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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.

Tech Roundup Review: January 2019

Every Tuesday morning we publish the Tech Roundup, a newsletter full of the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community. In addition to the curated, easy-to-scan lists of news and events, each edition includes one or two featured items which are the updates highlighted below. Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email each week.

Here’s our look back at the month of January 2019 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

January 8 – BioWare co-founders appointed to the Order of Canada

BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk were the only Edmontonians among 103 new appointments to the Order of Canada in December. The two co-founders were named Members of the Order of Canada for their "revolutionary contributions to the video game industry" and as developers and co-founders "of an internationally renowned studio." In this edition we also highlighted the selection of the founding members of the Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups (EACOS), the refinancing and shareholder consolidation announced by Yardstick Software, and an Alberta Venture feature on Testfire Labs.

January 15 – Alberta AI Business Plan funding ask submitted to Province

The Alberta AI Business Plan, developed by a steering committee made up of local investors, entrepreneurs, service providers, and academics, was released outlining a vision to make AI "a billion dollar industry in the province by 2025." A funding ask was submitted to the Government of Alberta to "kickstart the accelerator and pre-seed funding". In this edition we also highlighted Amii’s announcement that it will host the Deep Learning & Reinforcement Learning Summer School this year, the selection of Testfire Labs as a finalist in the AI category for SXSW Pitch, and a development from the University of Alberta that could make a new generation of lithium ion batteries with 10 times the charge capacity of current batteries.

January 22 – Chris Lumb steps down as TEC Edmonton CEO

After nearly ten years with the organization, Chris Lumb has decided to step down as CEO of TEC Edmonton, effective June 30, 2019. “With outstanding staff and management, a strong culture and excellent client outcomes, TEC will continue to do outstanding work helping to grow emerging technology companies in the community,” he said. In this edition we also highlighted Arden Tse’s move from the Venture Mentoring Service to Yaletown Partners’ Accelerate II fund, the news that Rising Tide’s Ashif Mawji was inducted into the 2019 Alberta Business Hall of Fame, and that Testfire Labs and AltaML were added to the Government of Canada’s list of qualified suppliers for artificial intelligence.

January 29 – Applied Quantum Materials receives funding to turn windows into solar panels

University of Alberta spin-off company Applied Quantum Materials was one of 29 successful projects in the Climate Change Innovation Technology Framework (CCITF) – Clean Technology Development program, receiving a $420,000 grant from Alberta Innovates to use nanomaterials to turn windows into see-through solar panels. In this edition we also highlighted F12.net’s acquisition of BC-based Level4 Technologies, the City of Edmonton’s new online system for managing recreation program and facility bookings, and comments from UCP leader Jason Kenney on cryptocurrency.

Popular Clicks

These were the top 5 most clicked on items from the month:

That’s a wrap on January! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning.

Thank you to our Tech Roundup sponsors: Advanced Technology Centre, Amii, EEDC, Startup Edmonton, Stormboard, TEC Edmonton, Jobber, Testfire Labs, VMS, Instamek, and CompuVision.

Community-driven, audience-funded journalism at NASH81

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at NASH81: Refine, the annual gathering of Canada’s student journalists. This year’s event was hosted by the University of Calgary’s independent student publication The Gauntlet. Organizers put together an exciting schedule with talks on podcasting, visual storytelling, beatwriting, ethics, humour writing, freelancing, photojournalism, and much more.

I participated in a panel discussion that explored the question, is the future of journalism crowd-funded and community-driven? Joining me on the panel were Erin Millar, CEO of The Discourse, and Jeremy Klazsus, founder of The Sprawl. Our moderator was Katrina Ingram, strategic advisor at the Alberta Podcast Network and host of the Back to School Again podcast.

While there are some differences between our organizations, there are far more similarities. Each publication is pursuing an audience-pay model in which a significant proportion of revenue comes directly from members or patrons. The idea is to serve readers rather than advertisers, which the panel agreed is more likely to result in high quality journalism that is better aligned with what the community wants.

Another similarity is that content is accessible to everyone – you won’t find any paywalls here! The panel identified two key drivers behind this. The first is that for a story to have an impact, it needs to be widely consumed. Artificial barriers that get in the way of accessing content hinder our ability to make a difference in the communities we serve. The second is that supporters want our journalism to be available to those who can’t afford it and they’re happy to contribute toward making that possible.

Engagement is also critical to each of our organizations. We seek input from our community to help drive our journalism forward and to make sure we’re adding value with everything we do. The Discourse has a survey they ask members to take upon joining, The Sprawl actively solicits input via social media, and of course at Taproot we have the Story Garden. Everyone on the panel talked about the importance of listening.

We also discussed:

  • The importance of confronting inequity in journalism and how we must seek to avoid recreating legacy media’s lack of diversity
  • How the audience-pay model is built on trust which means sponsored content is a poor fit
  • That in serving our paying audience we tend not to chase the news of the day and instead practice what The Sprawl calls “slow journalism”
  • While the federal government’s funding announcement may have some positive impacts, there’s a risk it will simply prop up the legacy players rather than support badly needed innovation in Canadian media

As is the case with these sorts of discussions, there wasn’t enough time to say everything! The students in attendance asked great questions and I hope they found our approach to the future of journalism informative and inspiring.

For more on the topics we discussed, read “The rise of audience-funded journalism in Canada“, a report published by The Discourse in December 2018 with contributions from The Sprawl, Taproot Edmonton, and other digital independent news outlets across the country.

Tech Roundup Review: November 2018

Every Tuesday morning we publish the Tech Roundup, a newsletter full of the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community. In addition to the curated, easy-to-scan lists of news and events, each edition includes one or two featured items which are the updates highlighted below. Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email each week.

Here’s our look back at the month of November 2018 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

November 6 – Electric Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Project wraps up

The City of Edmonton’s electric autonomous vehicle pilot project, featuring a shuttle known as ELA (for Electric Autonomous), wrapped up at the beginning of the month. The ELA vehicle was a 12-person shuttle manufactured by EasyMile called the EZ10. It operated at low speeds (less than 12 km/h) and featured a battery that could last up to 16 hours. In this edition we also highlighted the new Dev Edmonton Society, Athabasca University’s use of AWS, and that Extra Life Edmonton raised $69,303 for charity.

November 13 – City of Edmonton named Most Open City in Canada

For the third year in a row, the City of Edmonton has been named the "Most Open City" by Public Sector Digest at the Canadian Open Data Summit. Wendy Gnenz, Chief Information Officer at the City of Edmonton, won the Canadian Open Data Leader of the Year Award. We also highlighted the launch of WAV Capital, new research from the U of A to build quantum memory, and a feature on former City Councillor Kim Krushell who has launched Bar-Tech.

November 20 – Artificial Intelligence-Supercomputing Hub to be established at the University of Alberta

The Government of Canada is investing $2.5 million in the University of Alberta to establish an Artificial Intelligence-Supercomputing Hub for Academic and Industry Collaboration ("the AI-Hub") "equipped with high performance computers capable of processing vast amounts of raw data in hours instead of days." The AI-Hub is expected to open in Spring 2019. In this edition we also highlighted an interview with Jonathan Schaeffer about AI and Edmonton, a photo feature on NAIT’s new Productivity & Innovation Centre, and the news that Edmonton was shut out of the inaugural Start Alberta awards.

November 27 – Four Edmonton companies receive federal funding to get innovative products to market

Edmonton-based DevFacto Technologies, instaMek Solutions Inc., Intelligent Imaging Systems, and Lumican Corporation have received a combined $3.2 million to "help move their new and innovative technologies from the later stages of research and development to the marketplace." The funding comes through the five-year Western Innovation (WINN) Initiative. We also highlighted an interview with Amii’s new CEO John Shillington, a recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 43, and that Myrna Bittner and Ashley Janssen were accepted into the fall cohort of Connection Silicon Valley’s Canadian Women’s Network.

Popular Clicks

These were the top 5 most clicked on items from the month:

That’s a wrap on November! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning. And in case you missed it, here’s our review of October 2018.