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Tag: Alberta

The Ecto-1 cruises Main Street with a purpose for scenes in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The shows must go on

Alberta’s magnificent countryside and historic downtowns will continue unfolding across screens here and abroad, incentives supported in Budget 2024 suggest.

A $5.4-million pot for project grants is not merely so the people of Fort Macleod and Grande Prairie can blurt “I’ve been there!” through their popcorn. The numbers show that the business case for film and TV is as strong as the wind across the Prairies, the government says.

Every dollar of support generates four dollars in provincial investment, which justifies putting money into “securing Alberta’s position as a filmmaking production hub through targeted incentives,” says the UCP budget tabled Feb. 29 by Finance Minister Nate Horner.

Alberta has been a hotspot for the making of movies and TV shows for decades, despite a slump in the late 1990s because of a major funding elimination. Often, Alberta’s countryside, cities, towns and tourist destinations stand in for U.S. locales, and Albertans are now well accustomed to seeing their neighbourhoods and scenic vistas splashed before their eyes.

Since 2020, the Alberta government has helped fund 267 screen-based projects, the responsible ministry says. These have resulted in a $1.2-billion spend-back in the province and created over 4,000 jobs.

Tanya Fir, the minister of arts and culture and the member for Calgary-Peigan, said in an email statement that the government is “very proud of these numbers, and we will continue to find new ways to expand this booming sector. We are seeing numerous award-winning productions choose Alberta because of our trained and ready workforce, breathtaking filming locations and low corporate tax rates.”

 

Pincher Creek Co-op Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

Alberta’s general corporate income tax rate is eight per cent, the lowest of all Canadian provinces. In 2022 the province said 3,200 new workers a year are launched into the creative industries by post-secondary institutions. The category includes much of the technical and artistic workforce behind making movies and TV shows.

In all, the province is earmarking $8 million for the Alberta Media Fund, maintaining last year’s record dollar figure for screen and cultural grants.

The Alberta Made Screen Industries Program accepts grant applications for production; post production, visual effects and digital animation; and project/script development.

Other grants in the media fund support organizations involved in music production and book and magazine publishing, along with some film, TV and video work.

Depending on criteria met, tax credits valued at 22 or 30 per cent of production and labour costs come via the provincial Film and Television Tax Credit. New rules will open that eligibility window wider, to 120 days from the start of a project, while also making reality and game shows eligible.

Alberta’s nearest Prairies neighbour earmarked $12 million in grants for film and TV last year, up $2 million from the previous budget. That number does not include a late-year top-up in Saskatchewan of $7.5 million in funding to meet unexpected demand.

 

Riteline Electric Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

Saskatchewan tax credits for the industry were eliminated in 2012. The general corporate tax rate there, at 12 per cent, is four percentage points higher than Alberta’s.

The Alberta formula appears to be working, a scan of recent productions suggests.

TV series like Billy the Kid, Fargo, and My Life with the Walter Boys make the success-story list, along with Disney’s feature-length film Prey.

 

Fort Macleod is transformed, from some angles at least, into the Austin, Texas, an entertainment and arts mecca promoted with the slogan Keep Austin Weird.

Fort Macleod is transformed, from some angles at least, into the Austin, Texas, an entertainment and arts mecca promoted with the slogan Keep Austin Weird.

Photo by Frank McTighe, The Macleod Gazette

So does the post-apocalyptic TV drama The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian fame. It hopped all over the Alberta map, with scenes reportedly shot in or around Fort Macleod, High River, Bragg Creek, Okotoks, Waterton Lakes National Park, Olds, Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Priddis, Canmore, Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie and other communities.

The British-Canadian TV production Tin Star, with Tim Roth playing a relocated London detective, filmed its first two seasons in Alberta locations like High River, Dorothy and Waterton.

Success stories started long before the current support structure.

 

Director Christopher Nolan, left, chats with an example the movie Interstellar's star power, Matthew McConnaughey.

Director Christopher Nolan, left, chats with an example the movie Interstellar’s star power, Matthew McConnaughey.

Photo by Frank McTighe, The Macleod Gazette

 

Released a decade go, Interstellar, a dystopian spacetime-warper starring Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey, included location shoots in Fort Macleod, Nanton, Longview, Lethbridge and Okotoks.

Paul Gross’s Canadian First World War film Passchendaele, released in 2008, sent actors and crews to Fort Macleod, Calgary and Tsuut’ina Nation. Way back in the early 1990s, Clint Eastwood used Alberta’s Longview area to stand in for Wyoming in his seminal, Oscar-winning western The Unforgiven.

The year before the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, filming of Ghostbusters: Afterlife took place in Fort Macleod, Beiseker, Drumheller, Crossfield and other Alberta places.

Heartland, a long-running, family-friendly CBC Television series, is largely filmed in and around High River.

But does government money in film and TV have an impact on the industry?

Probably. Back in 1996, the Ralph Klein austerity movement saw the elimination of the Alberta Motion Picture Development Corporation. Reportedly, the value of film production dropped by about two thirds and the industry tanked.

Jake and The Kid was a short-lived TV series adapted from a collection of stories by iconic Canadian author W.O. Mitchell, filmed in the mid-1990s in and around Leduc. Production ended after the film corporation’s demise.

Too late for Jake and the Kid, provincial incentives – albeit at a reduced level – returned in 2001.

 

Vision Credit Union Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

More Budget Numbers

Other creative work also receives support in Budget 2024. The Alberta Foundation for the Arts is set to receive a $4.5 million boost to $33.1 million this year, followed by $4.5 million for each of the next two years as well.

“This funding is specifically dedicated to supporting Alberta’s artists in all corners of our province,” the ministry’s statement says.

The budget earmarks $6.2 million for Alberta’s two Jubilee auditoriums and $1.8 million for other cultural industries.

For information about the film and TV production and grants, visit www.alberta.ca/alberta-made-screen-industries-program.

Information on claiming the tax credit can be found at www.alberta.ca/film-television-tax-credit.

 

 

 

Dried Up, What Now? attracts engaged local audience

A locally filmed 30-minute documentary that hones in on the region’s ongoing water crisis offered up its first two viewings last Saturday in Lundbreck and Pincher Creek.

Dried Up, What Now? features close to two dozen voices, including those of residents, scientists, the environmental community and local government, on the current state of the Oldman River Reservoir both upstream and downstream.

While not meant to be politically charged, the Livingstone Landowners Group says it’s a story that needs to be told “to help raise awareness of the impact of declining water levels in the region and spur discussion on solutions.”

The film, part of a trilogy, follows Finding Water and Running Dry by producers Yvan Lebel, who resides in Saskatchewan, and Kevin Van Tighem of Lethbridge, a well-known naturalist and author.

“I’ve been concerned about headwaters health for years,” said Van Tighem, when asked why he became involved in the first venture some five years ago.

“When I retired, I decided to write a book, Headwaters of the Bow River, and what each different creek has to tell us in terms of a story. The more I got into that, the more I woke up to the fact that we just don’t understand that our land-use decisions are actually water-management decisions and we are not always making the best water commitment decisions.”

He added that the province’s population is growing yet its water supply is not improving.

 

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

 

Like the Livingstone Landowners Group, Lebel doesn’t necessarily see this film, or the others, as political statements.

“The message is just to warn us to be aware and, in a sense, to invite people to do something,” he said before the second showing of the documentary, at the Vertical Church in Pincher Creek.

“We’re giving the facts. We’re showing what is happening and bringing some solutions. The goal is more to educate people. No ranting. No accusing anyone of anything.”

That sentiment is shared by Bobbi Lambright, communications co-ordinator for the Livingstone Landowners Group.

“We try to be a very fact-based organization. So, when it comes to issues and concerns, we like to do our homework. We want to make sure we have the correct information,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“As this became a major issue, we felt it was worthwhile documenting it and getting some insight.”

In one instance, the film shows the rings of a large tree, which indicate both historical long periods of drought and stretches of high-water flows.

Aerial footage of sections of the reservoir as they looked in 2019 versus bone-dry river beds from last year is also featured during the production.

While those behind the project say they aren’t finger-pointing, Van Tighem, like most, is concerned about what the coming summer will bring, checking the snowpack as recently as last Saturday.

“We’re still about 25 per cent below normal. We have less snow storage in the headwaters than we had last year and last year was a disaster … we had an early thaw,” he said.

“We get an early thaw this year, with that lousy snowpack, it makes our message that much more critical because we don’t want to waste a single bit of water when there’s so little to begin with.”

“Our landscape is leaking like a sieve,” he said. “We gotta get it fixed.”

 

 

Heritage Acres Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

Things to do before saying ‘I do’

Use this month-by-month checklist to make sure you don’t forget a thing.

12 months before

  • Decide on the type of wedding you’d like (civil or religious, big or small)
  • Choose a date
  • Determine the number of guests
  • Establish a budget
  • Pick venues for the ceremony and reception (it’s best to reserve early)

11 months before

  • Make your guest list
  • Choose a caterer (meet with a few first)
  • Select your wedding party
  • Hire a wedding planner

10 months before

  • Start shopping for a wedding dress
  • Decide on a theme for your wedding
  • Choose an officiant if you haven’t already done so

 

9 months before

  • Book a photographer
  • Reserve a block of hotel rooms for your out-of-town guests
  • Purchase a wedding gown
  • Shop for the groom’s attire and purchase it

8 months before

  • Meet with your officiant to plan your ceremony
  • Book your entertainment (DJ, band, MC, etc.)
  • Shop for and purchase your bridesmaids’ dresses
  • Design and order the wedding invitations and save-the-date cards

7 months before

  • Create a gift registry
  • Hire a florist
  • Plan your honeymoon

 

6 months before

  • Send out the save-the-date cards
  • Book your hair and makeup appointments for the day of (and trial runs for both)
  • Book a hotel room for the wedding night if necessary

5 months before

  • Create a schedule for the big day
  • Decide on dates for bachelor and bachelorette parties
  • Shop for and purchase shoes, jewelry and accessories

4 months before

  • Reserve wedding day transportation for the wedding party
  • Select alcohol and other drinks for the reception
  • Taste and choose your wedding cake
  • Buy wedding bands
  • Shop for and order the groomsmen’s attire

 

3 months before

  • Purchase wedding favours for your guests
  • If you’d like a loved one to say or read something during the ceremony, let them know
  • Write down your vows
  • Decide on activities for the reception (photo booth, dancing, games, etc.)

2 months before

  • Send out your wedding invitations
  • Do trial runs for both hair and makeup
  • Give your music selections to the DJ or MC

1 month before

  • Finalize the schedule for the big day
  • Choose a seating plan for the reception
  • Break in your shoes

 

1 week before

  • Visit the desired beauty professionals (hair colourist, esthetician, etc.)
  • Practise reading your vows
  • Write out cheques to pay your vendors

1 day before

  • Get your nails done
  • Give the cheques to someone you trust to pay the vendors

Day of, Enjoy!

Semi with orange cab drives on Highway 3 near Crowsnest Pass

Crowsnest Pass council discusses Highway 3 twinning

Crowsnest Pass municipal council wants to address residents’ concerns about twinning Highway 3 when councillors meet with Transportation Ministry officials at March’s Rural Municipalities of Alberta convention in Edmonton.

Mayor Blair Painter, who sits on the non-profit Highway 3 Twinning Development Association (H3TDA), added the issue to council’s Feb. 14 agenda, prompting a frank discussion about the project’s economic and traffic safety benefits for the municipality. 

“I’ve heard a lot of comments from people wanting to talk about Highway 3, which leads me to the point where I believe that our community wants to have this come back to Alberta Transportation for further discussion,” Painter told council.

 

Ascent Dental Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

H3TDA has advocated for the project for more than 20 years, according to a December 2022 Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) report commissioned by the association.  

Former premier Jason Kenney committed in 2020 to twinning the highway between Taber and Burdett at an estimated cost of $150 million, telling Albertans that shovels would go in the ground in the spring of 2021.

Construction on that span of the highway is now slated to begin this spring, while the province announced last November that it plans to twin the rest of the highway within 10 years.

Painter has long supported the project, and Crowsnest Pass’s 2020 municipal development plan states that “Ultimately, the improved corridor will facilitate positive economic growth in the community and increase safety and mobility for the public.” 

 

 

The MDP further states that “The [province’s] recent confirmation of the highway expansion and realignment project equips decision-makers with the certainty needed to make land-use decisions moving forward.” 

With the reality settling in, residents are starting to worry that the project might bypass the municipality altogether, Painter told Shootin’ the Breeze

The PwC study says the project would yield around $1.5 billion in provincewide spending on one-off construction costs, plus around $400,000 in annual maintenance costs between the Fort Macleod bypass and Sentinel. Regional highway maintenance would create an estimated three full-time jobs between Pincher Creek and Sentinel, while hugely benefiting southwestern Alberta’s agricultural, tourism, mining and renewable energy sectors. 

The study also found that twinning the highway would significantly cut down on head-on collisions by allowing motorists to safely pass slow-moving vehicles. 

 

 

A December 2019 planning study by the engineering firm ISL says the twinned highway would function as “a four-lane freeway” linked to Pass communities through interchanges at Allison Creek Road, Blairmore, Frank, and Bellevue-Hillcrest. The study further recommends another local access point through an underpass at Passburg. 

“In the ultimate freeway condition, no other direct highway access will be available for any use, including residential access, business access or field access. All existing highway access, including community access, will need to be directed to the local road network to the ultimate interchange locations,” the study notes. 

ISL’s study acknowledges that “previous highway [3] realignments have bypassed” Blairmore, Bellevue and Hillcrest. 

Painter said Coleman was also bypassed in the 1980s. 

 

Chief Mountain Gas Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

Speaking at chambers on Feb. 14, Painter reminded councillors that “We’ve all lived here long enough to remember what happened to our commercial areas.”

Speaking to the Breeze 10 days later, Painter noted that local traffic is already much safer thanks to four traffic lights that went up along municipal stretches of Highway 3 roughly a year and a half ago. (The PwC study notes that highway collisions were 1.5 times higher on untwinned highway sections between 2014 and 2018, based on period data from the Government of Alberta).

The lights also make it easier for tourists and residents to directly access Crowsnest Pass’s communities, Painter added. 

The mayor said up to 25 properties and businesses might have to be expropriated to accommodate highway expansion through parts of Frank. 

 

 

The ISL study was less specific, noting, “The community of Frank is anticipated to be a challenging area for land acquisition given the residential properties and active businesses impacted by the recommended plan.” 

The mayor also told the Breeze that the project risks disturbing the west side of the historic Frank Slide, which is considered a graveyard. 

Bill Chapman, president of H3TDA, says the association hears Painter’s concerns “loud and clear.”  

H3TDA strongly supported Painter’s initiative to install Crowsnest Pass’s highway traffic lights, and remains committed to “achieving a balance” that supports rich economic growth for the province and the Pass, Chapman continued.

 

 

The province may decide to expropriate some properties in Frank, but Chapman noted that ISL “very clearly” stressed the need to protect the graveyard section of the slide. 

H3TDA and the province have hosted local stakeholders at multiple public forums, with Alberta Transportation officials meeting with councils from Crowsnest Pass, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek and the Village of Cowley four times between June 2017 and November 2018, according to the ISL study. 

Mayor Painter said he’s looking forward to confirming a meeting with Transportation Minister Devin Dreeshen at next month’s RMA convention.

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

 

 

Local Stories Story Idea?

 

 

Large herd of elk running in snowy field with barbed wire fence in the foreground and mountains in the background

How many elk can you count?

This large elk herd was spotted near Pincher Creek on Feb. 23, 2018.

Check out the video captured by Shootin’ the Breeze staffer Jaiden Panchyshyn.

How many do you think there were?

 

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.”

 

Blinds and More Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

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. 

 

Pincher Creek Curling Club – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

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. 

 

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

 

“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.” 

 

Real Estate Centre Ad – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

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.

 

Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor

 

 

 

Man dressed in black pants and black shirt with yellow logo, on skateboard with dark moustache and beard and grey hat

Donations bring Crowsnest skatepark a step closer to reality

The Southwest Alberta Skateboard Society, composed of volunteers dedicated to promoting the growth of skateboarding in the southwest, has ramped up its efforts to have a new outdoor skatepark designed and built in Crowsnest Pass.

On Jan. 29, 2019, the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass made the difficult decision to abruptly close the Albert Stella Memorial Arena, the site of the old indoor skatepark that was widely popular with the Pass skateboarding community. 

The decision came after an engineering consultant retained by council submitted a structural analysis, citing numerous damages and deficiencies.

That same day, council announced in a press release that, after reviewing the report, the building was deemed unsafe and it was in the municipality’s best interests to close the arena to ensure the safety of staff and residents.

 

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

 

Prior to the closure, Crowsnest Pass had a thriving skateboard community that occupied the indoor skatepark on any given day. When the arena was unexpectedly closed, it meant this community had to travel to neighbouring towns to skateboard at their parks.

“There’s a lot of really good skateboarders in the Pass that need a local place to skateboard,” says Ian Gauthier, secretary and treasurer for SWASS and co-owner of Boarderline Skate Shop in Lethbridge.

“When it shut down, we started to regroup and refocus our energy on trying to do a big push to get an outdoor skateboard park.”

Since the fall of 2021, after initial delays resulting from the inability to meet during the Covid pandemic, Ian and his fellow volunteers have proceeded to get the outdoor skatepark project back on track. 

 

Your Dollar Store With More Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

This past year saw the group really up their efforts, hosting and attending various events and fundraising for the project. On top of their own fundraising efforts, SWASS has received support from the community as well.

Working with the municipality, SWASS was able to get approval on a future location, in Flumerfelt Park in Coleman, for the skatepark.

“We’re in a good spot with the community involvement. The city’s on board and the recreation department are as well, and we just want to push forward,” says Ian.

In December, after months of planning and preparation, SWASS and Pass Beer Co. announced the release of a new beer called the Pop Shuvit Pilsner, where a percentage of all sales would go towards the new skatepark.  

 

Ad for Ascent Dental in Pincher Creek

 

Shortly after the release of the new beer, the Blairmore Lions club generously donated $10,000 to SWASS for the Crowsnest Pass skateboard park project. 

The money raised by Pass Beer and the Lions club, along with the location approval, are huge stepping stones for SWASS as it moves forward with its plans.

“We’re in the process of raising money for Phase 1, which is raising enough money to get the full design budget done up by a reputable skateboard company, skatepark builder, and then from there, we can then apply for all the grants and kind of move forward with the city in getting it done,” says Ian.

Ultimately, SWASS is pushing to get a new park built with the kids of Crowsnest Pass in mind, even if it is a long and expensive undertaking.

 

 

Group of people gathered in a pub with pizza on the table. In back, a man in a red shirt and another in a hat and grey shirt exchange a cheque. Two people in front hold a sign reading Boarderline.

Members of the Southwest Alberta Skateboard Society accept a donation of $10,000 from the Blairmore Lions Club. The money will go toward building a new outdoor skatepark in Crowsnest Pass.
Photo courtesy of Southwest Alberta Skateboard Society
Click image to enlarge

 

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It typically takes years to fundraise the money required for a quality-design skatepark done by a professional company,” says Ron MacGarva, president of SWASS.

“With that said, though, it’s all about the kids. Everybody knows that kids need places and opportunities to step out and be physically active, and skateboarding is a great way of doing that.”

The group aims to meet at the end of the month to discuss further plans to fundraise, skatepark designs, and selection of the company that will assist with designs and budget.

If you wish to stay up to date and learn more about the efforts to bring a skateboard park back to Crowsnest Pass, or are interested in volunteering, you can find SWASS on Facebook or Instagram.

The club is accepting donations for the skatepark, which can be e-transferred to SWASS  here.

 

 

Man dressed in black pants and black shirt with yellow logo, on skateboard with dark moustache and beard and grey hat

Skater Brendan MacArthur attempts a backside disaster trick at Banff Skatepark.
Photo by Cameron Stephens
Click image To enlarge

 

 

More Local Stories

 

Obituaries

 

 

 

 

 

Circle with profile of William Cockerell, male wearing sunglasses and black shirt, with dark moustache, beard and long hair blowing in the wind.

 

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. 

 

Grassroots Realty Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

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. 

 

 

“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. 

 

 

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. 

 

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

 

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.

 

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Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

 

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

If the trout are gone, is it still Trout Creek?

On a summer’s day an unknown photographer focused his Kodak Brownie on four adults and a child, out for a day’s fishing on Trout Creek. The photograph, now in the Glenbow archives, is labelled “Fishermen with catch, Trout Creek, Alberta. July, 1902.”

And what a catch it was — a pile of native cutthroat trout, well over a hundred, and maybe 75 kilograms in total.

Native cutthroat trout lingered, though declining, over the next century or so in this tiny stream that flows off the east side of the Porcupine Hills in southwestern Alberta. They were still present in 2013 when Elliot Lindsay, a biologist with Trout Unlimited, caught his first cutthroat trout there. When Government of Alberta biologists sampled the stream in 2015 they recorded hundreds of trout.

By 2019, those hundreds had dwindled and Trout Unlimited caught only two from a subset of the same stream reaches. Unfortunately, contagion with genetic material from non-native rainbow trout was already well established.

Further investigations in 2021 by the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council Native Trout Recovery Project, using environmental DNA, failed to find any strong evidence of pure-strain cutthroat trout in the watershed.

The population may not be functionally extirpated, but is teetering. If it falls off the edge, this is extirpation in real time, not ancient history, but virtually overnight, with a timeline of just yesterday. It might be like Hemingway’s description of bankruptcy: gradual, then sudden.

The loss of a native population of cutthroat trout calls for a post-mortem. How could this have happened, after the species was designated as threatened, a recovery strategy was implemented, and much fanfare was made of restoration efforts? Call it death by a thousand cuts, starting with the cruellest cut, timber harvest.

The Trout Creek watershed has been extensively logged, with large clear-cuts, a web of logging roads and inadequate streamside buffers. Roads begat more recreational traffic, with spirals of off-highway vehicle trails, adding to the linear density and sediment produced. Past cattle grazing may have reduced streamside willows, increasing bank instability.

Climate change brought persistent drought periods. Coupled with hydrologic shifts from logging, and the loss of beaver, the watershed has lost much of its ability to store moisture and stream sections periodically dry up. Recent protracted drought conditions, added to creeping hybridization, may be the last straw.

In the past, natural conditions may well have produced similar drought conditions and low or no surface flows. However, there would have been connections with other cutthroat populations in the wider watershed, allowing movement and replenishment under better flows. The problem is now there is no rescue option from downstream sources; cutthroat trout no longer exist in the lower watershed.

In the departmental and bureaucratic silos of land and resource management resides little chance for rescue, since few see (and are responsible) for the bigger picture — the additive, cumulative impacts. When no one is assigned to watch, no one seems responsible when the essential pieces of landscape and watershed integrity come unglued.

As Vic Adamowicz, a professor at the University of Alberta, observed, “Under Alberta’s public land management system, the cost of habitat loss is only considered after economics are accounted for, and there is no reason for resource sectors to co-ordinate activities, resulting in destructive cumulative effects.”

We inherit the world we allowed to happen; we find out, sometimes too late, the kind of world we create when things are allowed to proceed unhindered. And so, the native cutthroat population of Trout Creek, having persisted for at least a dozen millennia, comes to a whimpering end.

So ends a population intimately tied to the watershed, having been tested and evolved to deal with the considerable range of natural variation expressed over time beyond human imagination. This we do not mourn, either because we do not care to know, or we do not know to care.

Fortunately there are a few that do care. Organizations like Trout Unlimited and Cows and Fish plug away, increasing awareness about native trout and their plight. Bit by bit, metre and metre, mind by mind, they rebuild battered stream banks, close off excessive OHV trails, work with ranchers on riparian grazing management solutions, and help people see the trout for the trees.

Provincial fisheries biologists work on the development of a composite brood stock of pure-strain cutthroat trout. Once habitat conditions are stabilized and improved, this offers an opportunity to restock the stream and restore the cutthroat population.

To spell cutthroat trout you need only arrange 14 letters in the right order. But to make a trout you need a huge array of biotic and abiotic material and assemble it in precisely the right sequence.

Beyond water, both quantity and quality, intact forest and watershed, aquatic insects, a combination of stream characteristics, the right genetic code, population critical mass, movement ability, grappling with limiting factors, and the time to evolve to fit the stream environment, even knowing what the essential parts are and how they fit together may not be evident.

It is decidedly not like baking a cake. That is the challenge to restore native cutthroat trout to Trout Creek, now that they have largely gone missing.

In spite of the challenges, you can’t help but be impressed with the infectious optimism of people like Elliot Lindsay with Trout Unlimited, Amy McLeod with Cows and Fish, and many provincial fisheries biologists who will not give up on Trout Creek. They will need to think big, since real recovery can only happen at a watershed scale. It might require the equivalent of a moon shot to bring native cutthroat back to the stream.

While much work remains to deal with the proliferation of OHV trails and crossings, as well as riparian grazing management fixes, the fundamental task might be to restore the capability of the watershed to retain and store water.

This watershed once had dozens and dozens of beaver dams, effectively drought-proofing the system. When R.B. Miller, Alberta’s first fisheries biologist, initially surveyed the watershed in 1948, he commented on the number of beaver dams.

The Burke Creek Ranch has been situated in the Trout Creek watershed since 1890. Rick Burton, the third generation on the ranch, recalls the headwaters and tributaries being wetter and having more beaver dams in the 1960s and ’70s. Beaver activity is now spotty. But beavers still remain and that is a hopeful sign.

Restoration plans include the installation of multiple beaver dam analogues — structures designed to mimic the form and function of a natural beaver dam — in different reaches of the watershed. These structures are meant to jump-start the growth of woody shrubs and entice beavers to move in and take over.

As Elliot says, “Ultimately, the beaver are probably the ones who will be able to have the might and persistence to kick this watershed out of the rut that it’s currently in.”

Fingers crossed, I hope habitat restoration, coupled with the availability of pure-strain cutthroat trout for stocking, can someday bring trout back to Trout Creek. With a name like Trout Creek, it seems like the right thing to do.

At the same time, some receptivity needs to be built in the minds of those who contributed to the disappearance of cutthroat trout. If there is no shame in being party to the loss of an ancient element of a watershed, it will happen again, and again.

In an indeterminate future, if all the aquatic stars align, someone may take a picture of a group of anglers on Trout Creek, not with a large stringer of native trout, but with smiles indicating their satisfaction with a day of fishing on a stream brought back to life.

Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

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Alberta government 2022 highlights from MLA Roger Reid

Our communities have received significant levels of investment and support from the Alberta government, and I am proud of the role I have been able to play in this. Alberta is leading the nation in job growth, which means our neighbours are going back to work and providing for their families again. And with investment pouring back into our province across a variety of sectors, I anticipate more growth ahead.

Our government is committed to tackling this affordability crisis, fixing our health-care system, maintaining our economic momentum and making life better for all Albertans.

Even though our economy is strong, far too many Alberta families are struggling to pay their bills right now due to inflation. To help families cope with these costs, we have passed a landmark inflation-relief package that will make life better for all Albertans, but particularly our most vulnerable.

This package includes targeted relief payments to seniors and families with dependent children under 18 whose household incomes are under $180,000 per year, as well as to Albertans receiving AISH, PDD and Income Support.

We have also introduced inflation relief that is non-targeted and benefits a wider segment of Albertans through making fuel and electricity more affordable.

We are cutting the full 13-cent fuel tax on gas and diesel between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2023, regardless of oil prices. This will ensure Albertans continue to pay among the lowest fuel prices in Canada.

 

 

In addition, we are providing $500 in electricity rebates for 1.9 million households, farms and small businesses. This will help Alberta households cope with high electricity prices at this challenging time of year. 

We can provide this substantial relief because our budget is back in balance and our fiscal position is strong. Alberta is succeeding again, and our United Conservative government is committed to reinvesting that success into everyday Alberta families, so they can grow and thrive. Our government has continually prioritized a balanced budget and strong fiscal policy, which has led to our thriving economic position.

Additionally, we have continued to focus on our resources and the economic growth that comes from diversifying and supporting these large industries. I am proud that our government has embraced these industries that help make Alberta the wonderful and successful province we all know and love.

Another major focus of our government is health-care reform. We have heard repeatedly from people across our province that changes need to be made to our health-care system. This is one of the reasons that our government is working to take immediate action to have AHS improve EMS response times, decrease surgical backlogs and cut emergency room wait times.

Additionally, our government knows that rural health care is unique and requires a different approach. This is why we are working to address health-care staffing challenges, particularly in rural areas, through improving health workforce planning, evaluating retention policies, leveraging the scope of allied health professionals, streamlining immigration and certification processes, and further increasing the number of training seats for health-care professionals in Alberta.

 

 

We are also working with municipalities, doctors and allied health providers to identify strategies to attract and retain health-care workers in rural Alberta.

These steps are just a part of the more long-term changes that will strengthen our health-care system and ensure that everyone has access to timely high-quality care.

One of the steps we are taking to do this is looking into creating more spots in post-secondary institutions for health care related fields. This will help ensure that more Albertans are able to pursue this valuable education closer to home. We are also looking into continued long-term consultation with front-line workers to improve the decision-making processes in our health-care system.

I am hopeful that these steps will be the foundation of ensuring our province and our people continue to have world-class health care for generations to come. 

 

 

These are just a few of our major government accomplishments this past year. Our government is committed to continually taking steps to improve life here in Alberta. We are doing this by introducing legislation that is beneficial to Albertans in the most valuable ways while maintaining a strong fiscal position.

These types of policies have helped to stimulate our economy, which has led to our continued economic success. I am proud to be a part of a government that prioritizes not only what is best for our province but what is best for our people.

I look forward to seeing the continued success of our wonderful province and communities over the upcoming year. I know that this success would not be possible without all the wonderful people who call our communities home, which is why I would like to extend my sincerest wishes of a happy holiday season to you and your families. 

May 2023 be a year of health, happiness and prosperity for all!

Roger Reid
MLA, Livingstone Macleod

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

Male in orange jacket and brown ski pants snowboards on the slopes at Castle Mountain Resort

Skiers and boarders get early start at Castle Mountain Resort

The immense snowfall that hit the region in late November allowed Castle Mountain to open earlier than ever before in its modern history.

On Nov. 22, a sneak-peek weekend was announced where the Huckleberry Chair, the Green Chair and the Buckaroo Carpet lifts were opened to the public, with the official opening of the season taking place Dec. 2.

By the time Castle Mountain began regular operations, it had already seen a total of 200 centimetres of snow.

While the Westcastle Valley location is well known for having the highest accumulative annual snowfall in Alberta, the initial snowfall proved exceptional even by the resort’s standards.

“It’s been a great start to the season. The snow has been really fantastic,” says Cole Fawcett, sales and marketing manager at Castle Mountain Resort.

“Since 2019, we’ve extended our season by two full weeks and it has had a positive impact on our ability to host people and bring a few more people out.”

 

MD of Pincher Creek Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

When Dec. 18 rolled around, the resort’s 19th operating day, the mountain had seen 300 centimetres of snow, roughly a third of its average annual snowfall, only 15 per cent of the way through the season.

However, snowfall has slowed drastically since hitting the 300-centimetre mark. The mountain has seen only another 79 centimetres of total snowfall and just six in the seven days prior to Monday.

Despite low snow accumulation in recent weeks, the resort is still working with a snow base of 128 centimetres and staff remain optimistic about the season continuing to be a great one. 

“We’ve hit a bit of a dry spell, which is kind of sad, but the alpine is still skiing really nice,” says Kevin Aftanas, marketing co-ordinator at the resort.

“The area is obviously fairly windy, and when there’s wind overnight, even if we haven’t seen much snow in a couple of days, it moves the snow around so it skis like new.”

Five of the six lifts are operational during the week, with the T-Rex lift open only on weekends. 

Additionally, 89 of 95 downhill ski trails are currently open for public use.

 

 

While the resort has snowmaking equipment should the dry spell continue to persist, the hope now is that snow will fall at a greater, more consistent pace moving forward.

“If we could get 50 to 70 centimetres every week, kind of just in dribs and drabs, it keeps things fresh, keeps us skiing and riding really good, and it allows us to kind of keep up with things without breaking our backs doing it,” says Cole.

Base-area chairlift operations run every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until April 9, barring any changes.

 

Skyline side-by-side Rentals ad – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

Male in orange jacket and brown ski pants snowboards on the slopes at Castle Mountain Resort
A snowboarder shreds the slopes at Castle Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of CMR

Opinion: Alberta hates rural maternity care

Alberta hates rural maternity care

I have been working as a rural physician for 16 years. My focus and my expertise has been surrounding maternity care and, to that end, I have worked as a low-risk maternity provider and a provider of rural surgery primarily to provide access to rural maternity care. I’ve been on numerous boards and committees to try to address access to labour and delivery services close to home.

Unfortunately, none of these have been successful to prevent the ongoing death of rural labour and delivery services.

Most heartbreaking to me, I no longer can support ongoing labour and delivery in my own community of Pincher Creek beyond May 31.

Perhaps this is just the sentiment of modern thought – we can no longer as a society accept the risk inherent in providing medical assistance to people who live outside of city limits. In order to access that quality of care you deserve you must live in communities where mail is delivered to street addresses instead of box numbers. 

I don’t know for sure whether all Albertans despise rural maternity care, there seem to be quite a few that prefer the personal nature of it. I don’t even know whether it is purely a maternity care thing, or if we really hate all rural medical care. 

I don’t want to generalize, but this could even be a Canadian thing: rural care appears to be disappearing across the country. What is clear to me, is that when there is a question on whether to support rural maternity care, they always decide against. 

The barriers to excellent rural maternity care are many: 

Due to risk, or lack of role-models, many family physicians have decided that maternity care, labour and delivery is an optional skill. There was a time when we counted it as a required skill to work here. It is not trained well in many programs, and low-risk maternity groups are often poorly supported. 

Rurally, there is no on-call funding to be available for delivery services. When advanced skills are needed for c-section and for neonatal resuscitation, the team size expands to at least four physicians and an army of allied health workers, such as RNs, LPNs and respiratory therapists, as well as the many lab and imaging technicians, EMS and other support staff working in the background. 

We are down to six physicians from 11 to serve a patient population of 10,000, and our emergency department has only become more busy. 

I have had the joy of working with many dedicated caregivers who attend when they are needed, even when not on-call. This care costs significantly. 

However, often forgotten is that when these services are not in place, the costs increase greatly due to emergency transportation, delivery en-route, increased NICU admissions, and emergency deliveries at a rural facility not set up for labour management in training or equipment. 

We already have managed high risk maternity patients beyond the scope of our site who were unable to get to a higher level hospital and we could no longer transport. This will continue to happen with even fewer resources. These harms are borne unevenly by those who don’t have the resources to access care. 

Gaps in the availability of this team impacts maternity before and after care as decisions are made based on when services may not be available. 

As a cost saving method, our hospital site manager will not provide OR or maternity nursing coverage when anesthesia or surgery is scheduled to be away. This creates further gaps as it blocks partial days or a day that later could be covered by changes to vacation plans or finding last-minute locum coverage.

There is no dedicated maternity nurse, which means each time a maternity patient arrives there is a scramble to see who is available, and a sense of frustration at the lack of staff availability, and that maternity coverage is considered additional work instead of being appropriately planned for with adequate staffing. 

More distressing, where I used to look forward to labour and delivery, now I have apprehension about whether I have the time or support to provide good care. 

Despite all these challenges, our goal has always been to provide as much coverage as possible to ensure the best care for our maternity patients. 

As the lone surgeon in Pincher Creek for the last five years, I have been on surgical call 24/7, barring scheduled time off. 

Management at AHS has noticed, and for reasons of well-being and safety have indicated they will cease paying me for on-call days past a certain number each year. I agree with the sentiment, this isn’t a reasonable call burden, and there are times I suffer more burnout than I care to admit.

I hear about how much they are spending to pay for the many locum obstetricians in Lethbridge, when we have been asking for support the last six years. They have not, instead, found additional coverage for surgery in Pincher Creek, or encouraged physicians to work here who have undergone my level of training, or even called to see how I’m coping with the call demands.

These steps might have a real impact on physician well-being. I don’t count my call by number of days, but by my kids’ volleyball games I’ve missed, family events I’ve not attended, robotics teams I haven’t coached, and the number of maternity patients transferred on my wife’s birthday when I was out of town. 

Alberta does not have a training program for advanced skills for family physicians. Once we have been trained to perform various procedures and surgeries, specialist physicians in the cities decide which of our procedures they don’t want us to do. This is called privileging. 

Being declined privileges has a real impact on applying to work in other regions. There has not been a surgeon privileged in Pincher Creek to provide all the skills they trained for in the last 12 years, myself included, and this may have impacted other surgeons choosing not to stay. 

Despite decisions being made in regional centres, there is not a reciprocal responsibility to provide support for the rural sites. Many models of creating a network of care have been suggested over the last several years. 

At its best this would create a seamless transition between rural sites and the referral centres, and a cohesive team of professionals from both rural and central facilities who could support at-risk rural sites with education, training, and perhaps even call coverage. All of them have collapsed without funding. 

So where is the leadership? Well, it changes frequently. Some new manager in a new role, with no memory of the prior issues, is surprised I’m not ecstatic when they have a new “Pathway Through Privileging.” 

I’ve continued to ask for a statement from AHS – “We support rural maternity care.” It has never come from any level of its bloated bureaucracy. 

There is no doubt that government has a role to play, and I won’t lessen the negative impact the last four years have had on rural physician supply. However, this is not a partisan issue. The reality is, rural health care does not matter to politicians. Rural votes are counted as won before the polls open and no one feels they need to pay anything except lip service to improvement of rural medical care. 

It’s not just that labour and delivery is special to me in particular, it is emblematic of how we care for vulnerable people in our society. It should be an equalizer, we all were once born; but the care women get is divided sharply along socioeconomic lines. In order to provide this care well, you need a dedicated team of people working within a well-supported system. 

Despite our dedication, we do not have that support. Most times, a rural maternity program collapses after a bad outcome where the lack of support results in finger-pointing to deliver blame. Often providers leave the profession. I can shoulder the work, and the call, but I can’t face the injury to my colleagues if I keep it going when I don’t believe any help is coming. 

Each person who could have some positive impact doesn’t feel it is their responsibility to help. 

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 and I still have many other surgical skills that will remain useful. 

I know what happens to communities who end their maternity programs though, as they lose the need for a cohesive team to come together to celebrate new life and in doing so gain a little joy in a job well done. 

Jared Van Bussel MD CCFP ESS FRRMS
Pincher Creek, AB

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

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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. 

 

Wild Developments Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

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. 

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

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

 

 

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

 

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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

 

Reader opposes Sovereignty Act

 

If adopted, the Sovereignty Act will forever change how Alberta functions inside or outside of Canada.

There has been a lot of press coverage of the Sovereignty Act over the past few months. It was a major plank in Danielle Smith’s campaign to become leader of the UCP.

As we all know, Danielle won with just over 60,000 votes, in a province with more than four million citizens. With that as a mandate, she took over as premier, and has embarked on a program that will fundamentally alter the relationship of Alberta with the rest of Canada.

The premier had repeatedly asked that the Sovereignty Act not be judged until it had been tabled in the legislature. That happened last week, and there were some surprises in the package the government submitted.

Taking the premier at her word, I read the act carefully, and was surprised. I am not a lawyer, but I cannot help but think most members of the cabinet must have skipped the high school classes on how our democracy works.

The first and most important point is that you rarely get everything you want. You have to be gracious when you win, and accept it when there are outcomes you are unhappy with.

Canada and its laws are not a smorgasbord. You do not get to pick and choose the laws that you like, and ignore the ones you do not like.

If you believe a law, any law, is wrong, there are ways to express your views. The most serious is to take the law to court, and to abide by the ruling.

If we adopt a pick-and-choose approach, things start to fall apart. If the provincial government can ignore certain laws, why couldn’t a city do the same thing to provincial laws? Indeed, why would a private citizen be required to follow a law that disadvantaged them?

The situation gets even more complex when you note that Bill 1 would allow the provincial government to rule against things that have not even happened. The language in the bill allows government to act against any perceived intention by the federal government to do something.

A basic aspect of our laws is that we cannot be convicted for simply thinking about doing something illegal. Even talking about doing something is not usually a crime. In Bill 1, that assumption of innocence seems to have been forgotten.

Our system also requires that the legislature have an opportunity to debate changes to laws. Bill 1, as written, will allow cabinet to make laws and proclaim them, without any debate in the legislature. Those laws are in force for up to two years, and can then be renewed without legislature debate for a further two years.

There are news reports that the bill will now be amended to remove the lawmaking portions. This raises the question of why the bill was introduced with that language in it. Do the politicians not read their own legislation? Or was it a power grab that they hoped no one would notice?

Neither option is reassuring. In one reading, they are just incompetent. In the other, they are dictators-in-waiting.

So, we have a bill that will allow a small number of legislators to try and cancel a national law. It further allows cabinet to direct a large number of other bodies, including your local hospital, police force and the whole educational system, to also ignore federal law.

There appears to be no consideration of the degree to which at least some of those bodies must interact with the federal government, and that interaction requires the bodies to follow federal rules.

I find it disturbing that there does not appear to have been consideration of what the federal response to Bill 1 might be. There seems to be an assumption that the federal response will be either a legal challenge or nothing. However, that may be incorrect, as there are many actions that Ottawa could take that would have dramatic impacts on Alberta.

The premier has been loud in her demands that the Canadian government stay out of areas of provincial jurisdiction. Exactly what that might mean has not been spelled out, but there are some obvious areas where dramatic change might happen.

Health care is a provincial responsibility under our Constitution. Despite that, there are multiple shared-cost programs, where the provinces receive federal dollars to help deliver programs. If Ottawa stopped their cost-share, Alberta would lose several billion from the health budget.

The UCP government has vigorously promoted a provincial police force. They admit that would cost tens of millions of dollars more than the current arrangement. They also note that it would take several years to set up a completely new force. But, the current contract allows either party to cancel on two years’ notice. If Ottawa simply exercised that option, Alberta might have a very hard time replacing the RCMP by 2025.

Many students receive scholarships and similar support from federal bodies, especially at the university level. The universities and such also receive large sums from the federal government. If Ottawa decided that since education is a provincial responsibility they would stop their financial contributions, many students and institutions would be in serious trouble.

There will also be economic impacts. No large company is likely to start or expand operations where two levels of government are in a fierce battle. If there is an alternative place to invest, they will likely avoid Alberta until things are sorted out.

In short, this bill, if adopted, will forever change how Alberta functions inside or outside of Canada. If Ms. Smith really wants to make such sweeping changes, she should at least wait until after we have an election.

Alan Garbutt
Resident of Cowley, Alberta

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

Firefighter gear hanging on fire hall wall

Hillcrest fire station to remain open

Historic buildings play an important role in the cultural identity of a community. As buildings age and their initial uses get transferred to modern facilities, however, rising maintenance costs can bring up questions about how much maintaining cultural identity is worth.

Such was the conversation about Hillcrest’s Fire Station 4 during Crowsnest Pass council’s Oct. 18 regular meeting. Administration brought the topic forward with the recommendation that council close the firehall due to the facility not meeting current fire protection standards, specifically in equipment requirements and staffing levels.

Only two volunteers man the station. One works a mining shift schedule and the other is in their late 70s and has reduced work function. The Fire Underwriters Survey, a fire insurance statistical group, states the minimum staff level for a station to be recognized is 10 personnel.

On top of requiring considerable upkeep and operating costs, the aging hall also is unable to house a front-line fire engine. Currently, the only firefighting truck is a 2001 Ford Type 6 brush/wildland truck that is past its end of life.

Emergency services calls to Hillcrest are serviced from Station 3 in Bellevue. Closing the Hillcrest station would not affect Hillcrest’s emergency or fire protection.

Closing the hall, said CAO Patrick Thomas, would allow the municipality to utilize the building and the respective funds in a more meaningful way, but would in no way be meant as a slight against the legacy of the facility.

“First and foremost, no one wants to go and put forth that there is not an immense appreciation for the years of service that have come out of that hall,” he said.

“That is not the intent, to try and put any slight against that. This is more looking at it from a business sense. It’s essentially just running as a hall on paper and nothing more.”

Though recognizing the financial commitment to the hall did not result in any additional advantages to the municipality’s fire response, Coun. Lisa Sygutek said keeping the hall open would carry a deeper meaning than monetary value could communicate.

“Sometimes there’s things you just do because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

“It shouldn’t have a cost price attached to it. This is a community that has nothing left in it — it has the Hillcrest Fish and Game, it’s got the Miners Club, and it’s got a facility that matters to them. It matters to them for their perceived safety.”

“Even if we don’t feel that it matters to their safety, for them, it matters for their safety,” Sygtuek continued.

“There’s right things to do and wrong things to do, in my opinion, and in this situation we are removing so many things from the community in such a short period of time, I’m just not willing to do this one.”

Coun. Vicki Kubik agreed.

“As it is, I get the financial part of it, but I also understand the connection that people have that gives them that sense of community, and a fire hall can be an important part of that,” she said.

“The general consensus when I meet with the constituents in that area is they would be really offended to have the firehall closed. They perceive it to be something that speaks to their safety.”

“I wonder if they just don’t even know that there’s nothing in that hall that would service them,” Kubik added.

“There is a lot of concern expressed about the railroad tracks and how long it would take for them to receive service if they needed it. Just on principle alone, given what the constituents in that area have told me, I can’t in good conscience vote in favour of closing the Hillcrest firehall either.”

Although still reliant on Bellevue, Coun. Doreen Glavin said, previous experience showed a station in Hillcrest could make a difference when a life was on the line.

“I know in one instance they didn’t do that [wait for help from Bellevue] and they went and helped with a heart attack patient. And whether it be medical or even a vehicle accident, I would feel better with having it closed if the personnel that live in that community can respond without having to go to the fire station first before they acted on whatever the emergency situation would be,” she said.

“I’m really concerned, we see it all the time with CP Rail, [where] that train is stuck on the tracks.”

Sentiments aside, however, the fact remained: the station did not have enough staff or the right equipment to provide an acceptable level of emergency service.

“Maybe what administration needs to do is to put it out to the public and say, ‘Hey look, these are the options: if we can’t get volunteers from this community to be members of the fire department, we are going to be forced to close this hall,’ ” said Mayor Blair Painter. “Lay it out in black and white and see if anybody steps forward.”

Apart from volunteers, the major issue was lack of equipment, said Coun. Dave Filipuzzi.

“Even if you recruited six people in the Hillcrest area — what are they going to do? There’s not going to be no equipment there,” he said. “You’re still going to have to go to either Bellevue or Blairmore.”

“I mean you’re going to a hall that’s got nothing in it. Even if you got 20 people from Hillcrest, it’s still got no value,” Filipuzzi continued.

“Other than you know what, the value that it’s got, is that ‘Hey we still got the Hillcrest firehall. Even though it’s falling down around us, we’ve got a nice rock outside and we got a nice thing outside and this looks great.’ But the value of it — think of the value of it. Does it have value to the community? No, it don’t.”

Closing Station 4, he said, would mean the municipality could repurpose it to fulfil another need. “It’s not like we’re just going to go there and plow it over,” he said.

Keeping the hall open, added Mayor Painter, would mean ignoring the facts of the issue and the logical course of action for the municipality to take as a whole.

“You’re not thinking with your head, you’re thinking with your heart. And that’s not always in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Council eventually voted not to close Station 4.

At the request of Coun. Sygutek, a recorded vote was taken. Mayor Painter and Couns. Filipuzzi and Girhiny voted in favour of closing the hall, while Couns. Sygutek, Kubik, Glavin and Ward opposed its closure.

Kiss tribute band ready to rock ’n’ roll all night at the Empress

Hailing from Western Canada, Ikons is one of most sought-after tribute bands on the circuit. Ikons delivers a high-energy show, complete with the classic Kiss tunes we all know, and an authentic concert experience guaranteed to satisfy even the most diehard Kiss fans. 

Ikons covers songs from Kiss’s musical career beginning in the 1970s, with chart-toppers including “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and “Beth.”  

Kiss is known for its members’ face paint and stage outfits and its pyrotechnics. The band members took on personas in the style of comic book characters: the Starchild, the Demon, the Spaceman or Space Ace, and the Catman (Criss).

You just might think it’s the real deal once you see Ikons’ authentic looks, moves and music. 

Tickets to Ikons: the Kiss Experience are $37.50 each and available online at MacleodEmpress.com, by calling 1-800-540-9229, or at the box office on Main Street in Fort Macleod.