‘Health city’ plan in works for Edmonton
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson announced a new strategy Monday to turn Alberta’s capital into “Canada’s health city,” where ideas for medical innovation and technology find a supportive home.
Iveson revealed the plans during his annual state of the city speech, championing the need to grow an “ecosystem” of health-care innovation that attracts talent and accelerates the commercialization of new products.
In the wide-ranging speech to a packed house, Iveson also issued a call for more revenue sharing in the capital region between counties, bedroom communities and Edmonton.
Iveson said the city is an emerging player in the health-care sector with some 250 companies, yet there are barriers to ensuring those companies stay in Edmonton and find success building their businesses.
“We’ll require a platform that builds on our strengths, addresses our vulnerabilities and raises our international profile,” he told the lunchtime crowd at the Shaw Conference Centre. “I truly believe we are at a tipping point. The conditions are right, the right players are at the table and there is the will to make something uniquely Edmonton.”
The strategy will be quarterbacked by the Edmonton Economic Development Corp., but will also require hearty participation from the provincial government, Alberta Health Services, post-secondary institutions and industry players, the mayor said.
Telus executive Bob Westbury and NorQuest College president Jodi Abbott have agreed to lead an industry coalition to develop a strategy.
The strategy will also be a marketing effort to sell Edmonton as a place to bring health-care ideas to life, Iveson said.
“It’s about telling our story differently, because we have really put it out there as effectively as we could that we are already a health-innovation centre, but we need to take that story to it,” he said.
Iveson said the city already has strengths to build on. These include world-leading researchers at the University of Alberta, a single health authority for the province, recently announced investment funding available through AIMCo and ATB, and innovation infrastructure through agencies such as TEC Edmonton and Alberta Innovates.
“We have a lot of the right ingredients,” Iveson said, “but we need to bundle them together.”
He also called on the federal government to review its decision not to extend employment insurance benefits for unemployed workers in the Edmonton area.
Ottawa needs to redesign its program for the unemployed and in the meantime, “the numbers are worsening,” Iveson said.
Edmonton-Centre MP Randy Boissonnault said he is watching the numbers, but expects they won’t hit the federal threshold for longer EI payments — a two per cent drop in employment rates that stays depressed for at least three months.
“There’s been slight movement. Edmonton is not in the zone, but we’re watching it quite carefully,” he said.