The Pulse: April 18, 2024

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  • 1°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming north 20 km/h near noon. High plus 1. Wind chill minus 14 in the morning. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Green: The High Level Bridge will be lit green for World Liver Day. (details)
  • 2-5: The Edmonton Oilers (49-26-6) lost to the Arizona Coyotes (36-41-5) on April 17. (details)
  • 7:30pm: The Oilers (49-26-6) play the Colorado Avalanche (49-25-7) at Ball Arena. (details)

Three people face the camera in front of a crowd of others facing away.

Edmonton Unlimited hires new CEO from within city ecosystem

By Colin Gallant

Edmonton Unlimited has hired Tom Viinikka, the current CEO of the Edmonton Screen Industries Office, as the permanent replacement for its former CEO Catherine Warren, whom its board parted ways with in January.

"Tom provides a number of dimensions that make him an excellent fit for Edmonton Unlimited," board chair Lindsay Dodd told Taproot. "He is well known in the community and has a history of building really mutually beneficial connections across the community. That's the role of the CEO at Edmonton Unlimited — to build those connections, and leverage and support all dimensions of the innovation community."

Viinikka assumes his new post on May 15, replacing interim CEO Launa Aspeslet, who will resume her role on Edmonton Unlimited's board. Aspeslet took over after Warren was dismissed on Jan. 22. Dodd said he could not say when Edmonton Unlimited signed a deal with Viinikka, citing confidentiality. Edmonton film commissioner Dorian Rowe will fill Viinikka's shoes at ESIO temporarily as interim CEO.

Both Edmonton Unlimited and ESIO serve at the pleasure of the City of Edmonton. In 2022, Innovate Edmonton, which was created from the dismantled Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, rebranded as Edmonton Unlimited. The organization's mission is to harness innovation for economic development. Meanwhile, ESIO supports the development of Edmonton's screen industries.

Dodd said the choice to leave ESIO for Edmonton Unlimited was Viinikka's to make, and asserts it should be a smooth transition for both organizations. The ESIO wished Viinikka well in a statement.

"No organization owns their staff," Dodd said. "Tom, as a strong leader, has a very strong succession plan … The ESIO has been very supportive of Tom."

Viinikka hasn't always served city-owned organizations. He co-founded techy screen-industry companies vrCAVE and AlignVR, and was president of Omen Capital Group from 2015 until joining ESIO in 2021.

"My entire career, I have been an entrepreneur and supported entrepreneurs. It is an honour to collaborate with such a high performing team at Edmonton Unlimited—working with innovative, bold entrepreneurs in our local ecosystem," Viinikka wrote in an announcement.

Dodd says Edmonton Unlimited is excited to see how Viinikka will build a new strategy for the organization. In January, as news Warren was leaving broke, Dodd told Taproot that founders "often step aside in order to make way for new leaders to come in and grow the organization, and that's what this organization is going through."

Over at ESIO, a town hall scheduled for April 18 has been rescheduled for May 7, so the office can "better prepare" for Viinikka and Rowe to answer questions, a representative told Taproot in an email.

Photo: Departing Edmonton Screen Industries Office CEO Tom Viinikka, right, poses opposite his interim replacement, Dorian Rowe, during a film shoot for Dept.9 Studios in Oct. 2023. That company's president and COO, Don Depoe, stands between them. (Supplied)


Headlines: April 18, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

  • The Edmonton Transit Service will implement spring service changes on April 28. The changes reflect typical spring ridership patterns and include the suspension of service to post-secondary schools until the start of the fall term. Several routes remain detoured to accommodate renewal work on 132 Avenue, Valley Line West construction, and other projects. Starting in early May, the Summer Streets program will convert vehicle lanes along Victoria Park Road, Saskatchewan Drive, and Calgary Trail into walking and cycling paths, which will affect some transit routes.
  • The City of Edmonton released the final draft of its District Policy and 15 district plans, which will go to council during a public hearing from May 28 to 30. Residents are invited to attend a virtual information session on April 22, 23, or 24, which will cover updates to the policy since public engagement in 2023 and explain how Edmontonians can participate in the public hearing. District planning is a key part of the City Plan, and the new documents represent a "significant milestone in streamlining and modernizing our planning framework," the City said in a release.
  • Rainbow Refuge, a program from the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers that supports 2SLGBTQ+ refugees, is struggling due to high demand. The program, founded in 2015, started with 15 members and now has more than 600, who represent more than 60 countries, many of which have laws that criminalize same-sex relationships. While permanent residents are funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the federal government doesn't fund refugee claimants, meaning program organizers have had to pull together funds from city grants, donors, and fundraisers from the Fruit Loop Society of Alberta.
  • The former Army & Navy building on Whyte Avenue and the parking lot behind it were recently listed on the market for $6.6 million. The well-known site has been mostly vacant since the store shut down in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, a closure that disappointed many Edmontonians. The listing includes prices for both the building and the land, which could be sold separately.
  • At a UCP fundraising dinner at the Edmonton Convention Centre on April 16, Premier Danielle Smith said the UCP is building support in Edmonton. The event drew around 1,300 people, 300 more than last year, and raised at least $455,000. "These are all unprecedented numbers, and at ticket prices that are also the highest they've ever been," said UCP president Rob Smith. "That passion absolutely is rooted in Danielle Smith." The UCP lost its only seat in Edmonton in last May's election.
  • The Edmonton Humane Society is switching back to walk-in, in-person adoptions to make the process more efficient and lead to more animals being taken home on the day of adoption. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the society moved to an online, appointment-based approach to adoptions. Along with the change, the society is running its Spring Them Home event from April 19 to 28, during which all adoption fees and training class costs for adopted dogs will be reduced.
  • Clare Bonnyman, host of CBC's This Is Edmonton podcast, spoke to business owners and City of Edmonton representatives about the proposed entertainment district along Rice Howard Way. The proposal would see Rice Howard Way restricted to pedestrian-only access from 11am on Friday to 11am on Sunday during summer months.
  • CTV News highlighted Edmonton resident Aysha O'Brien, who set up a curbside DVD "library" on her block, a variation of the free book libraries set up in outdoor installations. O'Brien's library is themed after the movie rental chain Blockbuster and also holds candy and popcorn. She said the project was intended to cater to her neighbourhood, but people from across Edmonton have stopped by.
  • The Alberta government introduced a new physician compensation model, which it developed with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) after "extensive consultation." The model is expected to see doctors paid based on hours worked and number of patients seen, but there is no timeline for when it will be in place, and many details have yet to be determined. AMA president Dr. Paul Parks called it a positive step but emphasized the importance of the model including physicians with smaller patient rosters.
A group of K-6 children entering a marked crosswalk in front of a school

Calls for public engagement: Glenwood, Brander Gardens

By Kevin Holowack

Here are opportunities to help shape municipal decision-making about public safety, street safety, mobility, and more. Please only complete surveys if you are part of the target audience or a resident of the affected municipality.

More input opportunities

Photo: In April, Edmonton city council's urban planning committee asked staff to develop with options for regulating the sale of knives in retail spaces including convenience stores. (Kevin Holowack)

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: April 18, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.