The Pulse: April 20, 2022

Yesterday's snowfall warning said accumulations could total 10-15 cm with poor visibility until conditions improved early this morning. Edmonton averages 10 cm of snow and five snowy days in April, reports Edmonton Weather Nerdery.

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  • 3°C: Light snow ending in the morning then clearing. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 3. Wind chill minus 6 in the morning. UV index 5 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 6:30pm: The Oilers (44-26-6) will play the Dallas Stars (43-28-5) at Rogers Place. (details)
  • 24%: An Angus Reid Institute survey found that 24% of Albertans identify as "religiously committed" and 18% are "privately faithful," even though Albertans are among the least likely to have been raised in a religious environment. (details)

A happy dog on a leash looks toward a small, plastic treat dispenser in a person's hand

Ventrify rides high on client's crowdfunding success

By Emily Rendell-Watson and Karen Unland

After a turbulent few years, product design company Ventrify is "absolutely ecstatic" about a client's successful crowdfunding campaign for a dog treat dispenser that it helped bring into the world.

A Kickstarter for EZ Treat, a one-hand-operated dispenser that delivers a single serving for your pup, ended on April 15 with 1,627 backers pledging $69,724. That far exceeded the $7,600 goal set by the creator, Felix Yim of Tails Designs.

"We were all blown away," Ventrify co-founder Riyaz Khair said. "I think this is just simple enough, just relatable enough to really have gained that bigger traction."

The Edmonton-born Ventrify, which now has an office in Vancouver as well, helps entrepreneurs and small businesses turn ideas into objects. It spearheads product design from discovery to concept development and prototyping to detailed design and then supervises the manufacturing process for inventors like Yim.

He had an idea but didn't have the time, energy, or skills to turn it into reality. Ventrify did, and its team "helped bring the project to life and to the point that I had something solid in my hand that I could test with and make further improvements on," he said.

Ventrify has seen a lot of change over the past four years. Khair's co-founders stepped away from the business, and he took on a marketing role. One-time client David Kennedy became CEO in March 2020, and Humam Shwaikh joined as the chief technical officer in May of that year.

"There's a lot of growing pains," Shwaikh said. "If you were to compare the company then (when he started) and the company now, you wouldn't recognize it."

Restructuring the company and improving processes is hard enough at the best times, but throw in a global pandemic, especially when much of the manufacturing happens in Taiwan and China, and you've got a real challenge on your hands.

"Last year, shipping containers went from $1,000 to $25,000 in the span of less than a month," Shwaikh said, noting that Ventrify is now looking to move more of its manufacturing to Canada. "It's just like a wake-up call — you have no control over what happens over there."

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • City council has confirmed a 1.9% tax increase for 2022 as part of spring updates to the city's operating budget. Tax notices will be mailed to all property owners on May 24, with property taxes due on June 30. Council originally approved the increase during its budget discussions in December.
  • City council voted 11-2 to ask the federal government to decriminalize personal drug possession in Edmonton by applying for an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Councillors Jennifer Rice and Karen Principe were the two opposed, CTV News reports. Council also unanimously agreed to lobby the federal government on the issue and to ask the provincial government to bring in safe supply, safe consumption sites, treatment and supportive housing, Postmedia reports.
  • City council has approved $1.765 million in one-time funding for more resources to deal with problem properties and has asked administration to explore the creation of tax subclasses for "derelict properties" to help keep owners accountable.
  • Edmonton saw a 23% increase in housing starts from March 2021 to March 2022, compared to the 26% decrease across the country during the same time period, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Despite the national dip, the number of housing starts in Canada remains at a historical high.
  • The aggregate price of a home in Edmonton increased 6.2% year-over-year to $452,000 in the first quarter of 2022 — the highest gain on record — according to the Royal LePage House Price Survey. "The city's thriving job market and relative affordability compared to larger urban centres is driving demand from young families looking to move up in the market," suggested Tom Shearer, broker and owner of Royal LePage Noralta Real Estate.
  • Some parts of the city smell like rotten eggs and may continue to do so for another week or more, according to Edmonton Fire Rescue Services. Officials said the odour, which was first reported in the neighbourhoods of Strathearn, Forest Heights, and Ottewell on Monday, is caused by a gas leak at the Imperial Oil tank farm and does not pose a public health risk.
  • The provincial government's Alberta at Work program aims to strengthen Alberta's labour market, with $23 million for the Canada-Alberta Job Grant program, $41 million for the Training for Work programs, $235 million to support post-secondary enrolment and opportunities, and $20 million to help unemployed Albertans. "Labour shortages across sectors remains a critical concern for many employers in the Edmonton region," said Jeffrey Sundquist, president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. "Investment into programs like "Alberta at Work" will ensure businesses of all sizes can source skilled employees and those jobs stay in Alberta."
  • Alphonso Davies spoke with Inside World Football about his relationship with Edmonton and the prospect of the city co-hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026. "Edmonton is a beautiful, diverse place, and I have no doubt they will accept the rest of the world, exactly how they accepted me and my family when we moved here," he said.
A newspaper clipping that starts out saying "A large number of settlers from all parts are staying at the Immigration Hall, among them being families from Maine and California."

A moment in history: April 20, 1905

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1905, some of the new arrivals at Immigration Hall were saying the building was starting to show its age.

Immigration Hall was the first stop for many newly arrived Albertans. Like its counterparts in other Canadian cities, the hall was set up to provide support and temporary lodging for new immigrants, the majority of whom then moved on to nearby farms and homesteads.

The original Immigration Hall, built in the 1890s, was a three-storey wooden structure on 101 Street and 104 Avenue. The comings and goings prompted a lot of public interest. The Edmonton Bulletin provided regular updates, some quite colourful, including a 1910 dispatch about "a German musician with flowing locks" rolling into town.

It was a few years before the overcrowded building was replaced. In 1930, construction finished on a new Immigration Hall, one block west of the original. The new structure was much grander, built from brick and reinforced concrete in the Classical Revival style popular in Edmonton during the period. Building a larger hall proved prudent; immigration to Edmonton increased steadily. That number would skyrocket following the Second World War, and another wing was added to the hall to accommodate the greater numbers.

Around 1960, the hall stopped being used to accommodate new arrivals. The building sat empty and abandoned for many years, slowly crumbling due to neglect and vandalism. In 2009, however, the hall was taken over by the Hope Mission. It now serves as a long-term transitional housing centre, once again providing a home to those in need of one.

While the buildings and processes might not be the same, Edmonton continues to be a destination for many new immigrants every year, including those fleeing war and conflict. Earlier this month, 250 Ukrainian nationals landed in Edmonton following the Russian invasion of their country. As well, a newly opened health centre provides medical services to refugees, including those coming to Edmonton from Afghanistan and Syria.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.