Skip to main content

Tag: Jason Kenney

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.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

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. 

 

Red and black angus bulls on poster for Blades Angus Bull Sale

 

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.

 

Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

Local Stories Story Idea?

 

 

Mined mountainside with greenery in foreground and blue water pond

‘Winds of change’ bring renewable energy project to Tent Mountain

Peter Doyle, CEO at Montem Resources Ltd., said the company plans to sell half of its stake in the Tent Mountain site to the Calgary-based electricity wholesaler TransAlta Corp. TransAlta will lead the development of a 320-megawatt pumped hydrogen energy storage facility on the mountain.

The Tent Mountain Renewable Energy Complex (TM-REX) will be powered by an off-site wind farm that will feed into a new transmission line, Blain van Melle, TransAlta’s vice-president, told Shootin’ the Breeze in a Feb. 24 video conference with Doyle. The project meanwhile envisions an off-site hydrolyzer that will generate “14,000 tonnes each year of clean, green hydrogen.

“This is the equivalent of displacing 50 million litres of diesel each year, or taking 2,000 heavy trucks off our highways,” Doyle says in a promotional video on Montem’s website. 

Doyle and van Melle declined to specify where the companies might build the wind farm or the hydrolyzer. 

With plans still in the distant offing, Doyle said Montem has been in talks with the Piikani Nation, which he said “has aspirations to build a significant wind farm.” 

 

Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek

 

“Anything that we do on [the wind farm] is most likely going to be in unison with either Piikaani by itself, or the entire Blackfoot confederacy,” he told the Breeze

Van Melle said it’s for the Alberta Electric System Operator, the non-profit company that manages Alberta’s electricity grid, to determine the transmission line’s exact specifications. 

Montem said in a Feb. 17 press release that the project would create about 200 construction jobs and about 30 permanent jobs after TM-REX comes online. 

Doyle said the Tent Mountain mine, unreclaimed since it was abandoned in 1983, had roughly enough capacity to produce one million tonnes of metallurgical coal every year for 13 years, whereas TM-REX will generate emissions-free energy for up to 80 years. 

Peter Loughheed’s Progressive Conservative government halted coal exploration along the eastern Rockies in 1976 because the slopes feed environmentally sensitive headwaters. 

 

You're in good hands – animated ad for National Newspaper Week

 

The United Conservatives under Premier Jason Kenney announced in the spring of 2020 that they would lift the ban, but quickly reversed course when the initiative provoked strong opposition. 

Doyle said Montem realized “the winds of change were blowing” in 2021, when Ottawa asked for an environmental assessment for the proposed reboot of the Tent Mountain coal mine. The Alberta Energy Regulator then rejected Benga Mines’ (another Australian coal company’s) application to reboot an open-pit mine on nearby Grassy Mountain, stating that the project wasn’t in the public interest.

At that point, Doyle said, “It became increasingly clear that there was too high a risk to continue with the [Tent Mountain] coal mine.” 

The mountain’s coal deposits will be “sterilized,” Doyle said, using an industry term that means the hydrocarbons will stay in-ground. 

Doyle and van Melle said Montem and TransAlta would continue to meet with Pass stakeholders moving forward. 

Doyle said he expects Montem’s shareholders will approve the TM-REX sale in late March or early April.

 

More Local Stories

 

 

We got your bumps and bruises covered advertisement for Osa Remedy'sRx 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

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.

 

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

 

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. 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River 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

 

 

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

 

 

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping giving bill 4 announcement from a podium in front of a background of provincial and Canadian flags.

Bill 4 announcement met with skepticism at Pincher Creek hospital

 

Pincher Creek’s chief doctor remains skeptical about prospects for an enduring partnership between Alberta doctors and the provincial government after Bill 4 announcement.

Dr. Gavin Parker, community medical director at Pincher Creek Health Centre, spoke with Shootin’ the Breeze Dec. 5, shortly after Health Minister Jason Copping vowed to repeal the province’s authority to unilaterally scrap its funding commitments to the Alberta Medical Association, which represents roughly 1,600 practising physicians across the province.

Copping said the Alberta Health Care Insurance Amendment Act, 2022 (Bill 4) heralds “a collaborative environment founded on mutual respect and trust” more than two years after the United Conservatives, under then-premier Jason Kenney, ended the AMA’s contract and imposed a new one.

The amendment, which Copping endorsed alongside AMA president Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, underscores a deal that the two sides brokered over the summer and which was ratified in September by 70 per cent of doctors, Copping said.

The UCP government will undo section 40.2 of the original act, used by former health minister Tyler Shandro in February 2020 to terminate the AMA’s last contract. In return, the AMA will drop its pending lawsuit against the government.

The proposed legislation comes roughly a week after Edmonton removed a cap on the number of daily patient visits that doctors can charge to Alberta Health Services.

 

 

The amendment pledges $750 million to “stabilize the health-care system” over the next four years, delivering a more than five per cent pay bump for family doctors. It also holds out “the potential” for binding arbitration should future contract negotiations break down, according to Copping.

Rinaldi thanked Copping for making a show of good faith, but stopped short of a glowing prognosis.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not a panacea,” she told reporters. 

Over at Pincher Creek Health Centre, Dr. Parker was less optimistic. Most of Bill 4’s substance had been hammered out months earlier, he said. Meanwhile, the medical community is perhaps less willing to trust the UCP than Copping let on.

“That’s great that they’ve said they’d take (section 40.2) off the books. But, I don’t think we can safely assume this kind of legislation will never come back,” Parker said. 

The health centre and attached medical clinic now have five full-time doctors, less than half of the 11 docs that were on-staff when Shandro tore up their contract.

 

Camille Kalveram, young professional woman with long blonde hair, on Vision Credit Union ad

 

“It was pretty disastrous at the time,” Parker remembered.

Two doctors left the health centre to practise in urban centres in Alberta. One left the province altogether, highlighting the AMA’s aborted contract in their resignation letter. Others left to retrain in other medical specializations, while another doctor retired, according to Parker.

The health centre has recently brought on extra staff and “Alberta is still a great place to practise medicine,” Parker said, noting that doctors are paid well.

Surgeries are still performed at the health centre. “We’re one of a few places that still provide obstetric care,” while there’s none to be had in neighbouring Fort Macleod or Cardston, Parker said.

And the clinic has held on to its patients, despite the shortage of doctors.

“But, it’s been really tough,” Parker said, “because we haven’t been able to provide the same level of service and efficiency that people have come to expect.”

 

 

Emergency room patients with routine health concerns can wait up to eight hours to see a doctor if that doctor is busy performing a cesarean section, he said.

The health director also praised former health minister Shandro for his role in bringing a new CT scanner to the health centre.

“I’m glad to see the province’s finances are better now than when we were looking at contract negotiations a few years ago,” Parker said.

Watch news conference

Grey-haired caucasian male wearing dark suit speaks into microphone

Don Whalen seeks Livingstone-Macleod nomination

Don Whalen, an entrepreneur and lay preacher from Parkland, Alta., announced Sunday, Nov. 18, that he will seek the United Conservative Party’s nomination to represent Livingstone-Macleod in the next provincial election. 

In his first media interview Wednesday, Whalen said he would file his papers as soon as the party reopens the nomination, probably after Christmas. 

Incumbent MLA Roger Reid announced Nov. 1 that he would not seek re-election. The UCP later rejected a nomination bid and subsequent appeal by former People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, citing recent social media posts in which she likened vaccine passports and other pandemic health measures to Nazi Germany.

Next spring’s election would be Whalen’s first run for public office, he said. The nomination hopeful aligns himself closely with Premier Danielle Smith, calling himself “a lifelong conservative” and a former Wildrose voter.

“I’m liking what the premier is doing: She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.” 

Whalen said he wants to serve in the legislature to be the voice of disaffected voters in the riding. 

 

Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce notice of annual general meeting on brightly coloured background

 

“I’m really concerned about the direction our province and country have been going in over the last two to three years. People are being marginalized and they’re not being heard.” 

Taking aim at the federal government and former premier Jason Kenney, Whalen said pandemic health measures had gone too far. 

“Our personal rights and freedoms were just trampled on, and the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) was just a piece of paper for a couple of years.” 

Whalen said public health policy should be informed by medical science, but lamented that pandemic measures had been overtly politicized. 

“During Covid, Deena Hinshaw,” Alberta’s chief public health officer until Smith fired her Nov. 14, “was the most important person in Alberta, and we had non-elected officials basically deciding everything for us,” he said.

Looking ahead to Smith’s long-promised Alberta Sovereignty Act, Whalen said the province doesn’t need legislation to assert its jurisdiction over things like natural resources. He was also highly critical of pending federal legislation he said would “confiscate” hundreds of local gun owners to give up their guns, but stopped short of advocating separatism.

 

 

“I’m an Albertan. But, I’m also a Canadian. I am concerned that it’s going to be very hard to change things with Ottawa, so I’m stepping up to be a voice for that change in a positive way.” 

On climate change, Whalen said he opposes the federal carbon tax, but supports the development of clean-burning energy. 

Whalen said he co-owns a small buy-and-sell business with a friend. He is also a lay preacher, taking the pulpit about once a month at Fort Macleod’s House of Prayer.