The Pulse: May 4, 2022

May the Fourth be with you! Here's what you need to know today in Edmonton.

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  • 19°C: Clearing near noon. High 19. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • 29: A large number 29 has appeared by the Snow Valley Ski Club off Whitemud Drive, paying tribute to Leon Draisaitl. (details)
  • 8pm: The Oilers (0-1) will host the Los Angeles Kings (1-0) in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series at Rogers Place. (details)

Portraits of Nicole Janssen, Kristina Milke, and Sharleen Oborowsky

Platform for financial feminists expands to Edmonton

By Emily Rendell-Watson

A platform that aims to increase access to women-led capital for women-led businesses is coming to Edmonton. The51, which started in Calgary, offers two separate funds and a membership that includes coaching and mentorship.

"There's not enough women investors; there's not enough women founders receiving capital. There's just not enough women," said Kristina Milke. The organization's name refers to the fact that women make up 51% of the population but women-founded startups only receive 2.3% of venture capital.

Milke, managing partner at Sprout Fund, along with Nicole Janssen of AltaML and Sharleen Oborowsky of Yogapedia, are helping The51 get established in Edmonton as ambassadors for the organization.

Janssen, a member of The51, has faced barriers seeking investment as the co-CEO of AltaML. "I co-founded the business with my husband, and we know that our best chance of getting funding is for him to go out and be the face of the company. That's a strategic decision even though we disagree with it," she told Taproot. Janssen has also been told by investors that they "would never invest in a married couple."

She's hoping that the mentorship offered to entrepreneurs, combined with rallying women investors and teaching them how to assess companies and invest, will provide a boost to Edmonton's up-and-coming women-led businesses.

"You hear over and over from any visible diversity group that they always feel a lot more comfortable when they see people like them," Janssen added. "So if you think about female founders who may already have some fears about pitching to a group of men, imagine how much better they might feel pitching to a group of women."

The launch of The51 in Edmonton is on May 12, with co-CEOs Judy Fairburn and Shelley Kuipers in attendance. They'll be able to answer questions about the platform's funds, such as the sector-agnostic Fund I, which has invested in early-stage companies like Edmonton's True Angle and Areto Labs, and its new Food & AgTech Fund.

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Headlines: May 4, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • Paul Gravelle, chair of the Realtors Association of Edmonton, said April was a strong month for local real estate. "We sold 2,919 homes last month and listed 4,719. So, we're now having more inventory than sales, which reflects back into more of a balanced market right now," he told Postmedia.
  • The Ice District Plaza outside Rogers Place was awash with orange and blue on Monday as fans celebrated the Oilers' first game in the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. With COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, this is the first year that ICE District can host a watch party since it opened. Some fans are planning to travel to Los Angeles for games 3 and 4, the cost of which is "actually not horrible," Global News reports.
  • The fate of Flair Airlines continues to hang in the balance as the company's deadline to formally respond to the Canadian Transportation Agency's concerns that it fails to meet Canadian ownership requirements has now passed. The CTA says there is "no specific timeline" for it to make its decision, and experts say weeks or months could pass before the public learns about any impacts on the Edmonton-based low-cost airline.
  • The Edmonton Elks have acquired offensive lineman Carter O'Donnell from the Montreal Alouettes in exchange for the first overall pick in the 2022 CFL Draft, which took place on Tuesday. The Elks also traded offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid and linebacker Grant McDonald to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for additional draft picks. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant and linebacker Tyrell Robinson, both of whom signed with the Elks in February, were released by the club.
  • Sebastian Cossa with the Edmonton Oil Kings has been named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for April, having landed a 6-1-0-0 record over seven regular and playoffs games that month and two shutouts. The 19-year-old from Fort McMurray, who is a Detroit Red Wings prospect, also received the honour in October 2021. The Oil Kings will play the Red Deer Rebels in the first game of their second-round playoff series at Rogers Place on Thursday at 7pm.
  • Get Ready in the Park is happening May 7 in Hawrelak Park from 10am to 3pm. The event gives Edmontonians a chance to meet emergency responders, learn about emergency vehicles and services, and prepare for emergencies in their own lives. The event coincides with the end of national Emergency Preparedness Week.
  • Alberta Health Services and University of Alberta researchers are conducting the province's first large-scale survey on the impacts of long COVID. The survey is open to anyone who has experienced COVID-19 symptoms and includes questions about breathlessness, headaches, mobility, anxiety and depression, concentration, and more. It has received 5,700 responses so far, but researchers say more data will help them understand long COVID resulting from the most recent Omicron variant. Dr. Grace Lam, a virologist at the U of A, estimates that anywhere from 10% to 50% of people infected by COVID-19 will develop long-term symptoms.
  • The University of Alberta unveiled a memorial for the 13 Edmontonians killed when Flight PS752 was downed by a missile shortly after departing Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020, killing a total of 176 people. "Hopefully one day in the future we can get together in a court. We need a day in court," Hamed Esmaeilion told Postmedia. "The memorial means a lot to us, but justice is the most important thing for us."
  • Albertans are less empathetic than two years ago, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and a team of UBC researchers. An ongoing series of surveys about "the ability to understand another's perspective and feelings," which was launched at the start of the pandemic, found that only 15% of Albertans feel empathetic today compared to 29% in May 2020. Dr. Emily Jenkinks, who co-led the research, suggests the "deterioration of social relationships that we see in the data comes at a time when we need each other more than ever." CMHA's Mental Health Week started Monday.
Cory Janssen at a podium bearing the words "Diversifying our Economy" beside a banner reading "AI Lab for Government, powered by AltaML]

Province creates public sector AI lab with AltaML

By Karen Unland and Brett McKay

The Alberta government is putting $3.4 million annually into GovLab.AI, a public sector artificial intelligence lab that aims to solve complex problems by pairing experts from AltaML with post-secondary students and graduates via Mitacs to work with public servants.

Working in four-month cohorts, GovLab.AI will develop ideas into workable models and apply them to problems within government. If the tools prove themselves, they could be commercialized and exported, Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish said at the May 3 announcement.

Health care is one sector that could benefit from this type of research and development. "We think that building tools driven by data will improve patient outcomes, while at the same time reducing costs," said Cory Janssen, co-founder and co-CEO of AltaML. His company has already started to explore those possibilities, partnering with Amplitude Venture Capital to apply AI to life sciences and precision medicine.

"If you're trying to do AI, you kind of need the data. And there's a ton of this data in government," said Janssen, adding that while there are hundreds of possible applications for AI and machine learning in government, they are often overlooked.

Janssen believes GovLab.AI will help bridge this gap, developing tools that increase efficiency and reduce costs as well as creating an environment that encourages the "amazing brains" from around the world studying at Alberta universities to stay and work in the province after they graduate.

A pilot cohort will start this month, and the lab is expected to be fully operational by this summer. Glubish said the province hopes to invite "at least three other public sector organizations" to join the project.

Photo: Cory Janssen of AltaML speaks at a news conference on May 3 announcing the creation of GovLab.AI. (Government of Alberta/YouTube)

A newspaper clipping with the headline "Public Library Site Before City Council"

A moment in history: May 4, 1909

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1909, Edmonton's city council was looking for a site for its first library. While the library was established in 1913, it would take another 14 years for it to find a permanent home.

The culprit was ambition. To fund its new library, Edmonton went to the same place as most cities of the period: Andrew Carnegie. The famed U.S. industrialist and philanthropist created a foundation that provided grants to build more than 2,500 libraries around the world. Given Edmonton's prosperity and position as Alberta's capital, the city requested $200,000 in funding. The foundation countered with $60,000. Edmonton was unwilling to change its plans and declined the offer.

Instead, the library board decided to try to raise the money itself. However, public support wasn't as strong as expected. That, combined with an economic slowdown and the start of the First World War, meant the money didn't materialize. Instead, Edmonton's downtown library spent its first decade-and-a-half bouncing between different buildings. (Meanwhile, neighbouring Strathcona did manage to raise enough to build a library — it opened in 1913, a year after the amalgamation of the two municipalities, making it Edmonton's first library building.)

In 1921, Edmonton once again entered negotiations with the foundation for a permanent downtown library. Carnegie himself had died in 1919, which was supposed to put a stop to grants for new libraries. But since Edmonton had technically started discussions 14 years earlier, the rules were bent. In 1923, the downtown library was built near the MacDonald Hotel for $160,000, coming from both the Carnegie Foundation and the City of Edmonton.

It might have been late, but the building was impressive. The library was built from steel and reinforced concrete. The front stairs led up to an entrance bordered by four Doric columns, a style shared by many Carnegie libraries. And above the entrance, carved into the stone exterior, were the words FREE TO ALL.

The central library remained an integral part of the city's downtown for the next 45 years. It was expanded in 1962 due to the city's booming population and an ever-growing collection of books and music. Eventually, the need for more space led to the construction of the larger Centennial Library (now the Stanley Milner) in 1967. A year later, the Carnegie library was demolished. The Telus Building now stands in its place.

Almost a century later, Edmonton's library remains a core part of the city. However, the idea of what a library can be has changed drastically. While it still holds a vast collection of books and other materials, the Edmonton Public Library has also branched out into different types of learning, such as the Milner's newly opened community kitchen. The EPL also is offering a series of presentations on life skills, ranging from financial literacy to sleep training for children.

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.