The Pulse: March 16, 2023

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  • 4°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 4. Wind chill minus 10 in the morning. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Rainbow: The High Level Bridge will be lit with rainbow colours for University of Alberta Pride Week, which runs until March 17. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (37-23-8) play the Dallas Stars (37-18-13) at Rogers Place. (details)

Gail Powley speaks before a crowded room inside the Advanced Technology Centre, a building made of glass, grey concrete and red steel.

Edmonton Research Park businesses encouraged by city moves

By Colin Gallant

Leaders of some of the organizations based at Edmonton Research Park are cautiously optimistic about the city's plans for the facility after extensive consultations and a proposal to seek ongoing input.

"I feel positive about the future," said Ahmad Jawad, CEO of Intellimedia and one of the members of the Edmonton Research Park Business Consortium.

In a report going to city council's executive committee on March 22, administration says it will convene a multi-stakeholder advisory group, and will take further action if directed to do so by council.

The report follows three rounds of consultations that followed an outcry from the consortium about the city's decision to sell two buildings at the park. One of the buildings, Research Centre 1, has since been sold to John Yao and his company, Hermay Labs. The Advanced Technology Centre is still for sale.

"I thought this was a good exercise to listen to us," Jawad told Taproot. "And we hope also we have another role in the future to be at the table to be part of formulating where we want to go."

The city "treated all the entrepreneurs here only as tenants," when the decision was made to sell the buildings, recalled Gail Powley, who is president of Technology Alberta, a non-profit headquartered at the research park.

"I know that really frustrated all of them because as entrepreneurs, you're so much more than just renting a building, right? They're part of a community. They're part of building a city and the future of innovation."

After approving the sale of the buildings last March, executive committee directed administration to engage with businesses at the park and others to "provide options and actions to advance economic development opportunities" in alignment with the city's Economic Action Plan. In the resulting report, administration identified four actions it could reasonably implement, starting with convening an advisory group.

"That's exactly what the (business consortium) team has been asking for all this time," said Powley. "There are many people who are willing to contribute to this, and we have such brilliant people across the city and across the province."

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Headlines: March 16, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • City council approved the submission of several affordable and supportive housing projects for funding through the third phase of federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative. Three of the proposals are city-led and would resemble the same model as five previous sites funded in the first phase of the initiative, which were constructed on municipal land and transferred to Homeward Trust. The other five proposals are led by non-profits. In total, the city is looking to leverage $48.4 million in municipal dollars to access $72.6 million in federal funding.
  • The Edmonton Police Service released transit crime data that showed a 31.4% increase in police dispatched to transit and LRT stations from 2021 to 2022. While 4% of recorded violent crimes happened at transit stations, crime severity is trending up in these areas, EPS said in a release. Steve Bradshaw, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, said the union is hearing a "long, long list of things" from the city about efforts to address transit safety but said EPS needs to reinstate beat police in the transit system. Meanwhile, journalist and author James Wilt published an opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal calling on greater federal and provincial investment in transit. Wilt argues that a "chronic lack of funding" creates a reliance on a fare system that exposes drivers to potential violence and "propels wasteful spending" on enforcement that disproportionately targets Indigenous and racialized people.
  • Sandra Romanyk, a former employee of the Edmonton Catholic School Division (ECSD), admitted to defrauding the division of $218,588 over a six-year period. According to an agreed statement of facts in court, Romanyk wrote inflated and fake invoices for work done by her husband and son-in-law for the division's Genesis Early Learning Centre, where Romanyk oversaw operating expenses. She also used her ECSD credit card for fraudulent expenses, including supplies for her horse stable business Romp N' Roll Acres. A review of the fraud found it was facilitated by a lack of oversight from the Genesis director. Romanyk is expected to be sentenced in June and has agreed to pay the division $144,514 in restitution.
  • On March 15, Flair Airlines filed a $50-million lawsuit against Airborne Capital and three affiliated leasing corporations, which seized four of the company's planes on March 11. A statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court alleges the corporations secretly found a better deal for the Boeing 737 Maxes and then set up Flair for default, describing the seizures as "orchestrated in a bad faith and malicious manner that inflicted the maximum possible harm on Flair." The airline's accusations include breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentations, and conspiracy. On March 14, Airborne Capital said the seizures were prompted by Flair "regularly" missing payments over the last five months.
  • Vancouver resident Casey Hatherly, who took the stage at the 2023 JUNO Awards ceremony in a topless protest highlighting environmental issues, spoke to reporters after appearing in court on March 15 for mischief charges. "I don't think it could have gone any better," said Hatherly, who has used similar protest tactics in Victoria and Vancouver. "More people are going to click on 'topless protester' than they will 'environmental activist,'" she said.
  • Broderick Moore, deputy fire chief for the City of Leduc, has submitted his resignation. His departure comes nearly one year after fire chief George Clancy resigned following a class-action lawsuit against the city alleging sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, and bullying in the fire services department. Although Moore is not the subject of any allegations, he is mentioned in a report from an external investigation that concluded the department has a "psychologically unsafe and harmful culture." A court hearing scheduled for May will determine if the case will proceed as a class-action lawsuit or a regular lawsuit.