The Pulse: Jan. 4, 2023

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

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  • -3°C: Sunny. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 3. Wind chill minus 18 in the morning and minus 6 in the afternoon. (forecast)
  • 2-5: The Edmonton Oilers (20-17-2) were defeated by the Seattle Kraken (20-12-4) on Jan. 3. (details)

Amarjeet Sohi swearing oath of office, Malcolm Bruce at a news conference, wild boars, tree lovers Joshua Kirsch and Dustin Bajer, a downtown bus, Chelsey Reschke

Regional beat followups: Transit, travel, and trees

By Karen Unland

Just because a story is written doesn't mean it's over. Here are some updates on regional stories we covered in 2022:

Sohi sees economic growth, sustainability, social issues as key regional issues (Jan. 5, 2022)

The original story: As Amarjeet Sohi looked ahead to his first full year as mayor of Edmonton, he spoke to Taproot about his interest in pursuing both economic development and social issues in the metro region.

Then what?: One of the big stories to come out of Edmonton's four-year budget decisions was city council's decision not to approve $13 million for the first phase of the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Service Commission's service plan, despite endorsing the plan in September. Coun. Sarah Hamilton called the decision "the death of regionalism," but Sohi disagreed. "I want to take exception to the notion that us pulling from the regional commission is going to damage our relationships," he said. EMTSC chair Wes Brodhead said "trust has been broken" in a release, and St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said she was "heartbroken," but Leduc Mayor Bob Young said he understood the decision.

Relaunched Port Alberta expands concept from airport to region (March 25, 2022)

The original story: Edmonton Global relaunched Port Alberta, a concept describing the convergence of air, rail, pipelines, and roadways in the Edmonton region that facilitates the movement of goods.

Then what?: Level 42 AI, a med-tech company based in Silicon Valley, announced plans in September to set up a digital health subsidiary called Vibrome in the Edmonton region, which Edmonton Global attributed in part to the region's connection to world markets via Port Alberta. The Edmonton International Airport (YEG) has continued to build out its cargo capacity. "We're seeing dramatic cargo growth because companies are realizing the efficiencies of actually using Edmonton as their jumping off point into the U.S. and then conversely, back into Asia or the Middle East," Myron Keehn told FreightWaves in August, a couple of months before he was named CEO of YEG.

Wisdom of wild boar farming questioned in light of feral pig problem (June 24, 2022)

The original story: People involved in both conservation and agriculture expressed concerns about the continuation of wild boar farming in Alberta, including in Parkland and Strathcona counties, as the threat posed by feral pigs grows.

Then what?: In October, Strathcona County updated its responsible livestock ownership bylaw, banning new wild boar farms and requiring current producers to register for a permit before Jan. 1.

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Headlines: Jan. 4, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • The city will send property owners their 2023 property assessment notices on Jan. 16 after they were delayed to avoid conflicting with the holiday season. The assessments, which will reflect the 2023 tax increase council approved in December, will also be posted to the city's MyProperty website. Property tax notices will be mailed out in May.
  • Chinatown is getting a new Harbin Gate after council approved $6 million to replace the landmark structure as part of the 2023-2026 capital budget. The original gate, a gift from Edmonton's sister city of Harbin, China, was erected in 1987 over 102 Avenue just east of 97 Street and removed in 2017 to make way for the Valley Line LRT expansion. The new gate will go over 97 Street just north of Jasper Avenue. A spokesperson confirmed Edmonton is working with Harbin on the new design. The city has already installed gate footings, but has not determined a completion date for the project.
  • Edmontonians overwhelmingly did their last-minute Christmas shopping at malls compared to shoppers in other Canadian cities. According to data from Avison Young's Vitality Index, foot traffic at Edmonton malls increased 184% between Dec. 19-23 compared to the same period in 2021, and foot traffic at big box stores increased 148%. Meanwhile, foot traffic at local stores increased only 22%. "We all wish it would've been better and that we would've seen more traffic," said Marcella Nathan, owner of Bosom Babies.
  • The city plans to start selling parcels of land in 2023 to get the ball rolling on the Exhibition Lands project, which will transform more than 200 acres of land around the Expo Centre, including the Northlands Coliseum site, into a "sustainable, transit-oriented, aspirational redevelopment." According to the project's implementation strategy, it also aims to be net-zero by 2030. In December, council committed $35 million to demolish the Coliseum, but a date hasn't been scheduled.
  • Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart of the Edmonton Police Service firearms examination and gang investigation unit expects recent improvements to the police service's in-house ballistics testing capacity will help investigators and accelerate efforts to prosecute gun crime. Relying mostly on provincial funding, police have set up a standalone test-fire facility in southeast Edmonton, which processed 749 weapons in 2021 and a similar number in 2022. Previously, firearm testing in Alberta was done by the RCMP and came with significant wait times, which can result in judges dismissing cases due to unreasonable delays.
  • In a year-end interview, Premier Danielle Smith suggested Calgary should follow the "Edmonton model" of downtown development, specifically using private investment dollars rather than public funds to replace the Scotiabank Saddledome. Smith's examples of "what seems to have worked in Edmonton" included Rogers Place, Stantec Tower, and the JW Marriott Hotel, which are all in Ice District. Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said in a separate interview that it would be premature to "weigh in at this stage on the premier's musings."
John Lewis of Entos Pharmaceuticals and Nanostics, Cory Janssen of AltaML, Jacqueline Shan of PBG BioPharma, Colin Coros of Nanostics, Sharmin Habib of Umay, and Sunil Rajput of Alberta Innovates

Health innovation beat followups: Deals, drugs, and Dragons

By Karen Unland

Just because a story is written doesn't mean it's over. Here are some updates on health innovation stories we covered in 2022:

Entos and Lilly sign agreement to research and develop new brain-disease therapies (Jan. 10, 2022)

The original story: Entos Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Eli Lilly worth $50 million up front and up to $400 million in the future, granting the American pharmaceutical giant exclusive access to its Fusogenix PLV platform as well as an equity investment.

Then what?: Steve Chen, who was made the chief medical officer of Entos in March, spoke to PharmaVoice in April about what the Eli Lilly deal means to the company, calling it "a major inflection point" on the path towards treating diseases he never would have imagined being treatable when he was in medical school. The company continued to work on a COVID-19 DNA vaccine using the Fusogenix platform, CEO John Lewis wrote in Drug Target Review in April. By September, 268 people in Burkina Faso were enrolled in a Phase 2 clinical trial, but a coup d'état interrupted that work, Folio reported in December; Lewis said the trial may be moved to Senegal, and the vaccine may be tested in Canada as a booster.

AltaML partners with venture capital firm to combine AI and life sciences expertise (Jan. 19, 2022)

The original story: AltaML formed a strategic alliance with Amplitude Venture Capital, which invests in life sciences and precision medicine.

Then what?: It's not clear where this alliance stands right now, as a big part of the deal was making Alex Hope a shared team member between AltaML and Amplitude, and his LinkedIn profile indicates he left AltaML in October. Both companies had a busy 2022, however. Amplitude went on to participate in DrugBank's $9-million seed round, tapping into Alberta's AI ecosystem. AltaML announced more collaborations, including a public sector AI Lab called, and it made the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and the Report on Business top growing companies lists.

PrairiesCan invests $17M to support innovation in Edmonton (May 3, 2022)

The original story: PBG BioPharma, headquartered in Leduc, received the largest share of the Prairies Economic Development Canada innovation funding announced in late April for the Edmonton region, garnering $5.39 million to increase its biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity.

Then what?: In May, PBG BioPharma announced it had received a licence from Health Canada to deal with psilocin and psilocybin, two psychedelic compounds that have shown promise in the treatment of mental illness. It has also been pursuing the "untapped potential" of cannabis, though CEO Jacqueline Shan told Made in CA that regulatory challenges in Canada and abroad made expansion somewhat challenging. In September, the company announced a new line of natural health products.

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A newspaper clipping with the headline "Newspaper aims to unite province's black population" and a picture of a smiling Esther Rodney in the office of The Communicant

A moment in history: Jan. 4, 1984

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1984, the first newspaper focused on Edmonton's Black community got some ink.

The Communicant was founded in July 1983 by a collection of community groups, including the Ghana Friendship Association of Edmonton. Headquartered in the McLeod Building downtown, the paper aimed to tell the stories and share the voices of Edmonton's West Indian, Caribbean, and African communities.

For most of Edmonton's history, the stories of those groups were told almost exclusively in white-dominated publications, which often reflected racist viewpoints. The earliest Black settlers to the city came in the 1900s, mostly from the United States. In 1907, Oklahoma gained statehood, and many African-Americans faced violence, discrimination, and loss of property. Many moved north, hoping to find a more tolerant atmosphere north of the 49th parallel. Instead, what they found was a form of discrimination that may have been less explicit but was no less present.

Edmonton's newspapers played a prominent role in discouraging Black immigration to Alberta. New arrivals were announced with barely veiled trepidation, and crime stories involving Black citizens were given undue attention. One Edmonton Journal cartoon from 1911 highlights the coded ways that local media tried to discourage Black immigration, clothing racist attitudes in concerns that the climate was too cold and foods too unfamiliar for Black families from the United States.

So it is a bit of a surprise to learn that in the 1920s, both the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Bulletin would start publishing a weekly column about Edmonton's Black community written by a member of it. Rev. George W. Slater Jr., pastor of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal, would detail social events and other news about the Black communities in and around Edmonton. The column gave the papers' mostly white audiences a more balanced view of their Black neighbours and served as a predecessor for publications like The Communicant.

Despite getting its start with no printing press, cameras, or other newspaper hallmarks, the Communicant was able to publish at least 20 issues between 1983 and 1986, which are now held by the Provincial Archives.

It's been nearly 40 years since The Communicant was first published, but equality in media representation and access is still a problem. Still, Alberta is home to more media organizations aiming to amplify Black voices, including Melanistic Magazine, Is This For Real?, Ladies Corner, and Diversity Magazine. More attention has been given in recent years to the contributions of Black immigrants from the Caribbean, United States, Africa, and elsewhere, much of which will be highlighted in February during Black History Month.

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.