The Pulse: April 28, 2022

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

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  • 10°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. High 10. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 1,220: Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 1,220 Albertans were hospitalized with COVID-19 for the week ending April 25, up about 8% from the previous week. (details)
  • 7pm: The Oilers (47-27-6) will play the San Jose Sharks (32-36-12) at Rogers Place. (details)
  • 7pm: The Oil Kings will play the Lethbridge Hurricanes in game four of their playoff series. (details)

A woman wears a navy blue shower cap and holds a second in her hands

Skipper overcomes hurdles to manufacture shower cap in Canada

By Emily Rendell-Watson

When Gillian Thomson set out to re-invent the traditional shower cap, she knew she wanted it to offer a better fit, more appealing design, and be reusable. Working with a manufacturer in Canada was also on her wish list.

"I was basically trying to avoid making it overseas and having to ship these goods on boats, and cutting back the emissions that way," said Thomson, who launched Skipper's shower cap at the end of 2021. Her motivation was also fuelled by a desire to support the local economy, and make a product that would stand the test of time.

"I get very tired of seeing so many low-quality goods made and sold in our Canadian stores. So many things now are just made to be destroyed or aren't made to last. I don't want to contribute to the waste consumer goods that are out there, and by manufacturing closer to home, it helps with that."

But Thomson quickly learned that finding a Canadian manufacturer to make the shower caps would not be easy, or cheap. Her first hurdle was finding a factory that had the right experience and offered the kinds of fabric she was hoping to use. Thomson also couldn't reveal her design because she was pursuing patents, which made it even harder to get anyone to call or email her back.

"It was just figuring out everything as I went," she explained, adding that it took more than 18 months to develop the elastic-free cap and find a manufacturing partner. Eventually, Thomson went back to a Canadian factory that she had talked with earlier in the process about waterproof breathable fabrics. She'd since worked with a pattern-maker and finalized her design, so the factory was more willing to consider taking on her product.

The challenge of navigating textile and textile-adjacent manufacturing in Canada is one that Claire Theaker-Brown, founder of Unbelts, knows well. She's been trying how to figure out how best to manufacture both sustainably and responsibly for years.

Theaker-Brown said the assumption that made-in-Canada is automatically better can be problematic because it doesn't take into account that workers might not be earning a living wage for their region.

"Is it more ethical to have the products expensively produced in Canada, ending up with a product that is economically out of reach for the average Canadian? And how do the ethics on that choice compare to the ethics of paying a living wage in a part of the world where the cost of living is lower and ending up with a product that is accessible to average income Canadians," said Theaker-Brown, who said that's exactly what her own company has been trying to figure out.

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • Infill homes in Edmonton's core and mature neighbourhoods make up 25% of new housing built since 2010, achieving the goal identified in The Way We Grow, the city's previous municipal development plan. "We enabled a really wide range of housing options in our mature neighbourhoods — things like duplexes, row housing, garden suites, basement suites — that other cities are just starting to talk about now," Coun. Ashley Salvador told CBC News, which has contributed to Edmonton's growing reputation for infill development. "Edmonton is the one to watch," said Mariah Samji, executive director of the Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA).
  • The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) has announced several agreements and initiatives that position it as "a significant driver of demand for hydrogen fuel" and "a new home for piloting emerging hydrogen technologies."
  • Explore Edmonton has published its 2021 Annual Report and explained in a LinkedIn post that last year it was "able to begin transitioning our marketing and advocacy effort from basic survival to planning for the future and jumpstarting the visitor economy." The report highlights that in 2021, Explore Edmonton had a direct economic impact of nearly $100 million and was involved in booking over 31,000 hotel rooms and supporting over 50,000 jobs.
  • An analysis of the city's 2021 property tax assessments found that 91.7% of Edmonton property owners live in the city, and more than 97% of tax notices were sent to destinations in Alberta. Just 0.14% of the total 416,563 notices were sent to addresses outside of Canada.
  • Construction on a new $41.1 million footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River connecting northeast Edmonton and Strathcona County is expected to begin as early as this summer now that funding agreements between the City of Edmonton, Strathcona County, and the River Valley Alliance have been finalized.
  • A federal court judge has found that the Edmonton Regional Airport Authority and the St. John's International Airport Authority have infringed on a complainant's official language rights and ordered them to pay almost $20,000 between them. The complainant, Ottawa resident Michel Thibodeau, filed his complaints without ever visiting the airports. "We do not believe individuals should benefit financially from a complaint system", said Edmonton International Airport spokesperson Darrell Winwood in a statement.
  • Garth Brooks is coming to Edmonton for the first time in five years to play at Commonwealth Stadium on June 25. It's the only Canadian stop on his upcoming Stadium Tour, and the country star says it will be his last major concert appearance in Canada. The last time Brooks was in town in 2017, he sold out Rogers Place nine times in a row. Tickets go on sale May 6.
  • A load the size of a CFL football field will be disrupting highways between the Scotford refinery near Fort Saskatchewan and its destination of Edson for five days starting April 27.
  • New data from Statistics Canada has revealed more information about gender diversity in Alberta. Among census participants (aged 15+), 99.63% identified as cisgender. Of the remaining 0.37%, 7,305 identified as transgender and 5,170 as non-binary, including gender-fluid, queer, or Two-Spirit. Alberta accounts for more than 12% of Canada's transgender and non-binary populations, though some believe the figures are undercounted.
E-scooters from the company Spin lined up on 104 Street

Edmonton introduces new rules for e-scooter providers

By Mack Male

Edmontonians will have to wait a little longer for the return of electric scooters this year.

E-scooters, which hit city streets in mid-March last year, have yet to appear in 2022 despite launching in several other communities across Alberta, including Calgary, Lethbridge, and Red Deer.

Three companies — Bird, Lime, and Spin — offered e-scooters in Edmonton in 2021 thanks to an open application process that awarded a license to any provider that met the city's operating criteria. This year, the city has introduced a competitive procurement process and is limiting the number of approved providers to two.

"Each year, we continue to learn and evolve the program to best support active travel options, while maintaining safe streets and sidewalks for all Edmontonians," Jessica Lamarre, the director of safe mobility & traffic operations at the City of Edmonton, said in a statement to Taproot.

The city is also limiting each approved provider to 750 e-scooters and, if available, 200 e-bikes. "This fleet size is based on what Edmontonians are generally most comfortable with and is consistent with fleet sizes with other Canadian cities that offer this program, including Calgary, Kelowna and Ottawa," Lamarre said.

Lime was licensed for 2,000 scooters in 2021, while Bird and Spin were licensed for 1,000 each.

E-scooter companies will be evaluated on a variety of criteria, including "proposed solutions to unsafe road use and parking issues." As in past years, providers will be required to educate riders about safe behaviours and to collect and share all service issues with the city.

Approved licenses will be issued for 20 months, up from the previous 12 months, to provide providers with "more certainty in how long they can operate and give them more room to plan based on customer needs."

The city anticipates issuing licenses by mid-May, with providers launching their fleets shortly thereafter.

Photo: E-scooters from Spin appeared on Edmonton streets on April 14, 2021. Riders will have to wait until at least mid-May in 2022. (Mack Male)

Taproot Edmonton's Bloom podcast, brought to you by Innovate Edmonton

Bloom: Bringing products to life, investing in social issues, and Uniting the Prairies

By Emily Rendell-Watson

In Episode 13 of Bloom, co-hosts Emily Rendell-Watson and Faaiza Ramji discuss the success of several local companies, including Ventrify, a product design business that helped Vancouver's Tails Designs develop a dog treat dispenser that raised $69,724 on Kickstarter.

"In the food and beverage world you see a lot of companies that help people develop a product based on an idea. We did that for Field Notes," said Ramji, referring to her own company that makes pea-based liqueur.

"We didn't know the chemistry behind distilling and how to actually achieve what we wanted ... it to taste like. I could have spent a year or two learning the process myself and then investing in the equipment, or I could use somebody who already knows how to do all that stuff, speed up the process, get some traction and validate that this product is even a good idea, and then I can invest in all of that stuff down the road."

Also covered in the episode, the ScaleGood Fund has selected Areto Labs, which uses AI to make digital communities more positive and inclusive, for its first investment. And Areto Labs is part of a large Edmonton contingent headed to Uniting the Prairies next week, a conference in Saskatoon that's aiming to connect startups with investors and tech leaders.

Plus, Beamdog announced its acquisition by American game company Aspyr Media, Digital Alberta is looking for its first full-time executive director, San Francisco-based GrowthX has announced the launch of the Alberta Innovates Revenue Accelerator, and applications are open until May 31 for Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii)'s Kickstart Program, which offers training and guidance to women and gender-diverse people seeking careers in AI.

Applications for Startup TNT's Investment Summit V closed earlier this week, and co-host Ramji has put Field Notes in for consideration. The summit is June 23, but the top 20 will pitch on May 12.

Bloom is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and everywhere else you get your podcasts.