The Pulse: March 10, 2023

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  • -5°C: Cloudy with 30% chance of flurries in the morning and early in the afternoon. Periods of light snow beginning early in the afternoon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 5. Wind chill minus 25 in the morning and minus 9 in the afternoon. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Gold: The High Level Bridge will be lit gold for the 52nd Annual JUNO Awards and JUNO Week. (details)
  • 3-2: The Edmonton Oilers (36-22-8) defeated the Boston Bruins (49-9-5) on March 9. (details)
  • 5pm, March 11: The Oilers play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. (details)

A chart showing sworn member attrition for EPS from 2014 to 2022

Edmonton Police Service sees jump in departing officers in 2022

By Mack Male

Nearly 100 Edmonton Police Service officers either left the force or announced plans to do so last year, a notable increase over previous years.

As of Dec. 14, 2022, 50 officers had resigned and 47 had announced their retirement, according to a report going to city council on March 14. EPS had projected total attrition of 60 sworn members for 2022, which is about the average number of officers who left the force in each of the previous five years.

The attrition rate of about 5% in 2022 is the first time the metric has hit the service's established "risk appetite" of less than or equal to 5% since 2014, when EPS saw a total of 78 sworn members leave the force.

As is often the case, some of the departing officers went to other police services across Canada to be closer to family, and some retired outright. But others resigned "citing a negative political environment that made the job less enjoyable," EPS spokesperson Aubrey Zalaski told Taproot. "EPS works at the very front lines of crime and social disorder and our people are not immune to the pressures that all front line workers have felt in recent years."

The service expects that attrition will remain similarly high in 2023. (Zalaski offered slightly different numbers for 2022 from those in the report to council, citing a total of 98 departures.)

Partly as a result of the larger-than-expected number of departures, preliminary figures show that EPS spent roughly $378 million on salary and benefits in 2022, about 1.5% less than budgeted. EPS currently has 2,014 sworn members, up from 1,968 as of 2021.

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Headlines: March 10, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi proclaimed March 9-13 to be JUNO Week in front of a crowd of about 200 people at city hall. Businesses and venues are seeing an economic boost thanks to events happening across the city before the official JUNO Awards ceremony is broadcast live from Rogers Place on March 13. Organizers say the events are expected to generate about $9 million in revenue, and downtown hospitality and venue operators who spoke to CBC are optimistic the JUNOS will rejuvenate Edmontonians' desire to go downtown. The JUNOS were last held in Edmonton in 2004.
  • The federal government announced a $54-million investment through the Affordable Housing Partnership Program to support 17 affordable housing projects in Alberta. Investments in the Edmonton region include $3 million to Catholic Social Services to build housing for women, children, and newcomer families; $2.3 million to the City of Edmonton to build supportive housing for women and children fleeing family violence; and $14.7 million to the Meridian Housing Foundation to build seniors units in Spruce Grove.
  • Vinton Apartments, a mixed-use three-storey building at 111 Avenue and 92 Street, caught fire on the morning of March 6. Between 45 and 55 firefighters were involved in extinguishing the fire and evacuating the building. The incident has displaced 24 adults and two children and caused an estimated $1 million in damages.
  • The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) revealed that a man shot by police near the downtown funicular on March 2 was carrying a pellet gun. ASIRT said the man, who as of March 9 was still in hospital, had refused police orders to drop the pellet gun. The incident remains under investigation.
  • Edmonton Catholic Schools is searching for a new chief superintendent to replace Robert Martin, who is set to retire in the summer after a 37-year career in Catholic education. Martin has served as the division's chief superintendent since April 2020.
  • Edmonton man Ivan Dacko chose to spend three days in the Edmonton Remand Centre rather than pay a $500 fine he received for illegally keeping backyard chickens after his application for the city's urban hens program was denied. The city said Dacko has a history of non-compliance and that his neighbours complained numerous times about odours and stray chickens.
  • The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) is disputing claims by the province and John Cowell, the official administrator for Alberta Health Services, that the healthcare system is not in crisis. Cowell said emergency response wait times have decreased from an average of 22 minutes to 17 minutes since the province increased staffing and ambulances, and changed procedures to free up paramedics. According to HSAA president Mike Parker, paramedics used to arrive in less than eight minutes.
  • The UCP government's proposed Bill 10, the main purpose of which is to create new rules for handling surpluses, would also put $4 million toward various adoption benefits in Alberta. The bill would increase Alberta's adoption expense tax credit, offer a $6,000 subsidy to families who adopt if they make less than $180,000 a year, and introduce dental, drug, and vision benefits for adopted children under 18.
A smiling Mike Launer beside a sign with the South by Southwest logo

Startup TNT names finalists for three investment summits

By Karen Unland

Nanostics and Annelida Organics will be the only Edmonton-area companies pitching for investment at Startup TNT's three sector summits on March 23.

Annelida Organics, a Stony Plain-based startup that uses worms to generate fertilizer from municipal waste, is in the top five for the Agtech Investment Summit, the finale of which will take place in Regina.

In his top 20 pitch in February, CEO Mike Launer said Annelida diverts more than 100,000 pounds of green waste from the landfill every week and feeds it to 80 million red wiggler worms.

"For every pound of food we feed these worms, they generate three-quarters of a pound of castings — worm poop — essentially nature's best plant food," he said.

Annelida generates worm castings in Stony Plain and at the Edmonton International Airport; it also has a soil blending and packing facility in Nisku and a worm-breeding facility in St. Albert. Sales generated $1.65 million in 2022 and are expected to more than double this year, Launer said in his pitch.

Nanostics, which uses machine learning to analyze biomarkers and other data to generate a risk score indicating the probability of disease, made the top five for the Life Sciences Investment Summit, the finale of which will be in Calgary.

The company's current product, ClarityDX Prostate, is three times more accurate than the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, chief commercialization officer Colin Coros said in his top 20 pitch. The commonly used prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test has a high rate of false positives, he said.

Nanostics would like to get its test to follow a positive result in PSA screening, and only proceed to a biopsy if ClarityDX indicates a high risk. "Once adopted, this will reduce the number of biopsies, save healthcare costs, and save lives," he said.

The plan is to launch ClarityDX through DynaLIFE and an American lab called Protean this year, then license it to other major labs in the future. Nanostics has $470,000 left to raise in its current $2-million round.

The Cleantech Investment Summit, whose finale will take place in Edmonton, will feature four companies from Calgary — Innervision Borehole, Innova Hydrogen, Litus, and MissionNet — as well as Kynetic Energy from Manitoba.

Photo: Annelida Organics CEO Mike Launer is part of the Alberta Innovates delegation to SXSW in Austin. (Facebook)

A prosthetic device grasps onto a yellow smiley face ball

Weekend agenda: March 10-12, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

This weekend features tons of events leading up to the Juno Awards, including a comedy show and a science talk, as well as the final performances of SkirtsAfire, and an opera about one of Queen Elizabeth I's courtiers.

Find even more things to do in the Arts Roundup.

Photo: Amii fellow Patrick Pilarski will discuss BLINC Lab's efforts to improve the science and art of prosthetic restoration and rehabilitation robotics. (Myles Belland)