Skip to main content
Profile of Trevor Hay, a man with short grey hair, wearing a black jacket, speaks into a microphone while addressing Crowsnest Pass council.

Crowsnest Pass to seek legal advice on Blairmore subdivision

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is seeking legal advice after a resident asked to build a road through his proposed subdivision before putting up a security deposit.

Trevor Hay, who hopes to build homes for his family atop Blairmore’s Greenwood Heights, says the project has been held up since 2010 because he can’t afford the deposit and construction costs at the same time.

“There’s a very real human component that’s significant in order to completely understand this situation,” Hay told council Jan. 13. He’d hoped to build a home for himself and his wife and to give lots to their three adult children.

“This should’ve been one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of our lives,” he said. “Instead, it’s been like a recurring nightmare.”

 

Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

 

Council’s subdivision policy (2006-02) requires that developers put up the full estimated costs to build civic amenities through a subdivision — including public roads — before breaking ground. Security deposits keep municipalities off the hook should these amenities fail in the two years after construction, Patrick Thomas, Crownest Pass’s chief administrative officer, explained at council’s regular meeting Feb. 7. 

Hay wants to put down a 25 per cent security deposit after the municipality signs off on the road through Greenwood Heights. The municipality would close the road to the public and block the subdivision if the road were to fail inspection. 

“It would stay a private road through (an undivided) private property,” Thomas said, adding that Hay’s 25 per cent would safeguard the municipality’s interests. 

 

 

Council unanimously approved a two-year extension for Hay’s project, but set aside his request for a smaller security deposit. 

“My biggest concern is that this will set a precedent moving forward,” Mayor Blair Painter said. 

Coun. Dean Ward drew on the example of a Blairmore development that went bust 15 years ago, which council had to buy back at taxpayers’ expense. 

“I’m not talking about (Hay’s) development, specifically. But, it’s not our job to just look after the safety of the municipality. It’s also to look after the safety of all our residents,” Ward said, cautioning that hilltop construction can put underlying homes at risk of flooding. 

 

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

 

“How many times do you hear about unintended consequences?” Ward asked, echoing Painter’s concerns about setting a potentially dangerous precedent.

Speaking to the public perception that recent councils have been overly cautious, Coun. Vicki Kubik said, “If we sit here tonight with a bit of trepidation, it’s for a good reason.” 

Coun. Lisa Sygutek then tabled a motion calling for legal advice from the municipality’s legal team. 

“Are we willing to go down this road?” she asked. “Because once we’ve opened up this box, every developer is going to come to us asking for the same thing.” 

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Council unanimously passed Sygetuk’s motion. 

Hay defended his position when council opened the floor, stressing that he was “very sensitive to the issue of flooding.” 

Three engineering surveys have shown that a properly built road would improve drainage atop Greenwood Heights as much as 85 per cent, he said. 

Mayor Painter thanked Hay for his input and said council would revisit the issue of his security deposit at a later date.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

 

 

RCMP Sgt. Ryan Hodge speaks into a microphone at Pincher Creek town council

RCMP patrols in Pincher Creek to be scaled back

A policy change by Alberta RCMP (K Division) will shave an hour off Pincher Creek Mounties’ regular patrols, likely at a cost to the town, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

“It will specifically impact our detachment,” Hodge told town council on Feb. 13. 

K Division announced the policy a week earlier, citing the need to protect Mounties’ safety, he explained. Pincher Creek RCMP will either scale back regular patrols by an hour in the early morning or start patrols an hour later, he added. 

Coun. Mark Barber asked if this would increase the town’s annual policing costs, now budgeted at over $200,000. 

“I believe there will be a cost increase,” Hodge answered.

 

Shootin' the Breeze connection to more local stories

 

The new scheduling policy will not take away from the detachment’s ability to police the community, and may increase the number of officer shifts, Hodge explained.

Hodge said he hoped to explain the policy change and hear from town residents more generally at an open house before the town’s police advisory committee meets on March 15.

The detachment is currently at full strength, Hodge said.

The United Conservative Party under former premier Jason Kenney voted to phase in policing costs to Albertan municipalities under 5,000 residents starting in 2020. 

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Pincher Creek’s new policing budget has steadily risen from $74,000 in 2020 to just over $217,000 in 2023, according to finance director Wendy Catonio. 

Premier Danielle Smith, who succeeded Kenney last fall, instructed Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in a Nov. 8 letter to “finalize a decision on establishing an Alberta Police Service,” but Public Safety Minister Ellis said no decision had been made as of the new year.

K Division wasn’t immediately available for comment when Shootin’ the Breeze went to press Tuesday.

 

Read more from the Breeze:

At least eight vehicles collide at Cowley

Crowsnest Pass council approves business licence payment plan

Folklore shrouds early NWMP camps in mystery

 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

 

Woman with long grey, pulled-back hair, and wearing a green turtle-neck sweater is holding an old, framed photo of an RCMP officer, accepts a medal from a grey-haired man in glasses. Shannon Culham and Harold Hollingshead

Dave Friesen first investigated residential school in 1950s

The following story mentions sexual abuse at an Indian Residential School. The IRS term is used merely to reflect the relevant historical context.

Shootin’ the Breeze uses the term “Indigenous” to refer to Canada’s First Peoples in general. It is the policy of this paper to refer to First Peoples by their ancestral names wherever possible.

Help is always available for IRS survivors at the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program’s toll free number: 1-800-721-0066.

The MD of Pincher Creek posthumously honoured an extraordinary Albertan at an emotional ceremony at district chambers on Jan. 24.

Dave Friesen, who passed away in June 2022, was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in December for his tireless investigation of sexual abuse at an Indian residential school in northern British Columbia starting in the late 1950s.

Friesen’s daughter, Shannon Culham, and her husband, Gord, attended the second service when council separately commemorated his legacy last week.

“Today’s medal recipient led rather than wait to be led,” Coun. Harold Hollingshead said, his voice breaking as he recalled his friend’s single efforts on behalf of Kaska Dena boys who survived “dehumanizing” abuse after they were forced to attend the Lower Post Residential School.

 

Shannon Culham holds a picture of her late father, Dave Friesen, as MD of Pincher Creek Coun. Harold Hollingshead presents her with Friesen’s Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal on Jan. 24. Pictured in back are Couns. Tony Bruder, left, and Dave Cox, and Reeve Rick Lemire. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

The school was funded by the federal government and run by Catholic missionaries based in White Horse, Yukon, according to the University of Manitoba’s National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. As the Globe and Mail’s Patrick White reported in December 2021, Friesen faced countless hurdles as he tried to bring down the school’s lay brother and serial sexual predator, Ben Garand, derisively known as “Backdoor Benny.”  

Friesen couldn’t have known it at the time, but he was the only Mountie to formally investigate residential school abuse until the 1980s. Garand died in prison before he could be tried for his crimes at Lower Post, but Friesen went to great lengths to testify about what he knew when survivors sued the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church in the early 1990s.

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

Decades later, Hollingshead hit on these and other of Friesen’s works as Culham wept softly in her seat.

“Dave understood that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wanted to bring us to a place where the cycle can be broken and trust can be renewed,” he said. “Dave’s first steps to take us from where we were to where we stand today will not be forgotten.” 

“He was a trailblazer,” Culham later told Shootin’ the Breeze at her family home near Cowley. 

“The Jubilee was a great honour,” but Culham said her dad especially valued his gift from the Kaska Dena — a pair of moccasins handmade by Deputy Chief Harlan Schilling.

“The message was clear: He walked in their shoes,” she said.

 

Shannon Culham, a woman with long, grey, pulled-back hair and wearing a grey and white sweater, smiles wistfully against a backdrop of snow-covered foothills.
Shannon Culham met with Shootin’ the Breeze at her family home near Cowley, AB. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor

 

 

Culham was very young when her dad started looking into Garand. “I never knew about Lower Post until later on,” she said, adding, “I think he never shared it with us because he didn’t want to change our perspective on things.”

The RCMP transferred Friesen to Indigenous communities in northern B.C., the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, where, Culham said, “the RCMP weren’t the law. The church was.”

Mounties came and went through places like Watson Lake (near Lower Post) or Coppermine, N.W.T. (now Kugluktuk, Nunavut), or the 20 other detachments where Friesen served. Priests stayed, often for decades.

Friesen helped where and when he could.

When he found out the Anglican church in Coppermine tightly controlled the hamlet’s only hockey skates, he spearheaded an equipment drive and taught local boys how to play Canada’s national sport. 

When Catholic priests called on Friesen to arrest boys who’d skipped a flight bound for a residential school to the south, Friesen wryly asked if the church would pay for it.

When, predictably, they said no, Friesen quipped, “Well, then, I’m not going to arrest them.”

 

Shootin' the Breeze ad for free trial subscription

 

Friesen often wondered why families never reported the abuse at Lower Post. As he found out later, parents and survivors were bullied, threatened and closely watched by the church and its enablers.

The Kaska Dena burned Lower Post’s hulking remains to the ground in the summer of 2021. The First Nation plans to open a learning centre at the site, part of which Culham said would be dedicated to her father. 

She and her family will be there when the centre opens later this year.

“That means so much more to me than the Jubilee,” she said. 

Lower Post closed down in 1975, roughly 20 years after Friesen told school administrators about the abuse that was happening on their watch. 

As of May 2022, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation had recorded the names of 4,130 Indigenous children known to have died at residential schools across Canada.

 

Roger Reid, man with short dark hair, mustache and beard, smiles and shakes hands with Shannon Culham, woman with grey, pulled-back hair who is holding an old, framed photo of RCMP officer Dave Friesen and a medal
Shannon officially accepted her father’s Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medal from Livingstone Macleod MLA Roger Reid at a ceremony held at Claresholm in December.
Photo by William Cockerell

 

An earlier article about Dave Friesen’s experiences published by Shootin’ the Breeze can be read here and his obituary can be viewed here.

 

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

 

 

Read more from the Breeze:

Accused drunk driver charged in crash that killed his son

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Male with short, dark hair and woman with dark dark hair and cap, stand in front of an ambulance. Both are dressed in navy blue uniforms. Pat Neumann is the Pincher Creek fire chief and Sariah Brasnett is deputy-chief.

Wait times at urban hospitals tying up Pincher Creek ambulances

Increasing wait times at urban hospitals are delaying treatments for patients transferred by Pincher Creek Emergency Services’ ambulance crews and tying up paramedics, PCES Chief Pat Neumann told Shootin’ the Breeze.

Neumann said PCES crews have long experienced these delays at Calgary hospitals, especially at Foothills Medical Centre, which Neumann said handles most of the cardiac emergencies, advanced heart treatments and diagnostics, and complex traumas within Alberta Health Services’ south zone.

But similar bottlenecks have hit the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, which also takes routine and emergency patients from Pincher Creek and surrounding areas, and where Neumann said PCES crews have consistently reported emergency room delays since last summer. 

“Lethbridge is terrible now” for wait times, Neumann said.

“It’s to a point where, unless they actually are admitting the patient to the ER right away, (PCES crews) are typically waiting every time they go now.”

 

 

A return trip to Calgary will tie up a PCES ambulance crew for at least five hours, with crews spending at least three hours on trips to and from Lethbridge, the chief explained.

The department has two ambulances. When one has to travel to and from Calgary or Lethbridge, “That only leaves one ambulance in this community to do any other urgent transfers going out of this area, or to respond to any other emergency call,” Neumann said. 

Longer waits are the norm when urban hospitals increasingly provide routine treatment and diagnostics for rural patients. At the same time, Neumann said his crews now attend calls from town residents struggling to access primary care.

“We’re picking people up that are going to the (Pincher Creek) Health Centre because they don’t have a doctor. They don’t know what else to do to get the services they need.” 

 

 

 

Patients are showing up at the health centre sicker than they might have been if they’d had regular care from a family doctor, and the problem “compounds itself” as the hospital’s doctors and nurses scramble to fill the gap, Neumann explained. 

Six doctors now work at the health centre and its attached medical clinic, down from 11 several years ago, according to the clinic’s executive director, Jeff Brockmann. (Dr. Gavin Parker manages the health centre’s ER.)

Local ambulance calls have more than doubled since Neumann started at PCES roughly 20 years ago, with hospital transfers up by a similar margin. Crews that responded to just under 750 calls in 2005 were handling over 1,500 in 2018. Transfers meanwhile climbed from around 350 to just over 600 in the same period, according to PCES statistics. 

 

Ad for Ascent Dental in Pincher Creek

 

The town’s population held at around 3,700 for much of that time, but shrank to around 3,400 by 2021, according to the Government of Alberta’s online regional dashboard. 

Just over 25 per cent of residents are 65 or older — a slight proportional increase over 2016, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 census. As Neumann suggested, the town isn’t getting bigger — it’s getting older.

In response, Health Minister Jason Copping said the Alberta government is investing in rural health care. 

Copping said at a media roundtable Monday that the province had put up $1 million to explore options to train doctors at the University of Lethbridge and nearby Northwestern Polytechnic. 

 

Ad requesting memorabilia from CNP music festival

 

“We recognize that we need to train and hire locally, and by getting those seats out in rural Alberta, the more likely that (graduating doctors) are going to stay,” he said.

Copping stressed that Alberta’s United Conservative Party provided many more millions in budget 2022, including the UCP’s new collective agreement with Alberta’s doctors. 

The province further hopes to attract foreign doctors by “leveraging immigration.” Seventeen doctors from outside Canada have agreed to work in Lethbridge, with some already working there. 

“I can tell you more is coming.… So, stay tuned,” Copping said. 

 

 

Pincher Creek town councillors and administration sit at chambers table and one is on-screen, attending virtually. Four have hands raised, voting in favour of new curling rink plan.

Pincher Creek to build new curling rink, pending borrowing bylaw

The motion, tabled by Coun. Mark Barber, triggered a lengthy deliberation at chambers Monday, drawing input from all six councillors and Mayor Don Anderberg as they weighed the project against the town’s acute, chronic housing shortage, the potential tax increase to pay for the build, and the state of the existing facilities at the CRC. 

Council several times acknowledged the long-running contributions by the local curling club, which has long operated the current curling rink at 837 Main Street at its own expense. 

Council set aside $1.25 million of the estimated $4 million build in its 2023 capital budget. The remaining $2.75 million will be funded by a long-term loan, pending council’s upcoming vote on a borrowing bylaw, which will be the subject of a public hearing. 

Speaking in favour of Barber’s motion, Mayor Anderberg said that, in a worst-case scenario, council could pay for the project with a three per cent municipal tax increase. Council will apply for a federal grant that would cover up to 60 per cent of construction costs, provided the build goes ahead on a “net-zero” carbon footing, he told the public audience. 

 

 

Coun. Gary Clelland cast the vote as an “11th-hour” decision that would determine the curling club’s future.

“This is the time for us to take a positive step forward in our community, and say, ‘We want hundreds of people involved in this (curling) centre that for 100 years paid their way, have been leaders in the community … paid taxes in the community for 100 years, and still do today,” he said.  

Coun. Sahra Nodge objected that the long-term borrowing costs and subsequent maintenance of the rink would overly burden taxpayers, adding that the CRC’s gym and bowling alley are approaching their end of life.

“My role on council is to make sure that the monies that are spent by the town are done so responsibly, and with the due diligence and transparency that our community expects,” she said. 

Echoing Nodge, Coun. Brian Wright asked council, “How do we not bring a tax increase in order to get this to move forward?” 

 

 

Anderberg noted that residents surveyed in Pincher Creek’s March 2021 master recreation plan identified an upgrade to the curling rink as a top priority for indoor recreation.

“If our community tells us that a new curling facility is high on their list of priorities, I’ll follow their direction,” he said. 

Coun. David Green said housing solutions should take priority over the proposed curling rink. 

The town’s population has marginally shrunk in the past 15 years. Its housing vacancy rate was less than 1.5 per cent in 2017, when most of the town’s and neighbouring village of Cowley’s housing stock was close to 40 years old, according to a 2018 housing-needs assessment commissioned by council. 

“The lack of adequate and affordable housing for low-income families is a barrier to the economic growth and stability of (Pincher Creek) communities,” the assessment found.

 

 

Coun. Wayne Oliver, who attended the meeting remotely due to illness, said he trusted Anderberg’s business savvy. 

“Yes, housing is extremely important. But, I think we could work parallel on housing while building a new curling rink facility,” Oliver said. 

Barber’s motion passed 4-3 after Anderberg called the question, with Couns. Barber, Clelland and Oliver in favour, and Couns. Nodge, Green and Wright against. 

Council then unanimously passed Barber’s motions to apply for the federal grant and to tack $2.75 million onto 2023’s operating budget. 

Council must now decide whether to authorize a $4-million loan through a borrowing bylaw. The loan would  cover construction costs not already budgeted for if council’s grant application fails, but Anderberg said the town probably wouldn’t spend the full amount.

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Community priorities: Open letter to Pincher Creek council

Curling arena concerns: Open letter to Pincher Creek council

Pincher Creek celebrated as Alberta’s sturling hotbed

Town council considers renos and rebuilding

Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

 

 

More Local Stories

 

 

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Campers and green jeep parked in campground

Crowsnest Pass council updates land use bylaw

Crowsnest Pass council unanimously voted through a comprehensive update to the municipality’s land use bylaw.

The bylaw, last amended in 2013, encompasses a broad array of land uses and development requirements. Council voted down a proposed amendment last October, largely over concerns that the amendment would have allowed people to live in campgrounds within the municipality year-round. 

Council’s new bylaw (1132, 2022) bars year-round camping, but RV park operators can now apply for permits allowing for year-round occupancy in RVs, provided that live-in RVs are connected to in-ground water and wastewater services.

Permit applications must specify the number of permanent RVs and the percentage of RV parks to be devoted to year-round occupancy. 

 

 

RV owners can’t dump wastewater in the municipal sewer system or at municipal wastewater facilities. 

One RV can be stored and lived in on a permitted residential lot during construction, according to the bylaw’s updated standards.

RVs can be stored on commercial lots only if owners are granted a permit under the bylaw’s new temporary storage yard designation. 

Commercial vehicles cannot be parked at short-term rentals or B&Bs.

 

 

When this point came up for discussion at council’s Feb. 7 meeting, Johann Van Der Bank, director of planning and development, explained that a number of residents had complained about work crews parking giant trucks in residential neighbourhoods. In one instance, Van Der Bank said, a work crew had pruned trees on a short-term rental property without permission, leaving debris strewn on the driveway and on the street. 

Sea cans may be permanently stored in residential neighbourhoods, provided that the cans are covered by a pitched roof and covered in siding so that they resemble sheds, according to the new bylaw. 

 

 

Council had invited residents to share their input on the bylaw amendment at a public hearing during council’s Feb. 7 meeting, but no one showed up. 

Municipal administration hadn’t received any written submissions on the bylaw, Patrick Thomas, the municipality’s chief administrative officer, told council.

 

Read more from the Breeze:

MD of Pincher Creek hits pause on rezoning applications

Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

Windmill controversy continues in MD of Pincher Creek

 

 

More Local Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow wheat field against darker sky

Local producers may see minimal benefit from ag tax credit

The province is eagerly promoting a tax credit for Alberta’s agricultural processing industry, but food producers in Pincher Creek and neighbouring MD will likely see marginal benefits, according to local government officials.

The initiative will spur the industry through a 12 per cent non-refundable tax credit on corporate investments in Alberta processing plants of $10 million or more, Agriculture Minister Nate Horner said at a press conference Feb. 8.

“At a higher level, this means that we’re not putting raw commodities in train cars and then shipping it away,” Horner said, taking aim at Alberta’s “competitor states” in Idaho, Colorado and Texas. 

 

 

Alberta farmers had the highest operating revenue in Canada in 2020, with processed exports hitting $6.4 billion the year before, according to Statistics Canada and the Government of Alberta. Raw exports, known as primary commodities, slumped by nearly 10 per cent in 2019, amounting to $5.3 for the year.

Agribusiness in the MD is driven by ranching and grain cropping for animal feed and seed oil, all of which are primary exports, Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze

“I’m not sure how (the tax credit) would benefit us,” Lemire said, noting that any bump to regional agri-processing could indirectly boost local production. 

 

 

Marie Everts, economic development officer at the Town of Pincher Creek, said on Feb. 10 that local food producers may not have the capital to invest $10 million in their farms or ranches. 

“There are obviously going to be places that will see more of a benefit,” Horner granted. The minister qualified that southwest Alberta ranchers can expect higher demand from the region’s beef processing hub in High River. 

Horner anticipates an immediate eight per cent return on investment to Alberta taxpayers on the one hand, and a healthy boost to provincial food security on the other.

 

 

Multimillion-dollar food processing plants can stay in business for between 40 and 50 years, he explained. 

Beef dominated Alberta’s agricultural exports in 2019 in terms of value, climbing 18 per cent year over year to hit $2.4 billion, the GOA reported in 2020. Ranchers, meanwhile, shouldered the province’s biggest share of agricultural operating expenses, shelling out $8.1 billion, or roughly 42 per cent of total farm expenses, according to Stats Can. 

Wheat was Alberta’s second-highest agricultural export in 2019, followed by canola seed, crude canola oil and live cattle. Annual wheat exports fell by 13 per cent in value and 10.5 per cent in quantity, according to the provincial government.

 

 

Brocket man sough in relation to fatal crash notice on red and blue police-lights background with RCMP logo

Accused drunk driver charged in crash that killed his son

Fort Macleod RCMP are looking for a Brocket man charged in connection with a highway collision that killed his young son last fall.

Ryan Scott Potts, 38, was allegedly drunk behind the wheel when his Dodge Caravan collided with a semi-trailer at the intersection of Highways 2 and 3 late Friday, Oct. 21, according to Cpl. Paul Bedard. 

Potts was driving with his five and seven-year-old sons when the Dodge collided with the semi’s trailer. All three were rushed to Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, where Bedard said the boys were treated with “serious, life-threatening injuries” and then transported to hospital in Calgary.  

Tragically, the five-year-old died of his injuries, but his older brother survived and was later discharged. 

Potts was too badly injured to give a breath sample at the scene of the wreck, but Bedard said a toxicology screen showed that his blood-alcohol level was around 0.238 shortly after the collision. 

The legal driving limit in Alberta is 0.08. 

 

 

Potts was charged in December with nine offences related to the collision. Mounties are looking to arrest Potts, current whereabouts unknown, for the following offences: 

—Impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death

—Impaired operation of motor vehicle causing bodily harm

—Impaired operation of motor vehicle

—Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death

—Dangerous operation of motor vehicle causing bodily harm

—Operation of motor vehicle while prohibited

—Criminal negligence causing death

—Criminal negligence causing bodily harm

—Driving an uninsured motor vehicle

Anyone who knows where to find Potts is asked to call Fort Macleod RCMP at 403-553-7220 or phone Crimestoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Tips can also be sent online at www.P3Tips.com or by cell phone using the “P3 Tips” app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.

 

More from the Breeze:

Prevention is key to vehicle theft issues

Crowsnest Pass woman among four charged after recovery of stolen vehicles

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

UCP candidate Chelsae Petrovic – smiling woman with long, straight, light-brown hair, wearing a grey sweater

Claresholm politician enters UCP nomination race for Livingstone-Macleod

Chelsae Petrovic, a licensed practical nurse outside of town chambers, told Shootin’ the Breeze on Jan. 31 that she wants to return provincial politics to its grassroots within the riding. 

“As politicians, we need to take our orders from and listen to our constituents,” she said. 

She’d been generally uninterested in politics until she decided to run for council in Claresholm in the run-up to its October 2021 civic election. 

Her husband, Cody, suggested that she aim higher, so she went for the mayoral spot and won.

 

 

“My specialty is advocating for people,” she said, adding that she resolved to run for the UCP’s riding nomination after some heart-wrenching conversations with local moms and dads last Christmas. 

“When I heard from parents who said they had to choose between buying presents for their children and filling up their gas tank … that’s what put me over the edge.” 

She wants to run under the UCP banner because, in her words, “I’m a mom; a wife; a Christian. I resonate more with the party’s traditional values.”

Petrovic said Premier Danielle Smith needs MLAs who will hold her to account while supporting her policy initiatives, including and especially Smith’s controversial Sovereign Alberta Within a United Canada Act.

 

 

“I truly believe that’s a good thing for Alberta,” she told the Breeze

As an LPN at Claresholm General Hospital and the emergency department in Fort Macleod, Petrovic said she “lives and breathes” health care. Fixing health care has to be about listening to front-line nurses and doctors and getting them what they need to stay in their jobs, she said. 

Petrovic said she planned to submit her finalized application to the UCP’s constituency association in Livingstone-Macleod within the week.

She will have to contend with a number of other hopeful nominees, including Don Whalen of nearby Parkland. 

 

 

The UCP reopened riding nominations on Jan. 26, roughly two months after the party disqualified Nadine Wellwood over her social media posts wherein she compared Canada’s Covid-19 measures to public policy in Nazi Germany. 

The party will close nominations in the riding Feb. 9, with the contest to be decided sometime in March, Petrovic said.

 

 

 

More Local Stories

 

 

 

‘No decision’ on Alberta Police Service, says Ellis

Danielle Smith announced last June that she would set the plan in motion if she won the United Conservatives’ leadership campaign, which she did in October.

Premier Smith instructed Ellis in a November mandate letter to “launch an Alberta Police Service” with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. 

Smith further mandated Ellis, himself a former police officer, to work with local law enforcement and municipal governments to “establish a regional approach to policing in Alberta.” 

“There’s no decision that’s been made to establish an Alberta Police Service,” Ellis told Shootin’ the Breeze at a virtual press conference Jan. 24.

The minister said all options are on the table when it comes to curbing rural crime, pointing to Alberta Sheriffs’ success in pulling about 2,220 suspected impaired drivers off provincial highways in the last year and a half. 

“The reality is that the RCMP are struggling to meet the needs of Canadians when it comes to policing,” Ellis said, later adding, “The problem is that the RCMP just do not have enough human beings to provide their contracted services.”

 

 

Local heads of government disagree — forcefully, in some cases. 

“I can’t see how making changes in our provincial policing will have a positive effect on our community,” Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter told the Breeze.

“We’re 100 per cent behind the RCMP,” Reeve Rick Lemire said on behalf of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek. 

Town mayor Don Anderberg preferred not to stake a position at all, citing that town council hadn’t deliberated the issue. 

Previous councils had expressed concerns about low staffing levels at Pincher Creek RCMP, but Anderberg said the town has always had “a great working relationship” with the detachment. 

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta, which represents 69 rural counties and municipalities, including Crowsnest Pass and the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, wrote in a winter 2023 policy statement that “The creation of a provincial police force should not take place unless a detailed feasibility study proves that such an approach will reduce provincial and municipal policing costs and enhance service levels across the province.” 

 

 

The government’s own findings show that it would cost an estimated $366 million to create an APS and move away from the RCMP. The same report, published by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2021, concluded that it would cost between $24 million and $49 million less to operate an established APS per year versus the RCMP’s current annual costs, assuming a 20 per cent pay bump in the RCMP’s new collective bargaining agreement with the federal government.

Regional crime is already down considerably across the region, according to the most recent statistics from Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek RCMP. As the Breeze reported in the new year, reported incidents of property crime and so-called persons crime (which accounts for assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, muggings, uttering threats and criminal harrasment) are at five-year lows, according to Pincher Creek RCMP’s Sgt. Ryan Hodge. 

Crowsnest Pass RCMP’s Sgt. Rendell Guinchard reported similar drops across both categories over the summer. 

Both commanders regularly consult with municipalities in their jurisdictions.

Minister Ellis repeatedly praised members of law enforcement, especially Alberta Mounties. 

“As a former police officer, myself, I personally didn’t care what uniform I was wearing,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to make sure that I was providing good service to the people that I was representing.”

Whooping cough outbreak declared in south zone

AHS declared the outbreak last Thursday, when the health authority reported 16 confirmed cases of the disease spanning Lethbridge County, Coaldale, Taber, Vauxhall, Grassy Lake and Bow Island. 

A case had been identified as far west as Fort Macleod, with no cases confirmed in Pincher Creek, Dr. Vivienne Suttorp, AHS South Zone’s medical officer of health, told Shootin’ the Breeze the next morning.

“We suspect there are many more (cases) out there,” Suttorp cautioned, noting that whooping cough is “typically under-reported” because infected people tend to show symptoms associated with other respiratory diseases like Covid-19 and the seasonal flu.

Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis, especially in kids under two. But it’s easily preventable through a safe, reliable and easily accessible vaccine against Bordetella pertussis, the bacterium that causes the disease.

 

 

An unvaccinated baby girl in southern Alberta died of whooping cough in 2012. The vaccine is not approved for newborns, but Suttorp said babies take on their mother’s immunity if expecting moms get vaccinated in their third trimester.

Herd immunity set in when communities hit 98 per cent vaccine coverage. Immunization rates in some south zone communities dropped from 86 per cent in 2008 to 23 per cent in 2021, according to Alberta Health statistics quoted by Suttorp. 

Vaccination rates in Pincher Creek held at an annual average of roughly 83 per cent over the same period. For comparison, coverage was just over 90 per cent in 2008, falling just under 70 per cent in 2021. 

Rates were generally lower across Crowsnest Pass, which maintained an average annual rate of roughly 75 per cent. 

 

 

Whooping cough outbreaks tend to hit southern Alberta every three to five years, and Suttorp noted that the current outbreak is “right on time.” But the disease is more likely to persist wherever immunization levels are low. 

Suttorp attributes “vaccine hesitancy” to complacency, the need for booster shots, and a lack of trust in vaccines and vaccine providers. 

Complacency sets in when parents assume that whooping cough isn’t serious. Small children acquire comprehensive immunity after four doses of the vaccine, and it can be difficult for parents to stay on top of the recommended schedule. 

As to the lack of trust, Suttorp noted that vaccine coverage started to dip well before the Covid-19 pandemic, although conspiracy theories claiming that mRNA vaccines are harmful or ineffective likely played a part.

 

 

In the meantime, AHS anticipates that the regional outbreak will last for months. 

No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, and Suttorp qualified that vaccinated people can develop infections, especially in communities where vaccine rates are low. 

Breakthrough infections tend to be much less severe than in people who haven’t had the vaccine, she said. 

AHS recommends that people stay home if they develop symptoms or if they come into contact with an infected person. 

For more information about vaccinations, including clinic locations, visit AHS’s website at ImmunizeAlberta.ca or the province’s website at myhealth.alberta.ca. 

The same information is available through the province’s 24-hour Health Link hotline, 811.

Yellow snow plow on icy road

Snow and ice policy under review

Town council has directed administration to review its snow and ice policy, following a flurry of complaints by concerned residents.

Alexa Levair, Pincher Creek’s director of operations, was asked to speak to the town’s snow and ice policy when council met at last week’s committee of the whole. The policy, which is available for viewing on the town’s website, prioritizes hills, emergency routes and the downtown core along Main Street for sanding and snowplowing. 

School zones and traffic signs are listed as second- and third-level priorities.

Councillors said they’d heard complaints over the Christmas holiday from residents who felt their streets ought to have been plowed.

“I was definitely told by some members of our community that Adelaide Street wasn’t being looked after,” Coun. Mark Barber told the committee, referring to a nearby condominium complex that caters to seniors. 

“I was hoping that the seniors centres were on high-priority snow removal,” he added. 

Levair reminded council that, while such complaints are common, Pincher Creek’s snow and ice policy doesn’t prioritize residential streets. 

Despite prevalent misconceptions to the contrary, Levair pointed out that “We aren’t actively plowing every single residential road whenever it snows.”

 

 

The town has neither the staff and equipment nor the budget to do much more in terms of plowing and removing snow, she explained.

Mayor Don Anderberg said he’d heard similar complaints, but suggested that a previous council had prioritized snowplowing on Hewetson Avenue leading up to the intersection of Adelaide Street. 

Speaking at her office Thursday, Levair said snowplowing isn’t as easy as it might appear. 

“Wherever you plow snow, you have to put it somewhere else,” she said, explaining that snow has to be carted away when it piles up. It’s certainly not impossible, but it is time-consuming and costly, she later told Shootin’ the Breeze.

The committee of the whole passed a motion directing Levair to look into whether or not council had upped snowplowing and removal near Adelaide Street.

The director of operations said she planned to bring the town’s snow and ice policy back to council for review this summer. 

“It’s about finding a balance,” she said from her office at the town works yard. “Ultimately, it’s council who sets that balance.”

 

 

More from the Breeze:

Skiers and boarders get early start at Castle Mountain Resort

Pincher Creek winter weather extremes

Critical water lines to be repaired in Pincher Creek

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Dr. Jared Van Bussel – smiling white male wearing blue paisley shirt

Maternity care on the ropes in Pincher Creek

Dr. Jared Van Bussel, who specializes in obstetrics, will stay on as a general physician and trauma surgeon at the Pincher Creek Health Centre and will continue his practice at the attached Associate Clinic, he told Shootin’ the Breeze on Thursday.

“If I were a younger man, I might be looking for greener pastures. I may yet look for other rural programs I can support for a little longer, but I intend to remain planted in Pincher Creek for now,” he wrote in an open letter.

“If my colleagues call me, I’ll always show up,” he said.

But it’s unlikely that the health centre can handle scheduled births, especially routine C-sections, without a dedicated obstetric surgeon.

The man has been on call for 70 per cent of his waking life for years, apart from his scheduled time off. The burnout is real, but Van Bussel repeatedly stressed that he’s scaling back his practice because of what he considers an acute and profoundly systemic lack of provincial support. 

“Alberta hates rural maternity care,” he wrote, telling the Breeze that in his 16 years in rural family medicine, he’d seen too many gaps in patient care and professional training for new doctors, and too many shortsighted cost-saving measures he said were untenable.

 

 

Things came to a head on his birthday, Jan. 16, when he received a letter from Alberta Health Services reminding him of the funding limits for on-call services paid for by an Alberta Health grant program.

“Please be advised AHS is unable to compensate you for (physician on-call) services in GP Surgery after you have reached 255.5 days of service,” the letter states.

AHS South Zone declined an interview for this story, but explained in a written statement that Van Bussel would continue to be paid, including for his on-call services.

“The South Zone recently sent a courtesy letter to physicians who were approaching the limited days paid for on-call time under the provincial Physician On Call Program,” the statement reads.

“We do not believe that any physicians (in Alberta) will go over their 255.5 days of on-call coverage,” AHS said in a followup statement.

The South Zone added that these courtesy letters “go out each year,” while other doctors at the health centre also received letters in the new year.

 

 

Van Bussel said  he’d never received any such letter before Jan.16, especially not in his six years as the town surgeon.

“They’ll always pay me for coming in, but they won’t pay to support physicians or the community in general,” he said.

As heartbreaking as it was for him to write his letter, he said he’d been crafting it for a long time. He’d told his Pincher Creek colleagues it was coming about a month ago.

“I’m willing to reconsider, but I just don’t see it,” he said.

The Government of Alberta is plainly not about to prioritize rural health care, he explained, and “when it feels like everything is pushing against it, it feels to me that we’re approaching a breaking point.”

 

 

Setting aside AHS’s “tone-deaf” letter,  Van Bussel reiterated that he wasn’t concerned about his take-home pay.

“I want to pull attention away from any one event and draw that attention to rural maternity care.”

With AHS insisting that “Physicians are a cornerstone of our health-care system,” Van Bussel said he’d made it known for years that it wasn’t sustainable for him to live on call while resources dwindled at the health centre.

The health centre serves around 10,000 patients over a broad swath of southwestern Alberta.

Its team of doctors is down from 11 to six and, instead of asking how the province could do more to help, AHS sent Van Bussel a letter that seemed to say no help was coming.

“I hope this will become a discussion point in the community. I hope that people will start asking their decision-makers why this is the case,” he said.

 

Read Dr. Van Bussel’s open letter

Read AHS letter to Dr. Van Bussel

 

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

 

Grey rocks/gravel

Alberta Rocks gravel pit rezoning approved

MD of Pincher Creek council last month approved a rezoning application to expand a gravel pit in Villa Vega, a subdivision in the southwest corner of Division 5, near the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 507.

The rezoning changes the lot’s land use designation from agriculture to direct control by council through an amendment to the MD’s land use bylaw, advancing the proposed expansion to the development permitting phase.

Craig Anderson filed the application in August on behalf of Alberta Rocks Ltd. Council unanimously rejected a similar application by the company roughly two years ago, according to Reeve Rick Lemire. 

Lemire reminded council that the MD hadn’t approved the original gravel pit when it was sunk into the ground about 15 years ago. The lot owner shut the pit down after a sternly worded letter from the MD, but Lemire says the land was never reclaimed.

Alberta Rocks hopes to dig a new pit on the site to extend roughly five hectares. Anderson’s application promises to fill in the pit after it’s retired and then establish suitable ground cover to prevent erosion. 

The application says operations would run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the week, with no operations on weekends or statutory holidays. There will be no gravel crushing on-site. The application details a September 2019 sound test that showed “low sound levels” during pit operations. 

The application says the pit is “downwind” from most Villa Vega homes, but doesn’t include specific plans for dust mitigation. 

The application triggered a public hearing in October, minutes of which show Anderson suggesting he’d use dust-control products. 

Five of Anderson’s neighbours spoke against the rezoning, raising concerns about noise, dust and unwelcome neighbourhood disruptions.

When council took up Anderson’s application on Dec. 13, Lemire said he couldn’t support the rezoning. 

“This project was denied two years ago,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the same conditions are still there.” 

Lemire acknowledged that redesignating the lot under direct control gives council broad authority to impose strict conditions, but said the MD doesn’t have the resources to enforce compliance. 

“I just don’t think we have the manpower to do all that at this time,” he explained. 

Deputy reeve Tony Bruder also voted against the application, with Couns. David Cox, Harold Hollingshead and John MacGarva voting in favour.

 

 

More from the Breeze:

Public hearing focuses on proposed gravel pit

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Wooden playground equipment and a yellow slide at the Pincher Creek town playground

Town council considers renos and rebuilding

Both plans were addressed at council’s Jan. 4 committee of the whole meeting, where council voted to accept assessment reports and construction estimates submitted by the Calgary consulting firm, Stephenson Engineering.

Council has neither awarded construction contracts, nor set aside money for either project in this year’s budget. 

Stephenson’s reports to council highlight a lack of suitable office space at both sites, recommending an estimated $3.2-million overhaul to the town office at 962 St. John Ave., and a roughly $8.5-million build for a new works yard near the current yard at 1068 Kettles St.

The town office was converted from an elementary school in the 1990s and, while council chambers and some civic offices were built in the facilities’ east wing, the west wing’s classrooms, gymnasium and washrooms designed for children remain largely unchanged. 

Stephenson recommends building a new parking lot where the children’s playground now stands, plus more offices and an expansion to council chambers. The firm meanwhile recommends holding on to the gym in the west wing.

 

 

Speaking at the committee of the whole meeting, Alexa Levair, who replaced Al Roth as director of operations last November, told council that Roth had kept his office in a defunct classroom for lack of office space. 

The town would rebuild the playground, Levair told council. 

The town’s works yard is too old and too congested to be refurbished, Stephenson concluded. The report details an acute lack of office space, plus a number of accessibility barriers. At one point, the report highlights that “Only one change room is provided (at the works yard), so it is not suitable for any female staff.” 

Council has not resolved construction timelines for either project. Stephenson’s report recommends running the existing operations yard while replacement facilities are built at a town-owned site bounded by Table Mountain and McEachern streets to the north and south, and Mountain View Avenue and Allison Street to the west and east. 

Stephenson factored in a 20 per cent contingency in its cost estimations for both projects.

 

 

 

 

Read more from the Breeze

Child-care crunch looms amid staffing shortage

Town CAO to retire after storied career

Group Group Youth drop-in centre gets facelift

 

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Child-care worker, a dark-haired woman wearing glasses and a blue shirt, talks to three preschoolers

Child-care crunch looms amid staffing shortage

 

Pincher Creek’s child-care facilities are operating well below capacity due to a persistent shortage of qualified staff, according to La Vonne Rideout, municipal director of community services. 

There are 159 child-care spots available at the Pincher Creek Community Early Learning Centre between the town’s Canyon Creek and Sage facilities, whose combined staff looks after around 95 children. The facilities are running at 60 per cent of total capacity, leaving about 50 kids on each waitlist, Rideout told Shootin’ the Breeze, Thursday, Jan. 5.

 

Nellie Maund-Stephens, smiling woman with scarf covering head, is a parent with concerns about child care in Pincher Creek.
Nellie Maund-Stephens and her husband waited nine months to get their young son into Pincher Creek’s Canyon Creek early learning centre. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

Caught in the middle are parents like Nellie Maund-Stephens, whose three-year-old son Kaysen started at Canyon Creek Friday morning — nine months after he was waitlisted at Sage. 

“I can finally breathe a huge sigh of relief, knowing that I have consistent and good child care,” Maund-Stephens said Friday afternoon.

She and her husband Mark are both shift workers. Nellie is a veteran firefighter/paramedic at Pincher Creek Emergency Services, Mark the newest doctor at the town hospital, and the last nine months have been “a scheduling nightmare” for both parents. 

“It was very hard trying to juggle our schedules,” Maund-Stephens recalled Friday.  “We had to call on friends and family a lot — often at the last minute.” 

Maund-Stephens hopes to ramp back up to full-time at PCES now that Kaysen is at Canyon Creek. 

“Childcare is something that seems to fall on women. It makes it incredibly hard for a woman to advance her career when she has to take time off to take care of her kids,” she said, qualifying that it’s just as hard for single dads. 

 

 

Rideout agrees. 

“The reality is that child-care is an essential service,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze. Town hall realized as much when Children’s World Daycare, which had been a mainstay in the community for decades, closed down in 2018. Child care became vital to Pincher Creek’s economic development when families started turning down jobs in town Creek for lack of child-care options. 

The town purpose-built Canyon Creek and Sage next to Canyon Elementary and St. Michael’s schools, leasing the facilities to the Pincher Creek Community Early Learning Centre when construction finished in the summer of 2020. 

PCCELC has been up against a staffing crunch from the start, despite the federal government’s initiative to reign in child-care costs. 

The Government of Alberta was one of the last provinces to sign on to Ottawa’s affordability grant, which seeks to deliver child-care at $10 per day. 

“The (provincial) government recognizes the need, but they’re not doing what they need to do for service providers to recruit and retain staff,” Rideout explained. 

 

La Vonne Rideout – a smiling woman with long blonde hair – is director of community services for the Town of Pincher Creek
As director of community services for the Town of Pincher Creek, La Vonne Rideout oversees both sites of the Pincher Creek Community Early Learning Centre. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

Child-care programs in Alberta are licensed by the ministry of children’s services, which sets certification requirements for child-care workers and minimum staff-to-children ratios at licensed facilities. 

The ministry puts child-care workers through three certification levels: Level 1 workers need to complete an online orientation course that runs between 60-70 hours. Level 2 workers have to finish a one-year program at an accredited post-secondary institution, while Level 3 workers need a two-year diploma or higher.  

Rideout said staffing shortages are the norm when the industry rewards extensive training with perennially low wages. Level 1 workers made $16.75 per hour last January, with roughly $18 and $20 hourly wages for Level 2 and 3 staff, according to recent statistics posted to the Government of Alberta’s website. 

The United Conservatives’ Child Care Grant Funding Program supplements employer-paid wages based on certification levels. At most, these “top-ups” add around $8.50 per hour for Level 3 employees, amounting to an average wage of $28.50 per hour starting this new year. 

PCCELC pays better than the provincial average, but Rideout said child-care workers aren’t making a living wage even after the government top-ups. 

“Child-care has always been provided on the backs of people who enter the field. And it’s mostly women who do the work,” Rideout said. 

 

 

At a broader level, Rideout said the federal child-care initiative is filtered through a provincial framework that undermines child-care programs. 

In order to receive affordability grant funding, child-care facilities must agree to cap fee increases at three per cent per year. For comparison, the national consumer price index rose by around 5.5 per cent, excluding food and gas, according to a December 2022 report by Statistics Canada. 

“It’s always been about making child-care more affordable, which I get,” Rideout said. The problem is that the province’s user-pay model can’t sustain the child-care industry over the long-term. Public schools and hospitals don’t run on a user-pay model, because education and health care are essential services rather than money-making businesses.  

“[The UCP] is all about supporting business in this province, but they’ve tied childcare’s hands. I’d love for them to tell dentists that they can’t charge more money,” Rideout said. 

In the meantime, Rideout said the PCCELC would probably need to hire the equivalent of four to five full-time staff at Canyon Creek and Sage in order to clear their waitlists. 

Rideout then thanked the staff that have stayed on throughout the pandemic. 

“It’s a hard job. It’s a really hard job. My hat’s off to our team: They do amazing work.”

 

Three preschoolers gaze out a window
Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

 

 

More from the Breeze:

Group Group Youth drop-in centre gets facelift

How developmental screenings can benefit your children

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details

 

Laurie Wilgosh, CAO of the Town of Pincher Creek. Woman with short, grey hair and glasses sits at her desk.

Town CAO to retire after storied career

 

Pincher Creek’s top civic administrator will retire this spring, marking the end of an era at town hall. 

Laurie Wilgosh, chief administrative officer for the last 14 years, informed mayor and council in September that she planned to step down after lining up a suitable replacement. 

“It’s time to spend more time with my family,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze from behind her desk last Thursday. 

Wilgosh will stay on until the end of the month, when she’ll be succeeded by the town’s new CAO, Angie Lucas. 

Wilgosh started with the Town of Pincher Creek in 2008, when she was hired as director of corporate services. Within six months, she’d replaced outgoing CAO Fran Kornfeld.

Wilgosh had served as neighbouring Cowley’s CAO for 20 years, but experience is no guarantee of longevity in her line of work.

 

 

It’s the CAO’s job to manage the town’s administration while advising council on the complex legislative requirements and industry best practices that define local government. It’s not easy squaring civic priorities with the people who craft them, and Wilgosh noted that CAOs don’t always get to plan their exits. 

“If the residents are not satisfied with their service delivery, they’ll take that to council and, sometimes, councils decide that the best way to meet those needs is to start fresh with somebody new.” 

As Mayor Don Anderberg wryly observed, “There’s politics and council members, but administrators have to be great politicians without showing it.” 

That Wilgosh thrived in her position for so long “speaks a lot to her abilities and the type of person she is,” he said Monday.

But Wilgosh was slow to tout her accomplishments, speaking instead in the calm, clipped statements of a veteran administrator. 

“Things were rather fragmented when I started,” she noted, adding that she was proud to leave behind a strong, cohesive team. 

 

 

She’d presided over successful contract negotiations with CUPE 927, the union local that represents town hall’s roughly 25 staff. She was at the helm throughout the pandemic, as her team managed not just to keep Pincher Creek running, but to open two brand new child-care facilities in the summer of 2020. 

Wilgosh highlighted the town’s working relationship with the municipal district, remembering fondly that both councils partnered on the opening of Pincher Creek’s new humane society on Kettles Street. 

The only time she seemed to speak without thinking was when she was asked what she’d miss the most about her job. 

“The people,” she said. “I have a fantastic team.” 

Angie Lucas started as interim CAO on Tuesday, making her first public appearance at that morning’s committee of the whole meeting. Lucas will assume her full duties Feb. 1, with Wilgosh staying on in an advisory role until her last day on March 31.

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Bill C-21 comes under fire as southern Albertans decry sweeping gun bans

The bill seeks to amend parts of the federal Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code by making it illegal to buy, sell or transfer ownership of centrefire guns, according to proposed amendments introduced late last month by Liberal MP Paul Chiang. The federal government separately imposed a similar freeze on handguns effective Oct. 1.

Chiang’s proposed amendments would outlaw semi-automatic weapons capable of accepting magazines “with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed,” according to minutes published by Parliament’s standing committee on public safety and national security.

Chiang’s proposals would also ban guns that put out a muzzle force of more than 10,000 joules, as well as guns with a bore of 20 millimetres or more.

C-21 would create a so-called red-flag law that would allow anyone to request a court-ordered weapons prohibition of up to 30 days for anyone deemed to be a risk to themself or others, as well as people who are likely to make weapons available to those already under a weapons prohibition.

 

 

The bill would also make it illegal to buy, sell or transfer ownership of so-called replica guns that strongly resemble prohibited guns, including many types of airguns.

The feds in May 2020 changed sections of the Criminal Code to ban a list of around 1,500 types of guns, ammunition and weapons systems, including mortars and rocket launchers — none of which have ever been legal in Canada.

The proposed legislation has come under fire from a host of gun owners, gun retailers and sport shooters in and around Pincher Creek.

Steven Vanderbalk, part owner of Fort Macleod’s Alberta Hardware Ltd. & Alberta Firearms, told Shootin’ the Breeze that Bill C-21 would outlaw $150,000 worth of semi-automatic rifles currently on store racks.

“That’s fair to say at a minimum,” he said, explaining that the figure could be higher because the ban is likely to include a host of shotguns now in stock. 

“If you take the handgun ban, (Bill C-21) would make it illegal to sell about 50 per cent of guns that we would normally carry.”

 

 

Vanderbalk said the bill makes flippant use of inflammatory language —  including and especially its “military-style assault rifle” designation — which he said amounts to “a political ploy that preys on people’s emotions.”

If the bill was designed to make guns less available, Vanderbalk said it’s had precisely the opposite effect. Everyone from “recent immigrants … to grandmas” has been buying guns before Bill C-21 becomes law.

“Trudeau has put so many guns into people’s hands,” he said. “I don’t know if the Liberals have any clue how many guns have been sold in the last six months — just because of the bill.” 

Dan Kuftinoff and Myles Lang, president and vice-president at the Oldman River Gun Club, were less sparing in their appraisal. 

Kuftinoff said the phrase “assault rifle” was “a horrible term” to describe semi-automatics in Canada. These guns are nothing like the AR-15, “the poster child” of assault rifles, in Kuftifnoff’s words, because Canadian gun laws put a five-round cap on semi-automatic magazines.

Chiang’s proposed amendments would effectively ban all centrefire guns, because they can technically receive higher capacity magazines.

 

 

Even hunting rifles, like Lang’s bolt-action Ruger No. 1, are on the federal Liberals’ May 2020 list. The rifle is designed to bring down deer and elk, not people, Lang said. 

“This is 100 per cent political. It’s divisive politics that has nothing to do with public safety — period,” Lang insisted.

Anyone who wants to buy a gun must prove to a seller that they have a registered possession and acquisition licence, as per the Firearms Act. Retailers then confirm buyers’ PALs online or by phone by calling Alberta’s chief firearms officer. Even then, retailers can and do refuse sales to people they hold in suspicion, according to Vanderbalk. 

The federal government has proposed a gun buyback program that would allow gun owners to sell prohibited firearms to Ottawa or have the guns disabled at Ottawa’s expense.

UCP passes inflation-relief measures as fall sitting winds down

“This is by far the most significant relief package in Canada,” Matt Jones, minister of affordability and utilities, told reporters.

Jones said the relief measures are tied to the price of oil as represented by West Texas Intermediate crude.

“We want Albertans to benefit from their resources. That’s why you see us flowing through benefits in oil and gas prices to protect Albertans from where they pay more for oil and gas prices,” he explained. 

But the opposition New Democrats were quick to point out that the act reindexes income benefits to inflation, which the NDP had done in 2018.

Jones had promised a host of tax breaks, direct payments to low-income Albertans, and heating rebates a week earlier, when on Dec. 7 he introduced Bill 2, now the Inflation Relief Amendments Act.

The act provides six monthly $100 relief payments to seniors and families with children whose annual household incomes are less than $180,000, with payments ending in June. The act suspends the 13-cent per litre provincial fuel tax on gas and diesel over the same period, while also deferring electricity costs above 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour in January, February and March for customers on the regulated rate option. 

 

 

Costs above that threshold will be gradually tacked onto customers’ electricity bills through April 2023 and December 2024. The act provides temporary price guards on natural gas through the end of March.

It also bumps Albertans’ provincial income tax credits by about 2.5 per cent for fiscal year 2022, with another six per cent raise for 2023. The extra credits mean that Albertans won’t pay provincial income tax on the first $21,000 they make in 2023, striking 95,000 citizens off that year’s tax rolls, according to Jones.

Income supports, including Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and benefits to Persons with Developmental Disabilities, will also go up by six per cent in 2023, and will stay indexed to inflation moving forward.

The UCP deindexed AISH, PDD and seniors’ benefits in 2019, shortly after the party took over the legislature from Rachel Notley’s NDP. 

“The UCP justified the cruel decision by saying that they couldn’t afford the increased costs and running deficits, yet they paid for their ridiculous war room and gave away handouts to wealthy corporations,” New Democrat Marie Renaud (St. Albert) told the house Wednesday.

Thanking Renaud “for the history lesson,” Seniors Minister Jeremy Nixon answered that the UCP is now in a position to help.

 

 

“We inherited a fiscal train wreck from the members opposite, and we brought our fiscal house in order for the sustainability of programs going forward,” Nixon said. 

Renaud shot back that by “ignoring the fact that they’ll be responsible for people impacted in society with three years’ worth of cuts,” Bill 2 amounted to too little, too late. 

“Just apologize and do better,” Renaud demanded.

Meeting with community journalists after the floor exchange, Minister Jones said the act would support all Albertans, regardless of age, ability or income bracket. 

When asked why payments and affordability measures are timed to lapse after May’s  provincial election, Jones said the government needs to gauge the act’s success. 

“We’ve always envisioned this as an inflation relief package for the problem that exists now, which will give us time to evaluate the situation over the next six months, so that we can respond appropriately, based on our financial position and the realities at that time,” he said.

UCP promises extensive affordability measures heading into winter

“Work is underway to get the system set up and running, and we will provide a more detailed update before the holidays if this legislation is passed,” Affordability and Utilities Minister Matt Jones told reporters at an Edmonton press conference.

Reporters grilled Finance Minister Travis Toews about the timing of monthly payments to seniors, families with children, and people receiving disability benefits, now set to end one month after May’s provincial election.

Toews said the government’s massive budgetary surplus allows the UCP to help Albertans. The government will reassess Albertans’ needs after the six-month time frame is up, he added. 

“The average Alberta household with or without children, with or without seniors, or vulnerable Albertans will receive up to an estimated $900 in broad-based relief alone,’’ Jones told reporters last Wednesday.

Jones made a similar statement in a Nov. 29 tweet, in which he quoted himself telling the Calgary Herald that “The broad-based relief alone will provide the vast majority of households — with or without children, with or without seniors — with up to $900 or more in relief.”

 

 

Jones then reiterated commitments Smith made when she publicly unveiled the plan on Nov. 22. The plan promises $100 payments to seniors and people receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Persons with Developmental Disability (PDD) payments for six months every month for the first half of 2023. Families that make less than $180,000 per year will get the same payments for every child. The income eligibility would see monthly payments go to 80 per cent of families in the province, Jones said. 

 Albertans already receiving core support programs like seniors benefits, AISH, PDD and income support wouldn’t have to apply for the plan’s monthly payments. Families with children would have to apply through a government website, where they would be asked to provide income information.

The payments will be non-taxable, Jones said.

The government will boost AISH, PDD, income support and seniors benefits by six per cent starting in the new year, which Jones said would match inflation for 2022.

 

 

The plan would defer a portion of winter electricity bills for consumers on regulated rate option plans for the first three months of the new year. Charges above 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour will be spread over monthly bills starting in April. This includes municipalities and energy suppliers not covered by the Alberta Utilities Commission. 

Seventy-five-dollar rebates will go to 1.9 million electricity consumers in January and February, with $25 rebates in March and April. Credits will carry over where electricity bills come in below $75, Jones said. 

The government will halt the province’s 13 per cent fuel tax on gas and diesel from January through the end of June, costing the treasury an estimated $600 million in lost revenue. The plan also increases provincial income tax exemptions and provincial tax brackets by just under 2.5 per cent. 

“I don’t have information on timing,” Jones said when pressed on the rollout for the proposed regulatory framework. The minister said he hoped to see permanent “natural gas price protection” starting in the new year, but again balked at providing a hard timeline.