The Pulse: Jan. 5, 2023

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  • -3°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind becoming southeast 30 km/h gusting to 50 in the afternoon. High minus 3. Wind chill minus 19 in the morning and minus 7 in the afternoon. (forecast)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (20-17-2) play the New York Islanders (22-15-2) at Rogers Place. (details)

Jenesia in concert, writer David Haas, the cover of Shima Robinson's Bellow, a scene from video game Little Hellions, the outside of Harcourt House, a view of the post-apocalyptic set of The Last of Us

Arts beat followups: Pauses, presses, and producers

By Karen Unland

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

Winterruption YEG postponed as COVID-19 cases rise (Jan. 5, 2022)

The original story: Omicron and the domino effect inherent in booking a series of festivals across Western Canada led to the postponement of Winterruption YEG in early 2022.

Then what?: The show eventually went on in late March and early April, bringing music back to several indoor and outdoor venues after Alberta lifted most COVID-19 restrictions. It wrapped up on April 12 with gratitude and a promise to return, and it is indeed doing so — tickets are available for the festival running Jan. 25-29, with dozens of musicians, comedians, drag artists, podcasters, and wrestlers set to perform.

Retired lawyer turned playwright wins screenplay competition (Jan. 20, 2022)

The original story: Retired lawyer turned playwright David Haas won funding to turn his screenplay, Stage Door Johnny, into a short film through the Alberta Screenwriter Accelerator Program.

Then what?: Stage Door Johnny was shot over two days in February with a six-person cast that included Griffin Cork. It premiered at the Edmonton Short Film Festival on Oct. 15 and is now on the festival circuit. The ESFF published a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the film and chatted with Haas at the gala.

'Serve the artists': Glass Bookshop launches small press (May 17, 2022)

The original story: Glass Bookshop launched Glass House Press with the publication of three chapbooks by Emily Riddle, Zachary Ayotte, and Shima Robinson, aka Dwennimmen.

Then what?: All three books made their way to the Edmonton Bestseller List throughout the spring, and Riddle's Ancestors and Exes was still a poetry bestseller in November, right under her new book, The Big Melt. Glass Bookshop itself has seen big changes this year. Co-founder Matthew Stepanic left in September, and the shop moved from its pop-up space at Latitude 53 to share a building with Kind Ice Cream in Ritchie.

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Headlines: Jan. 5, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • Edmonton's anti-racism strategy, an initiative city council agreed to after being sworn into office in October 2021, is facing criticism from community leaders for slow progress and a lack of clear goals. "The language is very vague, and I think that's how people dodge accountability," said Dunia Nur, president of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council. The city is also still recruiting people to serve on an independent body to "oversee anti-racism for Edmontonians," which is a key element of the strategy. The anti-racism advisory committee that helped create the strategy has put its meetings on hold indefinitely and is experiencing what Mayor Amarjeet Sohi described as "tensions" with administration. City manager Andre Corbould said he is satisfied with the city's efforts so far, pointing to funding such as the Anti-racism Grants Program, which has distributed $810,000 since 2021.
  • Edmontonians can now recycle Styrofoam and other types of polystyrene foam carrying the #6 plastic symbol at any Eco Station for free as long as it's clean. The city awarded the contract for the service to Styro Re Cycle, a southside company that uses a high-pressure machine to turn the foam into dense blocks that are sold to be turned into pellets for manufacturing. The company diverted 2,000 cubic meters of foam from landfills in 2022, the year it began its pilot project.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank continues to struggle to keep up with demand, with 30,000-35,000 people relying on the hamper program between September and October 2022. According to executive director Marjorie Bencz, supplies are lacking even as all 65 depots in Edmonton are at capacity and the organization went beyond its 2022 budget by a million dollars. Brad Lafortune with Public Interest Alberta suggested the solution lies with targeted affordability measures from the provincial and federal governments. "(We) can't keep expecting food banks and not-for-profits and charities to make up for where governments need to be doing more when it comes to food security," Lafortune said.
  • Maia Stock, a local woman, contracted a flesh-eating disease called necrotizing fasciitis while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta but remained in Mexico for treatment because there were no hospital beds available in Edmonton. An Alberta Health Services spokesperson said the organization tries to repatriate patients, but an AHS facility "may only accept if they have resources available to provide care." Stock underwent three operations over a two-week hospital stay in Mexico and was discharged Jan. 4.
  • The south tower of the Edmonton Law Courts building had a power outage lasting more than 24 hours, leading to delays in several cases including a manslaughter conviction appeal by Bradley Barton, the Ontario man who killed Cindy Gladue at the Yellowhead Inn in June 2011. The court has not yet scheduled a new date for Barton's hearing.
  • WILDNorth, a local non-profit that rescues and cares for injured wild animals, receives more than 12,000 calls through its wildlife helpline and responds to around 800 rescue requests per year. Executive director Dale Gienow told Postmedia that 95% of the animals require treatment due to human activities. "I feel like somebody has to be there to champion these animals," said Gienow, who also has a wealth of stories about injured and orphaned wildlife, including coyotes, pelicans, and a talking raven.
  • Aurora Cannabis, which is headquartered in Edmonton, has sold its Aurora Polaris facility in Leduc as part of efforts to streamline operations. When it announced the plan in 2021, the company said 8% of its global workforce would be affected by the closure. In May 2022, it also announced plans to close the nearby Sky facility and two other facilities in British Columbia.
Cover art for Taproot Edmonton's Bloom, brought to you by Edmonton Unlimited

Ringing in the new year with innovation insights

By Karen Unland

On Episode 43 of Bloom, Taproot co-founder Mack Male joins co-hosts Karen Unland and Faaiza Ramji to look back at some innovation-related highlights of 2022 and look ahead to 2023.

Alberta saw a record year of investment, with multimillion-dollar raises for Edmonton companies such as Wyvern, Aurora Hydrogen, DrugBank, Copperstone Technologies, Direct-C, and Truffle Systems, among others.

That's a decent crop and a significant achievement for the companies involved, said Male, but the amount of investment in Edmonton is dwarfed by that seen in other cities, noting the $185 million that went to Calgary's Neo Financial alone in 2022.

"On the one hand, it feels like Edmonton had a pretty good year in terms of fundraising — companies getting to the next stage, ideas becoming companies, and then startups becoming scale-ups," he said. "On the other hand, we're constantly behind Calgary and other cities ... If we compare ourselves to our past selves, we had a pretty good year in 2022. Maybe compared to other places, it was just OK."

Male also reflected on the huge impact that accelerators made in bringing more attention to local startups and helping them on their journey to the next stage.

"For me, this really was the year of the accelerators in Edmonton and in Alberta," he said. "We write about the cohorts for Propel and (Alberta) Catalyzer and all of them. There's a handful of companies that I've heard of in there, but there's lots and lots of new ones ... Maybe they're not investable, and they've got a long way to go still, but even just to know that that top of funnel is this rich is an encouraging sign from 2022 that I don't think we felt in the same way in previous years."

Looking ahead, Ramji wondered whether Canadian humility will serve local companies well as they seek investment in what is expected to be a tighter market in 2023.

"We want to wait until we have traction on something, or we have real value, and then we go after an investment," she said. "I think that investors are actually going to really appreciate that at this time ... It's always going to be a bet, but the more it can feel like a calculated bet, the better."

This is Ramji's swan song as co-host of Bloom, as she's stepping away to focus on ventures such as Field Notes. So don't miss your chance to hear her insights on nurturing startups and scaleups in 2022, as well as where things might go in 2023 on the Jan. 5 episode of Taproot's podcast about innovation in Edmonton.