position and don't have access to as many opportunities or workshops as writers that are in the city core," Haines told Taproot.

Haines is an award-winning and bestselling author of three poetry collections and four novels. She also teaches in MacEwan University's faculty of fine arts and communications, and hosts the Crow Reads Podcast.

Haines was a single mother when she was developing her writing career, and credits her growth to being able to attend workshops and receive valuable mentorship from writers like Alice Major.

"I know there's a lot of people like me who don't have the opportunity or the money to go and take a creative writing degree. So I really wanted to be able to be that person that could encourage those writers and offer workshops, mentorship, and conversations about writing," she explained.

"It just seemed like the right fit to ... be able to pass the torch and offer the same kind of support that I was offered."

Haines will spend about half of her time mentoring other writers and the other half on personal projects, like an experimental fiction novel, written in short stories that combine to tell a broader story.

Haines will also host conversations with writers every month in different locations throughout the region outside of the libraries, to discuss a variety of themes with other authors. The series will aim to highlight writers with different backgrounds, who may speak other languages or have different lived experiences.

Haines, who now lives in Edmonton, will begin her tenure in early January.

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By Mack Male and Doug Johnson

  • City council approved $282.9 million for the Lewis Farms Community Recreation Centre and Library on Dec. 14 in a 12-1 vote, with only Coun. Michael Janz voting against. Construction is expected to be complete by December 2026. Council also voted 12-1 to increase the budget for the Coronation Park Sports and Recreation Centre by $41.1 million.
  • As overnight temperatures are expected to reach minus 30, the city has activated its emergency weather response which includes the Extreme Weather Bus Route to help move people from transit centres and other locations to shelters. Activation is expected to run until Dec. 31.
  • A Phase 1 parking ban began at 7pm on Dec. 14, after some parts of the city saw up to 15 cm of snow. The city is asking residents to move their vehicles off major roads so teams can clear them — tickets will also be handed out.
  • Edmonton Transit Service announced that, starting Jan. 1, hundreds of riders will be testing out ARC, its electronic payment system. The pilot will also involve transit systems and riders from surrounding areas such as Leduc, St. Albert and Strathcona County.
  • For the fourth year, 'Santa' landed at the Stollery Children's Hospital in a military helicopter to hand out gifts on Tuesday. A joint effort with the Canadian Air Force's 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Operation Ho Ho Ho provides gifts to the children staying at the Stollery.
  • Around two-thirds of Albertans support a leadership review for Premier Jason Kenney, according to a new poll. These new numbers also show that the NDP — which dominated races in Edmonton ridings, but made no headway in rural ridings in 2019 — are still well ahead of the UCP in terms of support, though its lead is narrowing.
Three vials of vaccine

A look at health innovation in Edmonton during 2021

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Health Innovation Roundup

As Alberta's health innovation industry grows, Edmonton companies continue to demonstrate their ability to be leaders in areas like drug and vaccine development and biotechnology infrastructure.

"We have phenomenal anchor companies within the region, and a lot of companies are showing a whole bunch of promise, such as Entos and Providence," Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation CEO Andrew MacIsaac said on an Edmonton Global panel earlier this year.

"The next three to five years, what I think we will start to see is the development of a very mature and robust industry around drug development and life sciences much more broadly."

Among the year's highlights:

In addition, mental wellness startup DiveThru secured $800,000 in pre-seed funding, amidst challenges and setbacks faced along the way, which founder Sophie Gray shared with Taproot. University of Alberta spinoff company PulseMedica landed more than $400,000 in investment funds at Startup TNT's Investment Summit IV; and True Angle Medical closed a $1.64 million funding round, led by Accelerate Fund III.

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A portrait of Mayor William Choy of Stony Plain

EMRB holds first board meeting, names chair and vice-chair

By Emily Rendell-Watson

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) will be led for at least one more year by William Choy, mayor of Stony Plain.

At its Dec. 9 meeting, the first since the municipal election, the board made various appointments and welcomed six new members, including Edmonton's Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

Choy will continue as chair until the end of 2022, at which point the board will determine whether to continue with an elected or non-elected chair. Allan Gamble, mayor of Parkland County, will take over from Alanna Hnatiw as vice-chair in January.

Over the next few months, the board will determine its priorities for the next four years.

"This board has an important task ahead, to consider the work that has been achieved and ensure we come together to leverage opportunities and tackle complex issues so that our residents, businesses, and municipalities continue to succeed and thrive," said Choy.

"Our work is legacy work, we focus on the bigger picture, knowing the decisions we make today will help to ensure a prosperous region for future generations."

Photo: Mayor William Choy of Stony Plain (Supplied)