Skip to main content

Author: Dave Lueneberg

Map of Canada indicating percentage of CEBA funding distributed by province.

Ottawa announces CEBA payment extension

After repeated calls by the business community, interest groups and opposition parties, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his government is extending the loan repayment deadline for Canada Emergency Business Account to Dec. 31, 2026, one full year after the current deadline.

“We know that some need a bit more runway,” Trudeau said, after emerging from a Liberal caucus retreat Thursday.

“We’re giving small businesses in Canada more time to pay back emergency loans offered during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Between April 2020 and June 2021, close to 900,000 applications were made to the CEBA program, with a little over $49 billion handed out.

However, with only a reported 21 per cent of businesses, as of May 31, having paid back their loans in full, a large chunk remains unpaid.

The program, launched in the wake of the pandemic, originally had a payment-in-full deadline of 2022, but with a sharp rise in Omicron cases, the federal government, seeing a slowing in business bounceback, extended it to the end of 2023.

Those able to get funding of $60,000, for example, currently have until this coming Dec. 31 to pay two-thirds of the amount and have the last third, $20,000, forgiven.

The alternative, until Thursday’s announcement, for business owners was a two-year payment plan, at 5 per cent interest, due Dec. 31, 2025.

That deadline has now been extended by a year.

But will it be enough?


Poster promoting Pavlo concert at Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod


“This news comes with mixed feelings for the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce,” said president Rylan Brown in a statement Friday.

“It’s great that business owners who need more breathing room can express the option to extend the payment. The troubling part of this statement is that it’s only a short-term fix. It begs the question, what happens when the piper calls?”

Brown, though, is recommending businesses don’t go it alone.

“I would suggest that our members in this predicament speak with their accountants and lenders for a better long-term solution. Many lenders are stepping in to take over the loan so business owners can capitalize on the debt forgiveness and acquire a longer loan term to help soften the debt load,” he concluded.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, meanwhile, characterized the announcement as “disappointing.”

“The (federal) government has failed to address the most critical issue on outstanding CEBA loans — the loss of the $20,000 forgivable portion for those unable to repay the loans by year-end,” the statement opened.

“The extension of the forgivable deadline by a few weeks will be of very little value to the thousands of small business owners who just don’t have money to repay now.”

Figures compiled by the federation indicate that 69 per cent of small businesses that accessed the loan have not yet been able to repay any of it and only 18 per cent have repaid their loan in full as of September.

View the above image on the Government of Canada website here.


Related article:

CEBA repayment may sink one in five Alberta businesses

Yellow crime scene tape on black background

Lundbreck business scene of break-in and assault

RCMP are looking into a break and enter that took place early this morning at a business in Lundbreck.

At approximately 5:15, Crowsnest Pass RCMP were dispatched to a complaint of a break-and-enter in progress,” said an RCMP press release Wednesday morning.

“During the break and enter, the owner attended the business and an altercation took place in which a suspect brandished a weapon.”

Police say the owner received minor injuries in the incident.

It’s believed two, and possibly, three, suspects fled the scene prior to Mounties arriving, taking with them an undisclosed amount of money.

RCMP are appealing to the public for any help in the case.

They’re asking anyone with information to contact them at (403) 562-2867.

You can also remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Exterior of Subway franchise building in Pincher Creek

Main Street restaurant awaits changes to bylaw

The Town of Pincher Creek is looking at making a change to one of its zoning designations.

Known as C-4 transitional commercial, it covers financial institutions, retail stores and restaurants, but the rules now don’t allow for a business to operate a drive-thru window.

The owner of a Main Street eatery is hoping a proposed amendment to the current bylaw will change all of that.

Avinash Thakor owns the downtown Subway location, at the corner of Main and Davidson, and has since 2017.

“The drive-thru, for some people, is much more convenient, especially if, maybe, you have kids in your car. It’s much quicker sometimes,” Thakor said.

“Right now, I’m really just waiting for the process to be completed.”

For any changes to be accepted, though, a bylaw amendment or amendments need to go to a first reading, then to a public hearing, before a second and final third reading.


Orange and blue flames on SGB Fitbodies ad promoting Fire and Ice classes


The first two steps have already happened.

“So, if the request gets added into the zoning, and the zoning gets changed, then the applicant is going to have to bring an application forward,” Mayor Don Anderberg explained after the Aug. 28 public hearing.

Facing staffing challenges, like many employers, opening the drive-thru window hasn’t always been top of mind for Thakor, but it’s something his customers have been asking about with a window already in place.

If approved, the restaurant will also need to establish a traffic pattern to avoid blocking a nearby alleyway and Davidson Avenue, but so far no one in the neighbourhood has shared any concern, including at the recent public hearing.

“There is actually space in the parking lot where you could enter the drive-thru and it’s wide enough,” Thakor said.

A passing of the new bylaw could come as early as the town’s next regular council meeting, Sept. 11, when it’s expected to receive both second and final readings in succession.

Key in car door lock

Warning from RCMP after rash of thefts

Pincher Creek RCMP are warning drivers to lock their vehicles and take their keys with them, following a rash of vehicle thefts in the community.

“It’s been going on for a week now,” said Sgt. Ryan Hodge on Wednesday morning.

“We have an individual that’s responsible for stealing up to half a dozen vehicles. Just a matter of trying to catch up to him.”

“What we’re finding is there are keys left in the vehicle making them an easy target.”

RCMP urge anyone who sees something suspicious, like a vehicle break-in, to call 911 immediately.

Province updates projected revenues and debt

Alberta’s finance minister is forecasting a $2.4-billion surplus at the end of the government’s budget year next spring.

In a fiscal update Aug. 31, Nate Horner said strong and prudent fiscal management will help the province remain the economic engine of Canada.

“Alberta’s finances remain strong, and thanks to our new fiscal framework, our fiscal position is poised to become even stronger,” he said.

Despite an unprecedented fire season and ongoing economic volatility, the United Conservative government corrected an earlier surplus projection, increasing it by $94 million.

It has also adjusted its revenue stream, contained in the 2023 budget, from just over 70.6 million dollars to 71.1, a jump of almost $500,000. Strong  2022 personal income tax assessments and corporate profits are behind the rise.

Translated, that means more people and more companies in Alberta.

“We have population growth pegged at about 4.4 per cent right now. That’s a very high projection,” Horner acknowledged.

“I know that our economists in the department are having a hard time believing it, but it’s not only strong immigration but inter-provincial migration.

Part of the gain, the finance minister continued, is the influx of Ukrainian refugees to Alberta.

But, as the province welcomes new residents, Horner said he knows it brings with it other challenges like the current housing crunch and homes becoming less affordable.

“I think that it’s inevitable. We had an Alberta Calling campaign, leveraged our affordability to make people want to come and make a home in Alberta, and over time that’s changed,” he said.


Sorge Trucking – Equipment Operator Required Help Wanted Ad


Horner believes things will rebound as new housing and communities are built up post-pandemic.

As it shares its latest projections for the current year, the province is also giving Albertans a glimpse into the future, anticipating a jump in corporate and personal income taxes in 2023-24 by $1.5 billion, $889 million of which is corporate.

Government economists are also predicting bitumen royalties will climb by $515 million during that same time frame but will be countered by an overall $694 million decline in overall resource revenue.

But, while highlighting many of the increases in expected revenues, the UCP government will also need to look at a growing deficit, forecast at $2.6 billion for the current year, and an overall debt reaching $77 billion, something Horner is aware of.

“When you pay down debt, the 2.6 billion that we’re going to use to pay down maturing principals, it’s going to save us 120 million going forward,” the finance minister said.

“If you notice in the report, at budget, our debt servicing cost was 2.85 billion and now it’s over three billion. That’s simply the effect of higher interest rates.”

That aside, however, Horner remains optimistic, even with the uncertainty surrounding interest rates.

The latest economic statement is forecasting a three per cent rise in the province’s real gross domestic product, a continued growing labour market deep into 2024, and an economy “well-positioned to withstand any challenges that arise.”

Aerial view of pioneer museum grounds with buildings and vehicles

Free admission to Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village Saturday

Although the actual day that Alberta joined confederation was Sept. 1, most communities around the province will celebrate the landmark occasion on Saturday.

In Pincher Creek, Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village is offering free admission, a barbecue and bunny bar, and a musical performance by Noel Burles.

“If all the stars align, we also have a display by the North West Mounted Police based out of High River,” says the museum’s Gord Tolton.

“They’re going to bring their display trailer and have storyboards set up and some of the firearms that were used back in the day. The members will also be wearing the same uniforms that were worn circa 1870.”

An unexpected bonus to the afternoon, Tolton says, will be the arrival of a wedding party and the taking of photos at around 2 p.m. of two RCMP members who are expected to be dressed in full uniform.

Alberta Day festivities will take place from 1 until 4 p.m.

White sheet lighting in a purplish night sky over Pincher Creek Rexall

No blue moon but lotsa lightning for Pincher Creek

If you thought the weather in and around Pincher Creek was a little crazy Wednesday night, you’d be right.

A rather intense thunderstorm blanketed the region for the better part of eight hours during the evening and overnight hours, bringing with it wind, heavy rain at times, and both sheet and fork lightning.

“We had a low pressure that settled itself over the southern Prairies,” explains Justin Shelley, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“It’s currently centred (10 a.m. Thursday) over central Saskatchewan. Last night, of course, during the storms it was a little farther west, where we had a line of thunderstorms that extended from the southern half of our province right into Montana.”

Shelley said the system was slow moving and created a train-like effect where the storms seemed to back into each other, translating into the heavy pockets of wind and rain that we saw.

Combined with rain earlier in the day, the Pincher Creek airport weather station received 23.3 millimetres in precipitation from midnight to midnight Wednesday, while Brocket, to the northeast, collected 47.2 millimetres in its rain gauge.

But is there more wet weather on the way? Maybe, toward the end of the long weekend, Shelley predicts.

“It does look like we might see another system move through the area on Sunday or Monday, but probably not what happened last night,” he adds.

The seven-day forecast from Environment Canada is for generally dry conditions, with sunshine Friday through Sunday and highs in the mid to upper 20s.

A 60 per cent chance of showers follows on Monday.

Skies are expected to clear for the first day of school Tuesday, with a more manageable daytime high of 17.

White woman in 30s with long dark hair and three-year-old boy with short light brown hair

Missing mother and son found safe

Lethbridge Police Service has reported that Sheena Empringham, her three-year-old son Atreyu and her boyfriend have been located and are safe.

“The trio were found south of Lethbridge by HALO Air Ambulance,” reports LPS.

Thanks are extended to all involved in the collaborative investigation.

Police advise that no further information will be released.




Original article

Police in Lethbridge are asking for the public’s help in finding a 38-year-old Stavely woman and her son.

Sheena Empringham and her three-year-old, Atreyu, were reportedly “floating down” a southern Alberta river some time Sunday with an unidentified man, believed to be her boyfriend.

A text message from Sheena’s cellphone, to a family member, said they were looking for ammolite.

Authorities, however, have been unable to validate the details or the man’s identity.

In a social media posting Tuesday, police did confirm the first of two texts came Sunday and asked to be picked up south of Lethbridge but didn’t indicate which river or the exact pickup point.

The text message also stated they’d run out of food and water.




“On Aug. 28 (Monday), the family member received another text message saying Sheena’s phone had died but she still needed a ride. She indicated she’d call the relative at 3 p.m. with more information,” the Lethbridge Police Service Facebook post went on to say.

There’s been no contact since that followup text message.

“Police believe the trio were dropped off at their starting point by a friend, but so far the friend has not been identified,” the post said.

While no river was identified, Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services’ water rescue team carried out a search Monday night along the Oldman River, where it’s thought there could be concentrated deposits of ammolite.

Monday’s search ended with no results when river levels became too low for the rescue vessel to continue.

An aerial search by a drone and efforts by RCMP to canvas nearby properties and campgrounds have also failed to produce any leads.

It’s now been deemed as a missing persons case.

Anyone who may have seen Sheena or Atreyu is asked to contact Lethbridge police at 403-328-4444 (reference file 23020508) or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Dry riverbed with intake valves showing

MD of Pincher Creek searching for water solutions

With a dwindling water supply and no real sign the situation will improve, the MD of Pincher Creek is looking at its options both now and into the future.

Among the possibilities are moving from current Stage 3 watering restrictions to Stage 4, which would limit water use to essential levels only, or declaring a local state of emergency, a move also discussed by councillors at their regular meeting Aug. 22.

Tony Bruder, deputy reeve and acting chairman of the meeting, feels the district needs to look at both a short-term solution to keep water taps flowing through the upcoming winter and a long-term plan moving forward.

“I don’t think this is going to be an only-this-year problem and we need to consider flushing out a capital project, while not rushing, for next year to mitigate this,” Bruder said.

Council will, however, need to explore available funding from the province or other sources.

As it stands, the MD is spending in the area of $8,500 per day to haul water from an outside source, a cost that could easily reach six figures before the end of August.

“I think we’re going to need temporary infrastructure over the winter,” Bruder continued.

One of the possibilities is an offer by the Town of Pincher Creek to connect to its water supply, until a more permanent solution can be found.

Another option discussed, but decided against, was to reopen standpipes in Beaver Mines and Cowley, something that wouldn’t result in any real savings compared to what’s being paid now for hauling water.

Completely unrelated but a potential impact in all of this is the MD’s decision to eventually add close to 60 properties near Beaver Mines to its system.

Could the eventual hook-ups be delayed with the challenges of finding water?

“We haven’t discussed that up to this point, but in my mind that might be a discussion to be had rather than add a whole bunch more people to the system,” Bruder said following the meeting.

“Most of them are on their own independent wells at this time. Why would we add the extra stress at this time if we don’t have to?”

Efforts to find a reliable water supply now and in the future affect not only the Beaver Mines area but also the hamlet of Lundbreck and the village of Cowley, where water for the communities is bought from the MD’s water treatment plant.

“I feel there wasn’t adequate information given to the domestic users here as it relates to the outflow of the Oldman dam,” Cowley Mayor Barb Burnett said. “I don’t know if that information was available to the MD, but there’s been a drastic reduction in the level of the dam.”

Burnett also agrees with Bruder that this year’s situation isn’t just confined to this year or only a local issue.

“I think it’s water management for this whole southern water distribution area … so it’s not just us.”

Group of people, mostly seniors, seated at a meeting

Recent Pincher Creek hospital closures worry residents

Following three recent emergency department closures at Pincher Creek Health Centre, area residents are concerned over the facility’s future, something very apparent at an Aug. 15 engagement session with Alberta Health Services.

“It is not our intent to close the hospital,” Dr. Sandra Stover, associate zone medical director for AHS and a palliative care physician from the Beaver Mines area, told the audience of nearly 200.

“It’s our goal (as doctors) to keep the emergency department open,” added Dr. Bev Burton, the community’s acting medical director, when asked to speak to the large gathering.

Acknowledging there have been challenges in the past, Burton said she is hopeful that things will improve.

At the centre of the recent closures: the continuing struggle to recruit new physicians and the challenge to keep them, once here. The lengthy process, which can take up to nine months, even after an agreement is reached, doesn’t help either.

Right now, Pincher Creek is served by five doctors, plus one on maternity leave. In the past, the town has had up to 11.

“Some of the delay is the recruitment process but some of it is through the College of Physicians. It’s simply a lack of people who can mentor or sponsor,” Stover said.

Staffing shortages and ER closures aren’t isolated to just the southwest, or even Alberta. This can create hardship for families in rural communities where the next hospital is an hour or more away and, for some, the additional challenge of getting there is very real.



“What happened? We came out of Covid and all of sudden there are no doctors,” said Edna Fairbrother, a member of Piikani Nation.

Getting in to see a doctor, for Fairbrother, was never a problem until recently.

“We need to find some solutions because it’s not just Pincher Creek. It’s my community as well,” she said.

“Retaining physicians is even more important than recruiting them,” Dr. Stover said, following the meeting.

“We can always recruit a physician but it’s harder retaining one. People want to have a long relationship with their doctor,” Stover said.

“We have a great relationship with the town and MD. They’ve even set up their own committee.” 

With an aging population, good health care is a big pillar of any community and several times during the course of the evening, AHS officials recognized the large turnout.

We can see the community here is very concerned about their health care and rightly so,” Stover said. “After all, they have a big stake in it.”

While obstacles remain in recruiting and retaining physicians, the news on the evening wasn’t all bad. In fact, there might be some promise.

A new physician assistant is set to begin in September to fill a small part of the current gap. Negotiations are also underway with three international medical graduates, one of whom could be practising in the community by the spring of next year.

Word recovery written on white paper over top of other slips reading "substance abuse"

New addiction recovery model introduced

The Alberta government and members of the Blood Tribe First Nation have unveiled details of a recovery community that will house 75 beds and treat up to 300 people per year through holistic healing.

“This has been a long and hard battle for our people,” said Blood Tribe councillor Piinaakoyim Tailfeathers at a July 19 ground-breaking ceremony.

“We recognize that drug abuse is only a symptom of a much larger issue and we need to address poverty, the inequalities and trauma our people face daily, and treat the root cause of addiction. We need to find our own path to healing. Every one of us in this community has suffered trauma, grief and loss of life.”

In March 2015, local leaders declared a state of emergency based on a rise in deaths linked to pills believed to be laced with fentanyl. A similar emergency declaration was made in 2018.

“Addiction doesn’t just impact one’s health or one’s well-being. It damages relationships. It affects a community. It affects work and erodes a person’s very sense of self and connection to their community,” said Mental Health and Addictions Minister Dan Williams.

“Recovery communities give people the resources they need and time to focus exclusively on recovery,” he added.

The project, one of 11 being built across the province, will be open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Albertans, and services will be free.

It is hoped the facility on the Blood Tribe First Nation will be completed by late 2024.

Waterton lakeshore with mountains in background

Brooks man drowns at Waterton Lakes National Park

A 37-year-old man from Brooks has died following a drowning incident on the upper portion of Waterton Lakes.

Indications from the scene are the man was swimming with family Tuesday afternoon when he ran into trouble.

“Police attended and found multiple people performing CPR on an unconscious male,” says Sgt. Ryan Hodge of the Pincher Creek RCMP.

“Unfortunately, the man was pronounced deceased at the scene.”

Hodge says one of those to perform CPR was a medical doctor. Police and EMS from Pincher Creek were called out just after 4 p.m.

“From what we can tell, the person wasn’t a strong swimmer and they got into water they weren’t comfortable in. Whether it was a panic situation, we’re not sure,” he adds.

The lake, though, is known for strong undercurrents.

As temperatures climb to the upper 30s this week, many will head to nearby rivers and lakes to stay cool. RCMP recommends we practise water safety whether swimming or boating.

“Respect the water. If you’re not a strong swimmer stay in a depth of water you’re comfortable in … that you can stand up in,” suggests Hodge.

“It is also a cold lake so it can steal a lot of strength from you.”

Prices showing on gas pump buttons

Jump at the Pump

You may have noticed you spent a little more to fill up your gas tank this past weekend.

In Pincher Creek, for example, the price at the pump rose by four cents to 144.9 cents per litre.

Industry experts are crediting a rebound in price for a barrel of oil as the leading driver for the climb. While prices traditionally come down after the summer travel season ends, the same sources say that may not be the case this year.

Be glad, though, that we live where we do.

Figures from the Canadian Automobile Association showed the average gas price across the country Aug. 13 was 168.2 cents per litre, a jump of some 10 cents compared to this time last month.

On Sunday, the lowest price per litre in Alberta, according to, a site that monitors fuel prices, was shared by Drayton Valley, Leduc and Stony Plain at 132.9.

In contrast, motorists on the other side of the British Columbia border, in places like Sparwood, were paying slightly higher than the Canadian benchmark Sunday at 168.9.

harvested yellow field with mountains in the background

Farmers hoping for much-needed relief

To say it’s been a tough year for producers in southwestern Alberta might be considered a huge understatement, but it has.

A lack of measurable rain since spring and now a surge in the grasshopper population is hitting farmers twice as hard.

On Aug. 8, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek made the rare move of declaring an agricultural disaster.

This follows a recommendation by its agricultural fieldman and service board, and was rubber-stamped at a special council meeting, also held on the same day.

“Municipal declarations do not automatically trigger access to increased funding programs, provincially or federally,” noted the MD in a statement posted on its website. “It’s rather intended to bring attention to other levels of government on where support is needed for producers.”

To date, the Alberta government has not made any provincewide designation.

Reeve Rick Lemire, a cattle producer himself, doesn’t recall such a declaration being made in recent memory.

“About a month ago, it was brought up. Should we be looking or monitoring this? Since that time, we, as a council, have had phone calls from producers saying it’s time — we’re in sad shape here,” said Lemire. “So we called the special meeting and went over the facts that our ag fieldman provided us.”



Some feedback included situations of stock being sold with a dwindling grass supply and the need and cost to have water hauled in. Lemire knows all too well about those same hurdles, with two of his three dugouts completely dry.

Add to that, the latest wrinkle — grasshoppers.

“What little crop they might have had to cut for feed is being destroyed and all of that within the last month. Grasshoppers come in cycles and this is (their) year,” Lemire continued.

“And, next year could be worse because they’ve come in such large numbers. I know of at least a few producers in the MD that have sprayed their crops twice this year, and if you don’t control it, there’s nothing left.”

According to the MD, drought conditions have impacted 50 to 90 per cent of crops, pasture and range yields, pointing to a lack of spring and in-season moisture combined with long durations of high temperatures and winds.

Figures from Environment and Climate Change Canada show no measurable precipitation for Pincher Creek in the first 10 days of August.

In all, close to two dozen MDs and counties have already made the declaration, including neighbouring Cardston County on July 16, and the list is sure to grow if the dry, hot conditions continue.