The Pulse: March 24, 2022

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

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  • 7°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of flurries in the afternoon. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. High 7. Wind chill minus 7 in the morning. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • 956: There are 956 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 as of March 23, including 56 in intensive care. (details)
  • 7:00pm: The Oilers (35-24-5) will host the San Jose Sharks (28-27-8) at Rogers Place. (details)

A collage of people wearing T-shirts reading I (heart sign) (map of Alberta) TECH

I Heart AB Tech encourages innovators to show their swagger

By Emily Rendell-Watson and Karen Unland

The co-founders of AltaML have started a campaign to help Albertans celebrate the tech sector.

Nicole and Cory Janssen launched the I Heart AB Tech campaign this week by sending T-shirts bearing that slogan to various business and tech leaders. The goal is to turn recipients into brand ambassadors.

"We've got something really great here in Alberta ... but I would say that we aren't telling the world, and we aren't even telling those outside of the tech space," said co-CEO Nicole Janssen.

Alberta's image across Canada and globally is that "we're a bunch of redneck cowboys that don't care about the environment," she said. "Most Albertans I know don't fit that description at all. And somehow, we just continue to let that be the image that we have, even though at home we all know that's not the truth."

The iconography of the campaign is reminiscent of the "I Heart Canadian Oil & Gas" merch favoured by groups like Oil Sands Action. The Janssens chose similar wording "because this concept is familiar with Albertans through the other campaigns." But it's not meant to be a dig at the petroleum industry. "We are simply wanting to add one more to that narrative because there are more than one or two things to love about our province."

People like Christy Holtby of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Ashif Mawji of Rising Tide, Shaheel Hooda of Sprout Fund, Zack Storms of Startup TNT, and Aaryn Flynn of Inflexion Games have already shared pictures of themselves wearing the T-shirt and expressing why they support the campaign.

Janssen would love to see their enthusiasm spread to political leaders, and she has sent them T-shirts, too, to help them show it. The province earmarked $73 million for the Alberta Technology and Innovation Strategy in the 2022 budget, but didn't make a very big deal of it, she noted.

"I think there's a perception in Alberta that if you promote tech, you're not promoting other industries," she said. "Whereas we see tech as a horizontal enabler that supports and builds up all of our industries."

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By Kevin Holowack

  • At an Edmonton Public School Board meeting on March 22, administration outlined a proposed Ten-Year Facilities Plan for 2023-2032, which noted a variety of issues faced by the division such as rapid enrolment growth and deferred maintenance needs. Enrolment in Edmonton's public schools has increased by 25,000 students since 2010, and the division expects steady growth over the next decade. However, the last major modernization project in the division to receive funding did so in 2018, and the last construction project in 2019. Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the division is changing its future funding priorities to focus on building new schools rather than upgrading existing ones. "We are a fast-growing division. We have been passed over for two years from this provincial government for new school builds, and this plan shows clearly once again to the provincial government that Edmonton Public needs funding to build new schools," she said.
  • EPSB also voted 7-2 in favour of a motion to suspend a policy requiring trustees be fully vaccinated, which had yet to take effect.
  • Edmonton Transit Service managers presented the annual transit service plan to city council, outlining their intention to expand on-demand service to northside neighbourhoods, launch smart fare for regional routes, and increase LRT frequency. The report also includes specific bus routes that may see extended hours starting in 2023. At the meeting, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said a major issue facing transit is safety, which is linked to societal issues "beyond the capacity of ETS and even the capacity of the city." Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, branch manager of ETS, spoke recently with Speaking Municipally about the challenges.
  • Student Advocates for Public Health (SAPH), an advocacy group formed by University of Alberta graduate students, is calling for initiatives to improve access to clean drinking water among Indigenous communities. The group pointed out that 43% of First Nation drinking water systems are labelled as medium or high risk. "A lot of these facilities, they have a shelf life of 20 years," said SAPH member Randal Bell. "Chronic underfunding cuts that down to 15 to 10. It's not a matter of just kind of fixing some of these things, sometimes it's going to be replacing the entire system, but we need to get to a point of water pipeline infrastructure." The group's proposed solutions involve intergovernmental commitment and amending Canada's Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported on March 22 that the Omicron subvariant BA.2 is now the dominant strain in Alberta, accounting for around 60% of new positive cases. The subvariant is more transmissible than BA.1, but Hinshaw said there is no evidence of it being more severe. She said Albertans should expect an upward transmission rate in coming weeks.
  • The province introduced the new Public's Right to Know Act, or Bill 9, which would require the provincial government to report crime data annually and publicize the information on its website. If passed, it will come into effect this fall. "The Edmonton Police Service supports a more thorough approach to reporting on crime data for Alberta's entire criminal justice system, from police services and corrections to the court system and the many other agencies and services that uphold community safety and well-being," said Edmonton police chief Dale McFee.
  • A UCP spokesperson confirmed that Jason Kenney's leadership review will be conducted by mail-in ballot. Due to increased interest, the party is also opening up voting to anyone who has a current membership as of March 19. The UCP's special general meeting on April 9 will take place online to accommodate the more than 15,000 people registered to attend.
Emmet Michael accepts the Edmonton Music Prize on March 22

Awards season brings accolades for Edmonton artists

By Debbi Serafinchon and Karen Unland

Singer-songwriter Emmet Michael received the $10,000 Edmonton Music Prize, presented this week by Alberta Music in collaboration with the Edmonton Arts Council.

"The diversity and representation in Edmonton music is absolutely amazing, and I am just honoured to be a part of that story today," he said as he accepted the award, along with runners-up D'orjay the Singing Shaman and Saint Idol, who each won $1,000.

The Edmonton Film Prize was presented at the same ceremony. Hands that Bind, directed by Kyle Armstrong, won the $10,000 prize from the Alberta Media Production Industries Association. Runners-up were Guy Lavallee's Family Ever After and Heather Hatch's Wochiigii Lo: End of the Peace.

A number of Edmonton-area artists did well at the Country Music Alberta Awards, with Hailey Benedict winning the Horizon Female Singer of the Year and Single of the Year awards, and The Prairie States winning Horizon Group or Duo of the Year as well as Album of the Year.

Photo: Emmet Michael accepts the Edmonton Music Prize on March 22. (AMPIA/YouTube)