The Pulse: June 24, 2022

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

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  • 18°C: Periods of rain ending in the morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 30% chance of showers. Wind north 40 km/h gusting to 60 diminishing to 20 gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High 18. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • 4pm: The Edmonton Oil Kings will play the Hamilton Bulldogs at the 2022 Memorial Cup. (details)
  • 5pm, June 25: The Edmonton Elks (0-2) will play the Calgary Stampeders (2-0) at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. (details)
  • Red/Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit red and blue for HHT Canada THH Global Recognition Day. (details)

Three feral wild boar on a hill

Wisdom of wild boar farming questioned in light of feral pig problem

By Brett McKay

While Alberta is grappling with the destructive threat of a growing population of feral wild boar and fears they could soon invade urban areas, there are farmers in the Edmonton area and elsewhere in the province who are still raising them.

Whether they escaped or were let loose, the wild boar pest problem began on farms, and it is with wild boar farms that a strategy for eradicating the animal should start, reasons the Alberta Wilderness Association.

"There should be no more wild boar farming in Alberta. There still is, and that's, we think, very misguided and has resulted in the problem we have now," said Carolyn Campbell, conservation director for the association.

The wild boar is an animal of ambiguous classification, at once a spurned pest, a trophy game animal for hunters, and an exotic livestock species. The other red meat never did capture a huge share of the market in Alberta, but demand from restaurants and specialty shops has kept farms in operation since wild boar were introduced in the 1980s. Right now, Alberta Agriculture reports there are 13 producers in the province, including some in Edmonton's neighbouring Parkland and Strathcona counties.

For Campbell, so long as people are breeding wild boar and cultivating a market for them, no eradication program could be completely successful. Given how difficult to keep the animals from breaching their pens, it would be more cost-effective for the province to buy the boar from producers and eliminate them, she said.

"They should be bought out and shut down," she said. "They never ever should have been brought in in the first place, but they should be bought out. The risk way exceeds the very limited private benefit, and now we're bearing the public risks and costs to try to eradicate this invasive species."

The province has long walked the line between supporting farmers and preventing the invasive offspring of former livestock from spreading. If a boar is roaming free in any part of the province, it falls under the Agricultural Pest Act and can be legally killed. The County of Stettler and the municipal districts of Peace and Bonnyville actively encourage culls with a bounty of $75 per ear. In 14 participating counties, including Strathcona and Parkland, wild boar farms are subject to minimum containment standards – like electric fencing or double fencing – and regular inspections. A growing number of counties have banned wild boar outright, usually under animal control bylaws. In most counties, however, wild boar are still just treated as regular livestock so long as they are inside a pen.

Wild boar cause extensive damage to cropland and are known vectors for African swine fever and other diseases that would cost billions if they spread through herds of livestock. That makes wild boar a liability to the pork industry itself.

"On one hand, these guys are also producers," Charlotte Shipp, industry programs manager of Alberta Pork said of wild boar farmers. On the other hand, "they do pose a significant threat back to industry."

"There's no easy answer to that. You certainly don't want to uproot anybody's livelihood. But that being said, we do also have to make sure that we're protecting the industry at large as well."

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By Kevin Holowack

  • The city has released a series of engagement activities in advance of the 2023-2026 budget to learn about Edmontonians' budget priorities. The new Balance the Budget Tool allows users to make a budget by adjusting funding for different line items. The city is collecting input until July 17.
  • TransEd said on June 22 that it still plans to open the Valley Line Southeast LRT this summer but would not provide an exact date. "We will give you a firm date when we get close. We're not far from being able to do that," said spokesperson Dallas Lindskoog.
  • The city has relaunched its Emerging Immigrant and Refugee Communities (EIRC) grant program, which provides funding to registered not-for-profits that help newcomers and refugees settle or integrate in Edmonton. Updates since the program underwent a review in 2020 include more emphasis on community development within ethnocultural communities, and the establishment of the Ethnocultural Capacity Building Collaborative in partnership with the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.
  • The Mustard Seed has opened its newly renovated Strathcona Neighbour Centre. The facility was funded by the Shaw Family Foundation and provides 50 overnight spaces, laundry and showers, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, employment and housing supports, and other services.
  • Edmontonians have expressed mixed feelings about lifeguards at the refurbished city hall fountain. Some visitors said the lifeguards seem excessive given the fountain's new 15 cm depth while others felt their presence is "good for the kids." The city said a shortage of "amenity attendants" has led to the temporary assignment of lifeguards at the fountain.
  • Qualico held a grand opening on June 21 for Maskêkosihk Trail, a newly completed two-kilometre stretch of arterial road that is the first major roadway in the city to be given a Cree name. "Renaming this significant roadway in honour of the Cree First Nations is a show of respect and acknowledgement for the fact that we are creating new communities on Treaty 6 Territory," the company said in a news release.
  • Pope Francis will use Edmonton as his home base during his visit to Western Canada from July 24-27. His Alberta itinerary, released by the Vatican on June 23, includes visits to a former residential school in Maskwacîs, an Indigenous pilgrimage site in Lac Ste. Anne, the newly restored Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, and Commonwealth Stadium for mass.
Justin Larocque-Villiers holding a microphone in front of a dark background

Scription named the Edmonton winner at Startup TNT's Investment Summit V

By Dustin Scott and Mack Male

Scription, which offers a software-as-a-service platform for equipment maintenance companies, took away the top prize at the fifth annual Startup TNT Investment Summit on June 23.

Scription's platform provides equipment maintenance companies with an end-to-end solution for selling and managing personalized maintenance contracts. The contracts bundle all the maintenance costs that an equipment owner or operator might need to pay into a fixed subscription, which provides the maintenance companies with stable recurring revenue.

This approach also incentivizes maintenance companies to optimize their work, said co-founder Justin Larocque-Villiers. "If you're getting paid per hour, why would you fix it fast?" he said during his pitch.

Larocque-Villiers said the company is looking to raise $1.2 million in funding. "We know what our exit strategy is — we want to get acquired by an insurance company," he told the crowd.

Fellow Edmonton finalist Zero Point Cryogenics, which builds cryogen-free dilution refrigerators for quantum technologies, was offered a side deal at the event. Startup TNT said there's potential for more side deals to be announced in the days ahead.

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A group of cyclists at the start line of a race under City of Edmonton arches amid Melcor banners

Weekend agenda: June 24-26, 2022

By Debbi Serafinchon

This weekend offers the opportunity to engage with Indigenous creators, cheer on some cyclists, celebrate the opening of a new community, have a real wild night, or kick off the start of JazzFest:

Find even more fun things to do in the Arts Roundup.

Photo: The second annual Edmonton Urban Fondo is a closed course community ride happening June 26, during the Canadian Road Cycling Championships. (World Triathlon Edmonton/Facebook)