The Pulse: Sept. 19, 2023

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  • 17°C: Mainly sunny. Increasing cloudiness in the afternoon then 60% chance of showers late in the afternoon. High 17. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Green: The High Level Bridge will be lit green for World Mitochondrial Disease Week. (details)

Two couples stand around a counter at Happy and Olive

Happy and Olive embraced by community in Crestwood

By Sharon Yeo

The four hospitality veterans behind a new restaurant in central-west Edmonton have been thrilled by the neighbourhood response so far.

Happy and Olive is the brainchild of Frank and Andrea Olson, who operated Red Ox Inn for 25 years and Canteen for 10 years, and Dave and Ann Jackson, who ran The Wired Cup for 10 years. The restaurant (named after Frank Olson's great uncle and his wife) opened on July 13 at 9640 142 Street NW in Crestwood Centre, and it has been busy ever since.

"The day we got our permits and turned on our open sign, we had incredible traffic because people were waiting, peering into the windows," Andrea Olson said. Added Frank: "We have done zero advertising and have been terrible about promoting. But people were hungry. It was like they hadn't eaten in five years."

The Wired Cup closed in 2019, nudged to closure due to the LRT construction in Strathearn, and Red Ox Inn never re-opened after the pandemic, when the Olsons chose to focus on Canteen. When negotiations to extend the lease for Canteen fell through last year, the Olsons started to explore life outside of the restaurant business, and Andrea obtained a real estate licence. But when the vacancy in Crestwood came up, the opportunity was too enticing not to proceed.

"Frank and I saw the space and thought, 'What a space, what a neighbourhood, what a patio,'" said Andrea. "Never did I think for Frank and I that we had another restaurant in us."

They made a call to their longtime friends, the Jacksons; Frank and Dave have known each other since high school, and Red Ox Inn and The Wired Cup were neighbouring businesses. "We had entertained the idea of opening up a small place again," said Dave Jackson. "This is a juggernaut, but we were ready."

The Jacksons' participation made the prospect palatable for the Olsons. "We wouldn't have done this without a partnership," said Frank. "It takes some pressure off."

The concept behind Happy and Olive is ambitious. Open seven days a week, Dave and Ann lead the café service on weekday mornings. Frank and Andrea arrive to support lunch, happy hour, and dinner service. Weekends offer brunch, happy hour, and dinner. All four have been putting in 12-hour days.

"You strike while the iron is hot," said Dave. After the pandemic era, the long hours are welcome, suggested Frank. "People can come any time. It's really good, after COVID especially. We got tired of opening, closing. Everybody is tired of that."

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Headlines: Sept. 19, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city closed its emergency reception centre for wildfire evacuees on Sept. 18 after evacuation orders for Hay River and Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories were lifted. The centre provided temporary lodging, food, clothing, and other support to more than 7,500 evacuees and 1,300 pets since opening a month ago. Other services provided to evacuees, such as transit and recreation centre access, also ended on Sept. 18.
  • The federal government announced $111.4 million in funding to seven organizations across the country to support training and job opportunities in the green economy. Among the recipients was Edmonton-based non-profit Iron and Earth, which will receive $16 million for its Resilient Communities Empowering Worker Transitions project. The initiative will provide training in clean economy and renewable energy practices, and is expected to help more than 3,655 workers gain new skills.
  • A convoy and protest against trans and queer inclusive school curriculum being planned outside the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) offices in Edmonton on Sept. 20 is among a series of similar events expected to happen across the country the same day. Edmonton organizer Benita Pedersen told PressProgress the "one million march for children" is protesting "sexual education" that doesn't allow parents to opt out. ATA President Jason Schilling said he is "troubled" by these types of protests and that the association is "taking steps to ensure the safety and security of all staff, visitors and the building." A counterprotest under the banner "United for Change" is planned in response.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations increased 73% between July 24 and Sept. 8, from 242 to 417, according to an update from Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange. LaGrange also said the province has recorded 28 cases of flu and five cases of RSV since Aug. 28. "This is consistent activity for this time of the year," she said. The province is updating its COVID-19 dashboard to include information on influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
  • Smoke-filled skies in Edmonton have many parents worried about the effects of poor air quality on their children's health. "Wildfire season started in May, it's almost October — that's six months of exposure to wildfire smoke — that's not a rare occurrence, that's half a year," said parent Amanda Hu. This year was Edmonton's smokiest on record, with 291 smoke hours so far, beating the 2018 record of 229 hours. Edmonton Public Schools said students are kept indoors during recess when the air quality is rated seven or higher.
  • Housing starts decreased by 1% nationally in August compared with July, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The seasonally adjusted annual rate in August was 252,787 units compared with 255,232 in July. Edmonton was on par with the national rate, with the seasonally adjusted annual rate decreasing 1%, from 17,076 in July to 16,984 in August.
  • The Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards will return to Edmonton in 2024, according to association president Amy Jeninga. Edmonton most recently hosted the award show alongside Country Music Week in 2013 and 2014. "This is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate our national pride, and to showcase some of the finest homegrown talent in Canadian country music today," said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
  • Edmontonians gathered at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park on Sept. 17 for the annual Walk for Valour fundraiser in support of Valour Place, which provides a place to stay for military members, veterans, and first responders receiving medical treatment in Edmonton. Valour Place relies on private donations and is hoping to raise $50,000 by Sept. 20, with donations accepted online. By Sept. 17, more than $36,500 had been donated.
A screenshot of Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw speaking into a microphone

Sturgeon County wins appeal to develop Villeneuve Airport Area

By Colin Gallant

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board has approved a plan for the development of the area around Villeneuve Airport, reversing an earlier stance that had Sturgeon County questioning whether the regional body was working for its smaller members.

"Anytime we can get an Area Structure Plan through the process of the EMRB, it's a big win," Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw told Taproot. "Especially in the dispute resolution process. So yes, we're very pleased with the outcome."

Hnatiw has been seeking the board's approval of the Villeneuve Airport Area — Area Structure Plan since 2022. In April, seven of the board's 13 member municipalities voted in favour, but Edmonton's opposition defeated the motion due to the way votes are weighted for population. Edmonton, St. Albert, and the other dissenting members opposed Sturgeon's proposal because they didn't think it was in accordance with the Regional Growth Plan, specifically around major employment areas.

"One of the reasons for having a coordinated regional growth plan is to reduce the cost of infrastructure," Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told Taproot in May. "Any new (major employment) area that is added will hopefully be compliant to the principles and values of the growth plan, which is to have an orderly growth, which is to have more coordinated growth, not a one-off type of growth."

But the board issued a statement on Sept. 15 indicating the plan's approval based on an appeal made to its Dispute Resolution Committee.

"The Revised REF Application reduces the Area Structure Plan area by approximately 55%," the committee's recommendation reads. "The County is not pursuing the Municipal Development Plan amendment included with the original REF Application. Collectively these changes reflect the County's intent to develop a Local Employment Area in accordance with the Board's growth plan. The Revised REF Application addresses concerns previously identified in relation to infrastructure; the County has confirmed that specific infrastructure improvements will be funded by the County through off-site levies or other local mechanisms."

The EMRB recently turned 15, yet its Dispute Resolution Committee was formed only in 2022. This is the first dispute it has resolved. Of the committee's four members, three are mayors who voted yes on the original plan for Villeneuve: Morinville's Simon Boersma, Strathcona County's Rod Frank, and Spruce Grove's Jeff Acker, a composition that Hnatiw said was coincidental. Edmonton's Coun. Jennifer Rice is the fourth member of the committee.

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