The Pulse: Nov. 7, 2023

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

Want this in your inbox? Sign up to get The Pulse by email. It's free!


  • 5°C: Mainly cloudy. Showers beginning in the afternoon. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind becoming northwest 40 km/h gusting to 60 late in the afternoon. High plus 5. Wind chill minus 5 in the morning. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Yellow/Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit yellow and purple for Accessible Driver Appreciation Week. (details)
  • 2-6: The Edmonton Oilers (2-8-1) lost to the Vancouver Canucks (9-2-1) on Nov. 6. (details)

A smiling man wearing safety glasses operates a tool that breaks down plastic for recycling.

Student with two startups among winners at ASTech Awards

By Stephanie Swensrude

A University of Alberta student who has co-founded two startups — one that decentralizes plastics recycling and another that uses AI to better understand the shape of wounds — was among the recipients of this year's ASTech Awards.

"By seeing the ASTech committee say, 'We see what you're doing, we appreciate what you're doing, and we also believe that what you're doing will make a positive impact,' that's invaluable to me," said Connor Povoledo, who was named the student changemaker of the year at the 34th annual awards, which were presented in Calgary on Nov. 3.

One of Povoledo's companies is Level 7 Plastics, which is working to help institutions take care of their own plastic waste. Many products are too small to recycle or are made up of a mix of different materials that make identifying the type of plastic and sorting it for recycling nearly impossible, Povoledo said.

"If it's hard to sort things, and if it's hard to process things smaller than a fist, maybe what we can do is build out an open-source recycling infrastructure that institutions or small businesses can implement in-house to take care of their own plastic waste," he said.

One of Level 7's clients is Future Fields, which uses Level 7 to recycle pipette containers.

"They know that it's polypropylene or high-density polyethylene, they can tell us that upfront, and it's relatively clean, but it's just small, so it won't be recycled generally," Povoledo said. "We can sort of skip the sorting process."

The University Hospital is a great candidate for this approach, Povoledo said, because it goes through so much small plastic waste.

"The University Hospital generally knows what these materials are, because they're heavily regulated, but they're too small," he said. "Imagine you just set up one of these decentralized recycling plants and grab two students to run them. At that point, you could actually get a pretty effective decentralized manufacturing plant that might be able to offset the entire plastic output of the University Hospital annually."

Povoledo's other company is Wound3, an app that creates three-dimensional images of chronic wounds to improve treatment.

"We wrote some pretty clever software, trained some rather sophisticated visual AI models to essentially take the information that can be captured by just a smartphone camera and transpose that into 3D space," he said.

Continue reading

Headlines: Nov. 7, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city highlighted its partnership with Beljan Development for the redevelopment of the former YMCA building downtown to create affordable housing. Last week, council's executive committee approved a total of $16.7 million for three affordable housing projects, including $6.5 million for the YMCA redevelopment, now called Williams Hall, along with $9 million for Leston Holdings to build a mixed-market apartment complex, and $1.15 million for Jasper Place Wellness Centre to develop three 12-unit buildings. The city's Affordable Housing Investment Program provides grants of up to 25% of costs for new or renovated affordable housing units. Since 2019, the city has invested $150 million to create 3,083 affordable housing units through the program.
  • The city has launched a new winter bus service to provide transportation for vulnerable people who need access to shelter spaces. Two buses will be in service until March 31 and operate on two routes throughout the winter, providing transportation to emergency shelters. When the city's extreme weather response is activated, an additional bus will be added to the service, temporary shelter spaces will open at Al Rashid Mosque, and city facilities will be available for people to stay warm.
  • Edmonton is on track to have the deadliest year on record for opioid-related deaths, with 423 deaths so far this year. According to the province's substance use surveillance data, Edmonton's drug poisoning death rate is the highest it has been since 2021, with 58.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Calgary has recorded 458 deaths so far this year, while Lethbridge hit a record high of 94 deaths. A total of 1,262 deaths have been recorded across the province so far this year.
  • Panellists at the recent REenvision Housing symposium hosted by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board shared their perspectives on how to tackle Edmonton's housing challenges and attract residents to the city's downtown. Cory Wosnack with Avison Young noted that Edmonton has the second-highest office vacancy rate in the country and argued that incentives are needed to encourage their conversion to residential units, an effort councillors have recently explored. Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust, noted that homelessness figures have grown significantly in recent years, and called for long-term strategies and investments to address the crisis.
  • Members of Edmonton's Lebanese community are concerned for friends and family in Lebanon as clashes at the border with Israel escalate. The Canadian Arab Friendship Association says it has seen an increase in calls in recent weeks from people asking for help to bring their family members to Canada. The association is trying to help, but president Yazan Haymour said the situation is uncertain for citizens who don't have Canadian passports. In a statement, Defence Minister Bill Blair said the federal government is ready to help citizens and permanent residents evacuate if the situation deteriorates.
  • A hidden message etched into a steel column on the Mindbender rollercoaster at West Edmonton Mall was recently uncovered as the ride was dismantled following its decommissioning. Former ironworker Stuart Houston wrote "Stu loves Deb, Kyle and Cam" in honour of his wife and two sons while he constructed the rollercoaster in 1985. "Who would have thought 38 years later someone would have found that," he said.
  • The Alberta government has introduced legislation that would allow technology companies and workers to use the title "software engineer" without a license from APEGA, the provincial regulator for professional engineers. Tech companies advocated for the change, arguing that current regulations are holding Alberta's industry back. If the bill becomes law, companies would be able to advertise software engineer positions and employees would be able to publicly use the title. However, APEGA has said that software engineering should be regulated, especially as the artificial intelligence industry grows. It recently filed an injunction against Edmonton-based tech company Jobber for using the title software engineer in job postings.
  • Alberta has a stockpile of nearly 40 million COVID-19 rapid tests that are set to expire within months and will be discarded if not used before then, the province said. Some tests will expire on Jan. 1, while the majority have an expiry date of March 2024. The tests are still available to pharmacies, continuing care homes, and primary care providers until they do expire.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the appointment of Mary Moreau to the Supreme Court of Canada. Moreau, former chief justice of the Court of King's Bench, was nominated to the position by the prime minister last month. Her appointment means a majority of the judges on the Supreme Court of Canada are women for the first time in its history.
A sunset casts colourful reflections on the glass high-rises of downtown Edmonton

Using CRL to fund office conversions seen as a gamble

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

City council's urban planning committee has signalled an interest in using the downtown community revitalization levy to subsidize office tower conversions, a suggestion Taproot's city hall watchers expressed concerns about.

The committee voted 4-1 on Oct. 31 to commission a report, due next spring, on how the CRL could be used to incentivize conversions.

"It seems sensible to do that, but the downtown CRL is not new, is the first problem," said co-host Mack Male on Episode 240 of Speaking Municipally. "And the second problem is that we've already assigned funding for that downtown CRL to a whole bunch of other things which would have to wait or get bumped in order to fund this office conversion program."

Two of the more notable projects that could be impacted by a funding redirection are the Green and Walkable Downtown and Warehouse Park projects. The latter will add just over three football fields of green space to the downtown core, which is already seen as an incentive to residential development, said co-host Troy Pavlek.

Advocacy groups such as the Urban Development Institute — Edmonton Metro and the Downtown Recovery Coalition want to see the city invest $100 million into the project to incentivize developers to turn unused office buildings into multi-unit homes.

"It's a bet: the CRL has to pay off — your investments have to pay off — for it to work. The city report noted that these office tower conversions are unlikely to pay off within 100 or so years," Pavlek said, citing the city's report.

Coun. Erin Rutherford was the only committee member to oppose the motion. She raised public perception as a reason to not move forward, referring to speculation that the zoning bylaw renewal gave developers too much.

Male said that while he doesn't see perception as being the biggest issue, it is important that if this project moves forward, it's with a requirement for multiple unit types, rather than just studio or one-bedroom suites.

"If we want to have more vibrancy downtown, we need more people to live there," Male said. "So if we did go ahead with a program like this, a really strong argument needs to be made that that's going to come to fruition in a reasonable amount of time, and probably with some rules around it."

Get more details on the office conversion proposal plus the latest on downtown pedestrianization efforts, a new developer in Blatchford, and much more in the Nov. 3 episode of Speaking Municipally.

Continue reading