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Taproot joins Covering Climate Now

We are proud to be among more than 170 news outlets participating in Covering Climate Now, a worldwide project to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate crisis.

Like our fellow participants in this effort pulled together by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, we have committed to running a week’s worth of climate coverage leading up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23.

There are 17 Canadian participants, including The Sprawl, a fellow Canadian Journalism Innovator.

Ongoing disasters tend not to get the concerted attention that sudden ones do, and this effort is meant to address that weakness in how we tend to inform people about what’s going on. We know there’s a lot going on locally on this file, and we feel we can perform a valuable service by putting it together in one place.

Taproot’s coverage kicks off with a discussion with climate-change communicator Chris Gusen on the Speaking Municipally podcast. Chris will go on to curate a climate change section in each of our roundups throughout the week of Sept. 16. Then he plans to pull all the threads together at the end of the week.

Chris Gusen
Chris Gusen at Green Drinks, photo by Troy Pavlek

If you already subscribe to our roundups, watch for Chris’s contributions, and feel free to share the newsletters and the podcast on social media. If you don’t, now is a good time to signal your interest in this topic and our effort to better inform our community. Sign up today.

Finding $500K for TEC Edmonton is ‘easy for us,’ says EEDC

EEDC Offices

But where the money will come from remains unclear

The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation will come up with an extra $500,000 in its operating budget for TEC Edmonton, even if it means taking the money from another program or finding “efficiencies” elsewhere, says the agency’s chief executive officer.

“I’m not worried (about finding the money) because it’s a clear priority,” Derek Hudson said in an interview with Taproot Edmonton on Friday about topping up TEC Edmonton’s budget to make up for a drop in funding from the City of Edmonton.

“It’s easy for us to find funding for clear priorities.”

The city has provided $1.5 million in annual funding to TEC Edmonton through EEDC since 2014. Starting in 2020, the city’s financial contribution will drop to $1 million annually.

On Aug. 19, Hudson told Edmonton city council’s executive committee that EEDC — an arm’s-length corporation that gets roughly $20 million per year from the city — will bump up its funding for the tech business accelerator to make up the difference.

EEDC CEO Derek Hudson
EEDC CEO Derek Hudson

EQUAL PARTNERS, EQUAL SUPPORT  

TEC Edmonton is a partnership, founded in 2006, between EEDC and the University of Alberta with a mandate to help emerging tech companies scale up. The top-up means that the city’s contribution will continue to match the $1.5 million in annual support from the U of A.

Hudson said matching levels of support was an important point noted by the TEC Edmonton task force, formed in 2018 to review TEC’s mandate and provide direction for its future.

The nine-member group, which included representatives from EEDC, the University of Alberta and industry, released its business plan recommendations for “TEC 2.0” last month.

“Everyone on the task force felt that we really wanted to emphasize that it was this equal partnership,” said Hudson, who was one of the members.

“The objectives were to take the best of the university and the best of the business community and maximize the economic value that came from that,” he said. “The task force saw that fundamentally the partnership between the two organizations was important and all of the other recommendations that came out were based on that assumption.”

RESPECT FOR ‘FISCAL REALITIES’  

His early inclination was to go hat in hand to city council.

“My first thoughts were, ‘OK, then we’ll go to the city and tell them how important it is and ask for the extra $500,000.’ But when I thought about the city’s financial situation, I thought that would be counterproductive and not recognizing fiscal realities,” said Hudson.

Instead, EEDC will find money in its ongoing operating budget, which is typically set at the end of November, to make up the difference.

“I think [council was] relieved that we didn’t ask them for more,” Hudson said.

When asked how EEDC plans to make up the $500,000 gap, Hudson said the entire budget would be reviewed and priorities reallocated.

The money could come from “some other program or efficiencies in how we deliver things, or even efficiencies in working with TEC Edmonton,” he said. “There’s all kinds of factors that go into us setting our budget.

“I can’t tell you what that’s going to be and I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell you ever what it is.”

REGIONAL REVIEW

EEDC is under continued pressure from city council to clarify its role in light of the increasing congestion of Edmonton’s economic incubator space. Councillors have asked how its mandate and funding squares with that of Edmonton Global, a non-profit established by 15 regional municipalities to promote the capital city metro region.

Hudson said the process of gaining greater coherence and clarity between various city-funded players could “produce efficiencies” but stressed that what matters is getting economic results and “not to talk about who does what.

 “Behind the scenes, on multiple levels, the EEDC people and the Edmonton Global people work together every day to try to do good work,” he said. “If there’s confusion in the community and at the municipal level we want that sorted out for sure, but our real focus is on getting the results and using the unique aspects of each organization to play into that.”

Whatever happens on that front, Hudson says keeping the “unique relationship” with the University of Alberta, with its prowess in artificial intelligence, medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, is crucial.

“It’s one of the key assets to the Edmonton economy,” he said. “We have an actual partnership agreement between the university and the economic development agency. That’s a treasure and we want to maintain that, and maintain that thinking, and so we want to fund it at that level.

“And then we’ll figure the rest out.”

MORE INFORMATION

Edmonton’s official population rises to 972,223

Edmonton’s official city population is 972,223 as of April 1, 2019, an increase of 72,776 over the last municipal census in 2016. The City of Edmonton said that represents an average growth rate of 2.6% annually.

"This is a great sign for Edmonton," said mayor Don Iveson as he announced the results of the 2019 Municipal Census at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 5. "One of the highlights of our census is that we continue to have one of the youngest populations in Canada."

John Rose, the City’s chief economist said he is projecting a growth rate of 2.1% for 2019, which is still higher than Alberta’s 1.9% and Canada’s 1.3%. "Edmonton remains a centre of economic growth," he said. Rose is confident that Edmonton will hit the milestone of 1 million residents late next year.

Iain Mac Lean, director of elections and census at the City of Edmonton, said only 7,558 of the roughly 420,000 addresses in Edmonton failed to respond to the census. "We are proud of that number," he said. Using a mathematical formula similar to the one used by Statistics Canada, City officials extrapolated to account for households that did not respond to the census to arrive an unofficial total population of 992,812.

This year, 39.7% of households completed the census online, double what officials have seen in the past. Mac Lean projects the cost of the census will be just under $2.5 million.

This year’s census was the first to include gender options beyond male and female, with six choices total including an option for residents to choose their own term. “We all want to feel included in our communities – this means having a sense of belonging and feeling valued for your uniqueness,” Barb McLean, equity specialist with the City of Edmonton, told Global News back in March when the census launched. “Including more gender options in the census gives representation to residents in our city who have been invisible for a long time.”

Mayor Don Iveson

The census "is a critical tool to advocate for our fair share," Iveson told reporters. "We are continuing to drive Alberta’s economy and these numbers are a very strong indicator of that."

An updated draft of the City Plan was also released today. That plan "includes bold recommendations on how we will grow and develop to a city of two million people." The update is scheduled to be presented to Urban Planning Committee on Sept. 17.

The most recent federal census, conducted in 2016, determined the population of the Edmonton metropolitan region to be 1,321,426 and the city itself to be 932,546.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board’s Growth Plan projects a doubling of the regional population to 2.2 million people by 2044, "a significant transformation that will result in a complex metropolitan region requiring deliberate and determined collaboration and leadership."

"Over the past 40 years, the Region has doubled its population from 500,000 people to 1.2 million people, while tripling its urban development footprint from 22,260 hectares to 69,930 hectares," the plan says.

Calgary’s 2019 municipal census counted 1,285,711 residents as of April 2019, an increase of 1.45% over April 2018.

Full results of the 2019 Municipal Census are available at edmonton.ca and in the Open Data Catalogue. Edmonton’s next municipal census is scheduled for 2020, with another federal census scheduled for 2021.

A commitment to transparency

In early 2015, Edmonton’s City Council adopted the Open City Policy, an important document that articulates the City of Edmonton’s commitment “to bring to action the Open City principles of transparency, participation, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation.”

Yet policies don’t implement themselves, and that’s often where the heavy lifting needs to be done. For an organization as large as the City of Edmonton (with 14,000+ employees) it’s clear that writing a set of principles is a very different challenge than applying them to everyday work. Truly becoming “open by default” requires persistence. A little public pressure doesn’t hurt, either!

Edmonton Journal columnist Elise Stolte has demonstrated again and again her commitment to this work. Most recently, she shared a “win” involving the construction of the Valley Line LRT. Stolte asked the City for the non-conformance reports it files to track TransEd’s performance, but the City refused to provide them. She appealed to the City’s freedom of information co-ordinators and was again rebuffed. So she appealed to the provincial commissioner, who determined Stolte is right and the City should release the reports.

Unfortunately, she still doesn’t have the reports. Facing a leave of absence that will take her out of the city, Stolte concludes that “transparency cannot depend on individual journalists, especially now that newsrooms are smaller, and it can’t depend on this formal, legal structure with deadlines, extensions and co-ordinators.”

Stolte concludes:

“A city that shares information freely is admitting it will never have everything perfect. When it shares, it’s inviting the rest of the community to come along. It’s an act of humility that builds bridges.”

Stolte’s persistent effort on behalf of Edmontonians is incredibly important work. Others deserve recognition here as well, such as CBC Edmonton’s Janice Johnston who led the effort to have Edmonton police share the names of homicide victims.

We’re doing our part too. While live-tweeting Executive Committee on Monday, it became clear that councillors were going to move an important discussion about role clarity in Edmonton’s innovation sector to the November shareholder meeting, which is private. I tweeted my dissent to a few members of the committee.

The next day, Councillor Andrew Knack and Mayor Don Iveson agreed the discussion should be public.

On Wednesday afternoon, Councillor Knack filed the following notice of motion:

“That EEDC work with TEC Edmonton, Health City, and other stakeholders and report back on the status of the recommendations in the YEG Innovation Compass Report. This report should specifically address opportunities to reduce overlap, clarify roles and governance, accelerate the technology economy, and better serve the municipal innovation ecosystem.”

Assuming his motion is carried at next week’s council meeting, a report will come back providing the public with more information and importantly, another opportunity to participate in the discussion.

I know I wasn’t the only one who reached out to members of council to let them know how important it is that this discussion be held publicly. And that’s the point. It’ll take the persistent effort of all of us to ensure that the City of Edmonton and City Council adhere to the principles of transparency they’ve articulated. We’ll keep at it.

Introducing the Regional Roundup

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is made up of 15 municipalities that — ideally — work together to compete on the global stage. It helps if all of us know what’s going on with our neighbours and partners, so we’ve started a Regional Roundup to keep everyone up-to-date.

Thanks to the support of Edmonton Global, we’re able to put together a weekly summary of the headlines and happenings in the region. That includes what’s going on with the metro region itself, as well as news from Beaumont, Bon Accord, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Gibbons, Leduc, Leduc County, Morinville, Parkland County, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Strathcona County, Sturgeon County and, of course, Edmonton.


Edmonton Metropolitan Region via Edmonton Global

We published our first two editions on Aug. 14 and Aug. 21, and we’ll put out a new one every Wednesday. It’s curated by Mack Male, co-founder of Taproot and the curatorial force behind the Tech Roundup and the Council Roundup.

You may have noticed some of our roundups are sponsored by specific entities. That is the case for the Regional Roundup (sponsored by Edmonton Global), the Health Innovation Roundup (sponsored by Health City), and the Arts Roundup (sponsored by the Edmonton Arts Council).

These sponsors have provided enough funding to allow us to launch and maintain a roundup. Think of them as underwriters — they have made the roundup possible. They don’t exercise any control over the content. If you want to support the creation of a roundup or underwrite one of our existing ones, get in touch at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

Our roundups are also supported by a number of “cultivators” who contribute funds to make it possible for Taproot to pay sustained attention to a file. If that’s of interest, we’d love to hear from you.

Meet our new Business Roundup curator

Edmonton's skyline under construction, by Kurt Bauschardt

We are excited to bring veteran journalist Paul Cashman on board to curate the Business Roundup.

Paul Cashman, our new Business Roundup curator.

Paul brings a wealth of valuable experience. He was a reporter and editor at the Edmonton Journal for 33 years, and served as the business editor for much of that time. After he left the Journal in 2012, he worked in communications for industry associations representing homebuilders and heavy construction. And now we get to share his talent for spotting news and conveying it efficiently in our weekly wrap of what’s happening in Edmonton’s business scene.

We launched the Business Roundup on March 29 to keep track of the companies, entrepreneurs, employees, investors, leaders and others shaping Edmonton’s economy. Mack is happy to hand the reins over to someone of Paul’s stature, and this will give him more time to focus on building our own business here at Taproot.

The Business Roundup comes out every Friday, and Paul’s first edition will be published Aug. 16.

We’re proud of our growing roster of roundup curators who are working hard to keep you informed about what’s going on in Edmonton:

  • Arts — Fawnda Mithrush
  • Business — Paul Cashman
  • City Council — Mack Male
  • Food — Sharon Yeo
  • Health Innovation — Catherine Griwkowsky
  • Media — Linda Hoang
  • Music — Emily Rendell-Watson
  • Regional – Mack Male
  • Tech — Mack Male

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an edition. You can get up to two of these roundups for free if you join as a Taproot Reader.

If you become a Taproot Member, you can get as many roundups as you like, along with other perks. Plus you’ll be helping us pay for high-calibre local journalism from our curators and the freelancers we commission for original stories. We’re building what comes next — join us.

Introducing the Arts Roundup

Talus Dome

Every Thursday, we’ll publish a newsletter gathering up the headlines and happenings in theatre, dance, the visual arts, the literary arts and other local creative endeavours that catch our attention.

The arts scene in Edmonton is vibrant, multifaceted and a little under-covered. So we’re thrilled to take a step towards filling the gap with our new Arts Roundup.

Fawnda Mithrush, our new Arts Roundup curator.

We published our inaugural edition on Aug. 1. Starting this week, the Arts Roundup will be curated by Fawnda Mithrush, a former editor at the departed SEE Magazine, current executive director of LitFest, and co-host of the award-winning podcast I Don’t Get It. We’re thrilled to have Fawnda on board to share her knowledge, experience, and passion for the arts.

The Arts Roundup grew out of previous experiments with the #YEGFringe Daily Digest in 2017 and the Fringe Roundup in 2018, both of which helped us refine the idea of creating an ongoing way to satisfy readers’ curiosity about a topic. Thanks to a title sponsorship from the Edmonton Arts Council, we can now share what’s going on in local arts year-round.

The Arts Roundup makes a great companion to the Music Roundup, curated by Emily Rendell-Watson and published on Thursdays as well. You can get up to two roundups for free if you join us as a Taproot Reader; if you want to be even more well-rounded, become a Taproot Member, which affords you other perks, including access to as many roundups as you like.

Downtown farmers’ market to 104th Street: I can’t quit you!

City Market in The Quarters
The Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market on May 18, 2019, opening day for its new location at 97th Street and 103rd Street. (Photo by Mack Male)

It looks like the downtown farmers’ market may not be moving off of 104th Street entirely.

We reported in March that the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market would be moving to the old GWG building on 97th Street, where it would have a permanent, year-round presence and be open on Saturdays and Sundays. The market did in fact open there last weekend, setting up outside of the building, as the inside was not ready yet.

But now the market has decided to return to 104th Street on Saturdays, starting on June 15, except on days when construction makes that impossible, indicates an email from the City of Edmonton’s Civic Events and Festivals department, obtained by Taproot.

“After discussion with the Edmonton Downtown Farmer’s Market (EDFM), they have decided to return to 104 St on Saturdays starting on June 15th,” the email says. “The only exception to operation this summer will be if construction impacts arise, in which case the EDFM will be notified on the Monday before the market. On those Saturdays, EDFM vendors will return to their new location. We hope the businesses on 104 St, area residents, and Edmontonians will continue to enjoy vibrant Saturday’s on 104 Street!”

In a follow-up email, City spokesperson Amber Medynski told Taproot that while the prior agreement between the City of Edmonton and the EDFM for 104th Street was cancelled in December “due to anticipated construction restrictions in the area,” those have since decreased and EDFM was given the opportunity to return.

“The plan is for the Downtown Farmers Market to also take place at their new, permanent location at the GWG building on Sundays, but now they will also operate on 104 Street, between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue, as well as on 102 Avenue between 103 St and 104 St on Saturdays. The only difference is that the amount of space available in the area each week week may change based on the needs of construction,” said Medynski.

EDFM spokesperson Dan Young confirmed the decision to return to 104th Street was due to the availability of the space. “It’s easy to pick up and move tents to a certain extent,” Young says. “So we thought, ‘Well, we’ll come back and we’ll do what we can to program that street and get it going.

“Part of the other reason, too, is that our building on 103rd Avenue is not ready for occupancy,” he continues. “We thought it would be ready sooner, but it’s not. So we thought we might as well try to split the markets.”

Young says the EDFM will operate the market in both locations for 2019, and will review it with the City again next year.

Kirsta Franke of Wild Heart Collective, which organizes the 124th Street Grand Market, had been in talks to start a new, smaller market on 104th Street between Jasper and 102nd avenues.

“Grand Markets Edmonton has been working on a centrally located Saturday Market option that would extend into the holiday season for some time now,” she told Taproot. “With the news of Downtown Market relocating, our group was approached by local vendors as well as concerned downtown business stakeholders to provide an alternate level of programming for 104 Street.”

She said the well-being and success of local vendors and businesses is her organization’s first priority. “With this surprising news, we will continue to work with stakeholders to provide complementary programming downtown.”

Young confirmed that they were aware through some of their vendors that there was another group interested in running a market on 104th Street. When asked if this played a role in the EDFM’s decision to return to 104th, Young was noncommittal. “I think there’s always some advantages of having a couple of markets [downtown],” he said. “We like to view ourselves as the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market.”

“I think competition is good,” he said, in response to whether he thinks there shouldn’t be another market downtown. “We think that that will settle out over time.”

The market’s first day at the Quarters location seemed to be a success, with lots of people turning up at the new location on Saturday, the first day of the market’s outdoor season.

“All the comments we’ve got from the vendors on Saturday is that they did very well,” said Young. “They didn’t do quite as good as they did on opening day on 104. But for a brand new market and a brand new area they were very happy.”

Chris Buyze, president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, called for collaboration. “We hope area residents, businesses, farmer’s market, City of Edmonton, and other stakeholders will work together to coordinate programming on 104 Street this season,” he said. “We believe we can all work together to balance the needs of 104 Street and programming, with future construction challenges.”

With files from Mel Priestley and Mack Male


Taproot tends to stay away from breaking news, but we know from the reaction to our first story on the market that you’re interested, so we wanted to share what we know. Mel Priestley, who wrote our initial story, is working on a follow-up piece about the economics of multi-day markets in Edmonton. Stay tuned for that.

Stay on top of local food news by subscribing to our weekly Food Roundup, written by Sharon Yeo of Only Here for the Food.

You can help us pay attention to such matters by becoming a Taproot Member. Just $10 a month or $100 a year helps us compensate our writers and cover our community.

Introducing the Business Roundup

We recently launched our newest roundup: the Taproot Edmonton Business Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest on the companies, entrepreneurs, employees, investors, leaders, and others shaping Edmonton’s economy. Read the Business Roundup to stay informed on what’s happening in local business. Sign up here to get the Business Roundup delivered to your inbox.

We are constantly gathering business-related updates from a variety of sources and each week we distill what we’ve discovered into an email update containing everything you need to know about local business. We save you time and keep you informed, and we add context where appropriate to help make sense of the news.


I (Mack) am currently writing the Business Roundup. I have been writing about urban affairs for more than 15 years at mastermaq.ca and have cultivated great information sources during that time. That said, I have my hands full building the engine that makes Taproot go, so we’re looking for a talented curator to help us tackle this beat! Learn more and apply here.

We believe that beat reporting is a critical part of the intelligence gathering that we do at Taproot. Paying concerted attention to a local topic that Edmontonains are curious about helps us ensure the stories we produce serve the community. We have covered business in the past with our stories on building an AI industry and the expectations facing 104 Street. Of course, our existing roundups like Tech and Food also cover aspects of business.

We’ll publish the Business Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Friday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the launch edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Business Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Business Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free reader here.

Introducing the Food Roundup

This week we’re excited to share our newest roundup with you: the Taproot Edmonton Food Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest on the restaurants, chefs, producers, events, and other updates from Edmonton’s food scene. Sign up here to get the Food Roundup delivered to your inbox.

We are constantly gathering food-related updates from a variety of sources and each week we distill what we’ve discovered into an email update containing everything you need to know about local food – the cream of the crop! We save you time and keep you informed, and we add context where appropriate to help make sense of the news.

Sharon Yeo is curating and writing the Food Roundup. She has been writing Food Notes on her blog for years and will continue doing so. Taproot readers will benefit from her experience and attention to Edmonton’s food scene, and we’ll work together to produce even more great coverage of local food.

We believe that beat reporting is a critical part of the intelligence gathering that we do at Taproot. Paying concerted attention to a local topic that Edmontonains are curious about helps us ensure the stories we produce serve the community. On the food beat this effort has already borne fruit as we were first to tell you about the City Market’s impending move away from 104 Street.

We’ll publish the Food Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Tuesday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the launch edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Food Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Food Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free reader here.