The Pulse: Nov. 23, 2022

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  • 4°C: Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h gusting to 40. High plus 4. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue/White: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and white for the annual conference of the Alberta Restorative Justice Association. (details)
  • $1 million: Local residents Jean Janson and Ivan Derksen each won $1 million through Lotto Max in October. The tickets came from an Esso in the Town of Mundare and a Shell station in Ellerslie. (details)
  • 12pm: Team Canada takes on Belgium at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (details)
  • 5:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers (10-9-0) play the New York Islanders (12-8-0) at UBS Arena. (details)

Elected officials from the Edmonton region hold up Arc cards in front of three buses

Electronic fare payments come to transit in the Edmonton region

By Mack Male

Transit riders in the Edmonton region can now use Arc, the new electronic fare payment system that has been in the works for nearly two decades.

Arc is available for use by standard adult riders in Beaumont, Edmonton, Spruce Grove, Strathcona County, and St. Albert. Fort Saskatchewan and the City of Leduc require more time for implementation due to bus replacements and the need for handheld fare validators on the fleet, so they will launch support for Arc next year. Also coming in 2023 is support for discounted fare groups — including seniors, youth, and low-income individuals — and riders who use paratransit services such as DATS.

"This is an important milestone toward building a strong, integrated transit service that gives people a more modern, reliable, and seamless way to travel around the greater Edmonton region," said Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, branch manager of Edmonton Transit Service.

Wade Coombs, transit director of Strathcona County Transit, said Arc makes the Edmonton region the first in Canada to offer regional fare capping. "This will enhance regional mobility and reduce the financial barrier for riders who prefer not to pay for a pass upfront," he said.

Fare capping is one of the key features of Arc, intended to replace monthly passes. Once a rider hits the fare cap for their region, they ride for free during the rest of the month. Each region has a slightly different cap, ranging from $52.50 per month in Fort Saskatchewan to $100 per month in Edmonton for local adult riders. Commuter caps are higher, ranging from $85 per month in Beaumont to $135 per month in Spruce Grove.

Though seven regional municipalities are involved in Arc, the initiative is separate from the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission.

"Arc has a governance structure with members, including a regional executive steering committee, to oversee the implementation," Hotton-MacDonald told Taproot. "Faring is not in scope for the Commission's first phase of operations." She said the EMTSC will work with municipalities on faring in "future phases of work."

Edmonton city council is expected to vote on its involvement in EMTSC's first phase of operations during the 2023-2026 budget discussions.

Staff and outreach teams from the participating transit agencies are handing out complimentary Arc cards to riders at transit centres and LRT stations until supplies last. Arc cards can also be purchased for $6 online, at fare vending machines, and at select retailers.

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Headlines: Nov. 23, 2022

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city announced that the Edmonton Transit Service is running its annual Stuff a Bus campaign from Nov. 23-27 to collect food for Edmonton's Food Bank. Edmontonians can drop off food to volunteers at 15 participating Save-On-Foods locations before ETS busses collect the donations on Nov. 26. A "specially decorated" LRT car will be collecting donations at Century Park Station on Nov. 26 and Clareview Station on Nov. 27. You can also donate online through the Food Bank's website by selecting "ETS Stuff a Bus" as the fund.
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced a $2.4-billion inflation relief package in her first televised provincial address on Nov. 22. "As a province we can't solve this inflation crisis on our own, but due to our strong fiscal position and balanced budget, we can offer substantial relief so Albertans and their families are better able to manage through this storm," said Smith, who blamed the cost of living challenges on federal government spending and "anti-energy policies" she said are driving up the cost of fuel, electricity, heating, and food. The package will include $600 over six months for each senior citizen and child under 18 for households with a total income below $180,000.
  • Health Minister Jason Copping announced the province will temporarily remove its cap on the number of patients a doctor can be paid to see each day, which the UCP government added to its contract with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) after it unilaterally terminated the previous master agreement in February 2020. Under the contract, doctors were paid half for every visit after 50 visits and received no payment after 65 visits. "The intent was to promote quality care and safety for patients and physicians," said Copping. "But the impact of the cap was limited, and we think it's outweighed by the need to support access for patients." The minister said the cap will be lifted until March 2023 as the government evaluates the effects of the change.
  • Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) has denied an application by Capital City Casinos to relocate one of its casinos from Camrose to 420 Parsons Road in south Edmonton. AGLC said nearly 500 organizations and individuals provided input into the proposed relocation, of which 98% were opposed. One major concern was that Edmonton-area charities would be unable to generate revenue at the casino as it would retain a rural license, while residents also worried about the impact increased traffic would have in the area. Capital City Casinos was given 30 days to request an appeal hearing.
  • The Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) is inviting Albertans to sign a letter of support as it calls on the province to provide $30 million in immediate emergency support to the nonprofit sector. The CCVO's report Alberta's Nonprofit Sector: Too Essential to Fail, which is also available as a web version, suggests that spending less than 1% of Alberta's $13-billion surplus can "prevent failure within the sector and save millions of dollars on downstream costs." The report, which received 331 survey responses from nonprofits across Alberta, says that "organizations face uncertainty and instability in the wake of the global pandemic. They are experiencing higher demand for their services and higher complexity of community needs - all while adapting to a new context with fewer resources."
  • Local musician Josh Sahunta was surprised to learn that two of his songs, which he wrote because a label asked for a collection of tunes to pitch to movie and TV producers, were featured in the Netflix show Love Is Blind. "It's super exciting. I wish I watched the show," said Sahunta, who added he cancelled his Netflix subscription "a while ago." He said he wrote the songs under the alias "J Swift" and then mostly forgot about them after.
  • St. Nicholas Catholic Junior High will be cancelling classes on Nov. 23 to cheer on former student Alphonso Davies in Team Canada's first match against Belgium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. "The very first time I saw him playing, I was blown away by his athleticism and his skill with the ball," said Marco Bossio, who runs the school's soccer academy and coached Davies. "He was completely a remarkable kid because his infectious attitude on the pitch was how he was off the pitch as well."
Six members of the 48Hour Discovery team assembles around a cheque held by Startup TNT's Zack Storms

Startup TNT winner seeks to unlock millions by ramping up protein discovery

By Karen Unland

Biotech company 48Hour Discovery, which won the Edmonton side of Startup TNT's Investment Summit VI, is looking to raise a $2.5-million seed round to help it "pre-discover" 250 protein targets.

Finding the targeting molecules that will bind to the receptor in, say, a cancer cell, is key to developing therapeutic treatments in precision medicine. Once 48Hour Discovery identifies 250 such targets, "that's when we expect a dramatic increase in value," CEO and founder Ratmir Derda said in his pitch at the summit finale on Nov. 17.

Each target has $100,000 to $500,000 in unrealized value that will take two or three years to come to fruition, Derda said. Investors at Startup TNT seemed willing to wait, committing at least $175,000 to kick off the company's seed round, though Taproot has not been able to confirm the final amount.

Derda's company has earned about $5 million in revenue over the past five years, half of it this year, he said during his pitch. That's based on the discovery of 33 targets; now 48Hour Discovery wants to add 250, "and for that, we need a little bit of money."

A $2.5-million seed round would help 48Hour Discovery achieve economies of scale in its target discovery. It would also allow it to advance its own pipeline of drug discovery, including a4b7, which may lead to a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.

"These types of solutions are no longer a dream," Derda said, citing as proof Lutathera, an FDA-approved drug to target gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, which was acquired by Novartis for $3.9 billion.

The challenge now is to find more such solutions, which 48Hour Discovery does "much faster than our competitors at a dramatically reduced cost," said Derda, who received an award for scientific achievement and innovation from BioAlberta earlier this year.

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A newspaper clipping with the headline "Five Deaths Friday Due to Influenza: Three in the Morning and Two in Afternoon — Total 369 Deaths in All Reported"

A moment in history: Nov. 23, 1918

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1918, Edmonton was in the grips of a deadly influenza pandemic.

The first reported Alberta cases of what was erroneously dubbed Spanish flu were linked to a train passing through Calgary on Oct. 2, 1918. When the virus reached Edmonton, it spread quickly. By Oct. 19, at least 40 people were infected, with more than a dozen in quarantine.

The pandemic came at a crucial time. Doctors and nurses were already in short supply, as many were involved in the war effort. Alberta's government had only existed for a touch over 13 years, but it moved quickly to bring in measures to slow the spread of the flu. Schools, churches, and other gathering places were ordered closed. Mask mandates were put into place, both indoors and out.

Edmontonians seemed much more resistant to mask-wearing than those living in Calgary. Eventually, the city's entire police force was put at the disposal of Minister of Municipal Affairs Alexander McKay, who directed them to arrest those breaking the mandate. Among those prosecuted for refusing to wear a mask was the president of Edmonton's health board. (McKay would become Alberta's health minister before dying of complications related to the flu.)

Despite these measures, the virus spread. Hospitals were soon overwhelmed. The University of Alberta's Pembina Hall was converted into a temporary hospital, housing hundreds of patients. With few resources and little understanding of the virus, panicked people turned to anything that could promise to keep the virus at bay, no matter how outlandish. Advertisements began touting cures made from fruit extracts, menthol, or compounds purchased from taxidermists. One recommendation even suggested leaving warm formaldehyde on the stove to avoid getting sick.

But amid the panic, there was also compassion. With so many severely ill or in quarantine, some families struggled with child care, cooking, or laundry. Volunteer workers began caring for their neighbours' needs, while volunteer nurses cared for the sick. Soon, the mayor and other city leaders devised a plan to split the city into 15 "relief districts". Each district was headquartered in a then-closed school, which served as a place to store supplies, take donations, and coordinate volunteers.

Flu cases began to drop in November 1918. By December, the province lifted its ban on public gatherings. By May 1919, there were no longer any reported cases. The following two winters saw more outbreaks, but nothing near the scale the city saw in the closing months of 1918. By the end of the pandemic, more than 600 Edmontonians had died of influenza.

Much of what happened in 1918 will seem similar to modern Edmontonians, still dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. And influenza still remains a serious cause for concern in Alberta — this year's flu season has been more intense than most, with hospitalization rates climbing rapidly. Schools are once again a focus. The Edmonton Public School Board held an emergency meeting on Nov. 15 after more than 20,000 students were absent due to COVID, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus.

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.