The Pulse: Jan. 11, 2023

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  • -7°C: Mainly cloudy. Fog patches. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 7. Wind chill near minus 12. (forecast)
  • 8pm: The Edmonton Oilers (21-18-3) play the Anaheim Ducks (12-25-4) at the Honda Center. (details)

Jolene Ali in a lab coat, with a piece of stainless steel machinery behind her, beside two closeups of gelatinous cubes

Gummy startup offers sweet alternatives to pills and tablets

By Caitlin Crawshaw

If you've ever let bottles of vitamins languish in your medicine cabinet, you've probably switched to gummies — an Edmonton startup is banking on it.

Gummy Nutrition Lab is Alberta's very first manufacturer of nutraceutical gummies (not to be mistaken for cannabis gummies), which now dominate health supplement sales worldwide. Founded in 2019 by food scientist Jolene Ali, the Edmonton company joins a burgeoning global industry worth billions (US$6.4 billion in 2021, by one estimate).

The reason for the surge in gummy popularity boils down to taste, Ali told Taproot. While people often dislike the taste of chewable tablets or the feeling of swallowing pills, they gobble gummy vitamins like candy. "People like to take gummies, so they take them more often," said Ali. So rather than losing a bottle at the back of a cabinet, a consumer is more likely to finish their gummy vitamins and run to the store for more.

The demand for gummy nutraceuticals — not just vitamins, but health supplements like omega-3, probiotics, and melatonin, among others — has been growing rapidly in the past decade, but especially during the pandemic, when many of us scrambled to boost our immune systems with vitamins. But Ali first became aware of the gummy trend 15 years ago when she was manufacturing her own line of tablet-based prenatal and pregnancy supplements, which she sold across Canada and at her Edmonton-area Sweet Momma pregnancy spas (a business she sold in 2013).

However, it wasn't just market growth that motivated her to launch Gummy Nutrition Lab in 2019. As a food scientist, she knew that Alberta's dry climate made it the ideal place to manufacture gummy products. In more humid places, gummy manufacturers need to run dehumidifiers constantly to ensure gummies are able to dry after they've been cooked.

On top of this, Ali knew she'd have good access to raw ingredients, like the pea fibre that forms the base of every gummy. "It acts very similar to corn syrup in candies as it provides a nice softness and has a low calorie density, so we can make a very delicious low-sugar gummy," she said.

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Headlines: Jan. 11, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city plans to cut down 220 mature trees in Hawrelak Park, nearly 19% of the park's 1,182 total trees, as part of the three-year rehabilitation project set to begin March 13. A new tree will be planted for every tree removed, according to the city's website, which does not specify the number of trees being removed. Kristine Kowalchuk, chair of the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition, didn't recall hearing during public engagement about the city's decision to remove 220 trees and said her organization "feels the whole project has lacked transparency."
  • Administration is recommending the city give a $26.5-million sole-source contract to Ledcor to build a pedway between the Station Lands residential towers and Churchill LRT Station. In a report going to executive committee Jan. 18, city staff suggested hiring Ledcor directly will reduce costs because the construction group has already been hired by Qualico to build the private development. Coun. Anne Stevenson, who pushed back on the pedway last year when council approved funding it with the Downtown Community Revitalization Levy, thought staff made a "good argument" but said the pedway wouldn't benefit all members of the community and that pedways in general "detract from the vibrancy of our downtown streets."
  • Edmonton Public Library spent nearly $1.5 million last year to deal with the effects of social disorder at its branches across the city, according to a preliminary city report. Among the costs were naloxone kits, washroom attendants, outreach workers and opioid overdose responses. The report also showed 570 instances of "customer distress," including 77 opioid overdoses. Coun. Michael Janz, who requested the information from administration during budget deliberations last year, said it is an example of cities dealing with the costs of issues that are provincial responsibility.
  • Correctional Service Canada (CSC) said it has hired dozens of correctional officers to work at Edmonton Institution, a federal maximum security prison, in response to a critical report from the Office of the Correctional Investigator that singled out the prison as one of the worst in Canada for workplace dysfunction, use of force, assaults, and self-harm. James Bloomfield, prairies regional president with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said CSC has "created no new positions whatsoever" and only filled workplace gaps after reducing staffing to a "bare minimum" during the pandemic. He added the prison is "still a toxic work environment, or very, very close to a toxic work environment."
  • Community leaders in Chinatown who spoke to CTV News expect the installation of a new Harbin Gate will be an emotional moment. "That was the gate for friendship. It was the twinning of the two cities, Harbin and Edmonton," said Sandy Pon with the Chinese Benevolent Association, adding the gate was a "landmark for every Edmontonian." The city is currently working with a team in China to finalize the design. No timeline for installation has been decided.
  • Work to restore power at the Edmonton Law Courts building is ongoing, and while some parts of the building regained power on Jan. 10, a timeline for permanent repairs is still being determined. Since the outage began Jan. 3, Court of King's Bench managed to hear a majority of scheduled cases remotely or in other court facilities. The building was constructed in 1972, and there have been calls to replace it since the early 2000s.
  • The Edmonton Oilers are either "underachieving badly" or demonstrating that "everything that happened last spring was a fluke," according to Sportsnet columnist Mark Spector. With their 21-18-3 record this season, the team is sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference. Evander Kane, whose wrist was lacerated by a skate during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 8, may return to the ice on Jan. 19 or 21.
  • The Edmonton International Airport saw delays to most incoming and outgoing flights on the morning of Jan. 10 due to poor visibility caused by low-lying fog. From 9am-12pm, only two of 20 departures left on time and all 10 arrivals were delayed or cancelled.
A map showing 13 proposed bus routes connecting Edmonton to seven municipalities and the airport

A requiem for regional transit: What happened and what's next

By Karen Unland

Two years after the birth of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Transit Commission (EMTSC), the CEO is now planning its funeral.

Paul Jankowski, who was hired to lead the organization in May 2021, has been directed by his board to wind down the commission after Edmonton city council decided not to fund its share of the EMTSC budget, leading the city to give notice of its intention to withdraw.

A plan to deal with obligations and dissolve the commission is to be presented at the Jan. 19 EMTSC board meeting. St. Albert city council had planned to consider a motion supporting the disestablishment of the commission on Jan. 10, but Coun. Sheena Hughes withdrew the motion after council consulted with administration in private.

"At this point, I'm going to leave it in the hands of the transit commission board to take the next step," she said.

Whether the demise of the commission means the end of regional transit, or indeed of regional cooperation as a whole, is a matter of debate. Here's a look at what happened and what's next on this file.

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A newspaper clipping of an ad from ITV reading "The Tommy Banks Show: Free"

A moment in history: Jan. 11, 1975

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1975, audiences were invited to free tapings of The Tommy Banks Show.

This particular week featured well-known names, like soul singer Dee Dee Warwick, prolific songwriter Ray Griff, and country singer Ferlin Husky. The lineup is a small sample of the kind of musical talent attracted to perform here by Banks: a pianist, composer, teacher, philanthropist, TV presenter, Canadian senator, and Edmonton's Godfather of Music.

When Banks was born in Calgary in 1936, entertainment was already the family business. His grandfather was in vaudeville. His father worked in a pit orchestra, and his mother was a dancer (who later would become a TV host). The family moved to Edmonton when Banks was a boy, and he soon fell in love with the city's music scene.

By 14, he was a professional musician. By 18, he was the coordinator of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He became an integral part of Edmonton's live music scene. In the 1960s, his band, Tommy Banks and the Banknotes, was signed on for a successful tour across Nevada. Despite an offer of a contract for full-time work in Las Vegas, Banks returned to Edmonton to continue his career.

He regularly played at the Yardbird Suite and continued working with the symphony. He also became a broadcaster, starting a decades-long relationship with CKUA and hosting a national show on CBC Radio. This would lead to countless offers and opportunities in other cities. Friends say he would respond to these offers with "we're going to do that, but we're going to do it here."

In 1968, Banks began hosting The Tommy Banks Show on CBC. The network demanded that he move to Toronto to produce the show. Banks refused. Eventually, the network relented, and Banks produced the show out of the University of Alberta, making it the first national TV show to be made in Edmonton. It would run on the network for five years before moving to ITV.

His jazz and piano recordings were hits worldwide. He won Juno and Gemini awards for his music and TV work, respectively. He also served as a musical coordinator for many international events, including the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and Calgary's 1988 Winter Olympics. In 2000, he was appointed to the Canadian Senate, where he served for 11 years.

Banks played for royalty and the Pope, and his music was enjoyed by audiences around the world. But his greatest legacy is how he helped grow Edmonton's cultural scene. He served as an instructor and head of the music program at what is now MacEwan University, helping to train a new generation of musicians. Banks was also a philanthropist, founding the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts and serving on boards for non-profits like CKUA.

Banks passed away from leukemia in 2018. But his musical and cultural impact is still felt in Edmonton. The family tradition of music continues with his granddaughter, jazz artist Mallory Chipman. And the Yardbird Suite — the club where Banks spent so many nights on stage — recently celebrated its 65th anniversary. It is now located a few blocks north of Whyte Avenue, at 11 Tommy Banks Way.

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.

Correction: This piece has been updated to reflect that the Yardbird Suite is north of Whyte Avenue.