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Tag: MD of Pincher Creek

Backhoe at water pumping station on the Crowsnest River near Pincher Creek

MD creates makeshift solution for water supply

After a summer and fall where its water needed to be trucked in to keep the taps flowing, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek has created a temporary solution it hopes will get it through the winter and, possibly, into the spring.

The MD has set up a pumping station at the site of its water intake valves on the Crowsnest River, north of Cowley.

“It’s actually pumping water to one of our existing intake pipes,” explained Reeve Dave Cox.

“It’s not a big system. The intake pipes are about six inches in diameter and the system that pumps into one of those pipes is about 2½ inches in diameter.”

Utilities and infrastructure manager David Desabrais confirmed siphoning is carried out only during the daytime right now.

“We don’t have any raw water storage. All of our storage is on the treated water side,” he said. “Every day our goal is essentially, during working hours, to top up all of our rural water reservoirs before night.”

The process is then repeated the next day. Depending on demand by MD residents, water trucks may still need to be used to keep the reservoirs full.

In a perfect world, the idea might be a potential long-term fix, but it can’t be because of the system’s location on the river.

The pumping station “will definitely need to come out in the spring,” Cox emphasized. “It’s kind of inside the floodplain of the dam. It’s only there until we start to get high water.”


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The question remains, though, will we see a significant spring melt from mountain snow packs and, if not, can the pump station stay in place a little longer? The answer is yes.

But, “because it’s such a historic event, it’s tough to say, for sure, when [a rise in river levels] might occur,” Desabrais acknowledged.

“Typically, the reservoir doesn’t do its big fill until June, so that’s what we’re anticipating,” he said. “You never know. It could get messy down there earlier or there could also be a case where we get a terrible snowpack and we’d be in a position to continue using that setup further into the summer.”

“This is really a band-aid, for lack of a better word, to cut down on what it costs us to truck water,” Reeve Cox added.

“This is a way cheaper solution than what we were doing when it was all trucking. The trucking hasn’t been totally eliminated because there’s still some issues with water turbidity, and so we still have to augment the system with trucking.”

Is there a potential long-term fix? The answer to that is also yes.

“We’re working towards looking at a third intake near the existing two intakes,” Desabrais said. “They would, essentially, be tapped into the Crowsnest River aquifer. We wouldn’t actually be boring under the river, but connected hydraulically.”

The aquifer, which Desabrais pointed out isn’t a new source, is located just upstream from the current water intake valves and near where the old highway bridge was constructed.

He said if everything, including council and regulatory approval, falls into place, work could begin soon.


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


Pump bottles of colourful, natural soaps on ad for Lynden House Market in Pincher Creek
Map of Alberta showing fire advisory for MD of Pincher Creek Area

Fire danger rating lowered, thanks to recent rain

For the second time this month, the fire danger rating in the town and MD of Pincher Creek has been lowered.

In early September, a ban in place for most of the summer was eased to a fire restriction.

“On Saturday the 21st we downgraded it, again, to a fire advisory with the rain and conditions having improved,” fire Chief Pat Neumann tells Shootin’ the Breeze.

Unlike August, though, when almost all the month’s rain fell during an Aug. 30 thunderstorm, this month’s moisture has been spread out, allowing the vegetation to green up.

But, Neumann warns, conditions can change on a dime.

“So, what a fire advisory allows people to do is have recreational firepits with a permit. It also allows us to issue debris burn permits or notification of burn for residents within the MD.”

It’s also important to note that the district may not necessarily have the final say on where fires are allowed.


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


“One of the things that makes our MD unique is a protected forest area, which resides mostly on the western edge that is governed under forestry guidelines,” Neumann says.

“So, what that means is they need to pay attention to what Alberta Forestry posts in regards to fire restrictions and fire bans, and currently we don’t have any.”

As we move into the first full week of fall, Neumann is thankful for one thing: the quiet fire season the area has enjoyed.

“Given the conditions we had elsewhere in the province, the Northwest Territories and B.C., there was an awful lot of media education, making sure people understood the risks and hazards of the landscape.”

People are pretty understanding when it comes to having some freedoms taken away, he says, referring to the long-standing tradition of families gathering around a campfire, something that couldn’t happen this past summer.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of man-made fires started within the rural landscape this year and that’s really a testament to people actually paying more attention to the conditions.”

Full updated details on fire bans for the MD are posted online at There, you’ll also find information on fire bans from around the province as well as how to apply for burn and firepit notifications.


Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.
harvested yellow field with mountains in the background

Farmers hoping for much-needed relief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Add to that, the latest wrinkle — grasshoppers.

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

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

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

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

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

Liz Dolman, a middle-aged woman with long, straight, blonde hair, sits at a table collecting petition signatures

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink petitioned

A petition circulating in Pincher Creek could upset council’s plan to build a new curling rink, according to an administration report in council’s March 27 agenda. 

The petition, launched by town resident Elizabeth Dolman on March 17, aims to block the passage of a borrowing bylaw for a multi-million-dollar construction loan, pending a referendum on the loan, Dolman told Shootin’ the Breeze

“We don’t have enough information [about the curling rink project],” Dolman said, questioning the potential tax implications and calling for more attention to other civic priorities, namely housing

“Curling is a wonderful thing, … but people can’t move here for jobs because there’s no place to live. The town’s known this for at least 20 years, and they’ve made plans here and there. But they haven’t done anything yet,” she continued. 


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The petition is the latest development in a long-running and hotly contentious debate about whether or not to build a new rink and where to build it. 

Whatever might be said of the project, the town’s existing curling rink at 837 Main St. is at the end of its working life, according to structural studies dating back at least to 2008. The rink is run by the Pincher Creek Curling Club, at the club’s expense. The club has around 150 members, roughly evenly split between the town and MD of Pincher Creek, according to outgoing president Glenda Kettles.   

Council on Feb. 13 narrowly passed a resolution to build a new rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 942 Hyde St., to be renamed the CRC and Events Centre if the build goes ahead. The borrowing bylaw, still before council, was given the first of three readings at chambers on Feb. 27. 

Second and third readings are not listed on council’s March 27 agenda. 


Pincher Creek holds approximately $3.5 million in debt as of the new year — roughly $1.85 million for the town’s early learning centres and around $1.65 million for Pincher Creek RCMP’s current headquarters at 1369 Hunter St., according to finance director Wendy Catonio

That burden represents just under one quarter of the town’s approximately $15 million allowable debt limit, which the Municipal Government Act caps at 150 per cent of a municipality’s most recent annual revenue. For context, Catonio said the town’s current debt load is unremarkable compared to regional municipalities. 

If passed, the borrowing bylaw would authorize council to take out a loan for up to $4 million in estimated construction costs for the curling rink build. The town would then be obligated to pay down whatever amount it draws on the loan. 

The town has meanwhile applied for a federal grant that could cover up to 60 per cent of the build. Tristan Walker, the town and neighbouring MD’s energy project lead, said he hoped for a decision by the grant funder sometime this summer. 


Town council in 2017 committed $1.25 million to match the curling club’s hoped-for grant through the province’s Community Facility Enhancement Program. The CFEP grant didn’t come through, and council has included the $1.25 million commitment in subsequent budgets. 

The $1.25 million was always intended to be financed through a loan rather than the town’s capital reserves, Catonio explained.

Coun. Mark Barber, a longtime supporter of the build, told council last month that the curling club would contribute $200,000 through fundraising efforts, adding that the club would donate its ice plant, which Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Barber also said the MD would probably kick in some money. Reeve Rick Lemire later told the Breeze that MD council discussed that possibility in a joint session with town council, but the MD hasn’t made any financial commitments. 


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

In order to be successful, Dolman’s petition would have to satisfy a number of conditions listed in the MGA.

Petitions to council need signatures from 10 per cent of municipal residents, which amounts to roughly 360 people in Pincher Creek, according to the 2021 census. 

The petition would have to come to Angie Lucas, the town’s new chief administrative officer, no later than March 30. Lucas would then have 45 days to decide if the petition satisfies the Act’s requirements. 

If the petition holds up, council would have to either scrap the curling rink build or put the borrowing bylaw to a town referendum. If the petition fails, council could pass the borrowing bylaw and move ahead with the project, according to Lucas’s latest report to council.  


Lucas has recommended that council receive for information an explainer at chambers Monday evening about the petition process.

Few of the project’s vital details have been made public as of Friday afternoon, including a detailed cost estimate, according to an FAQ page on the town’s website.

The curling club owns the existing rink, while the town owns the land on which it sits. There is no plan for what happens at the old curling rink after the building comes down,  nor information about the financial implications for the town and tax implications for residents, the FAQ page explains. 

The curling club did not respond to a request for an interview before Shootin’ the Breeze published this story online on Friday afternoon. 


Roughly 170 people had signed Dolman’s petition to that point. Dolman has said she will continue to collect signatures at Ranchland Mall over the weekend. 

Kettles said Friday that the curling club has so far raised around $100,000 toward the new rink.

Wayne Oliver, man with short grey hair and glasses wearing a blue vest, points to a Riplinger project map and speaks to Rick and Blanche Lemire.

Town councillor under fire over TransAlta info session

A Pincher Creek councillor who works for an electricity wholesaler is the subject of a complaint that he was in a conflict of interest when he participated in a recent public information session hosted by his employer. 

Wayne Oliver, now in his second term on town council, said he’s worked for TransAlta Corp. for 18 years. As the company’s Wind Operations Supervisor for Western Canada, Oliver said he looks after 13 wind farms and one battery storage site across southern Alberta. 

He attended TransAlta’s Feb. 17 information session at Hill Spring Community Centre to answer questions about a wind farm TransAlta hopes to build in Cardston County as part of its proposed Riplinger renewable energy project, Oliver told Shootin’ the Breeze on Feb. 28.

“It seems to me that this is a conflict of interest” according to council’s code of conduct (Bylaw 1622-18), the complainant stated in a letter attached to council’s Feb. 27 agenda.


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The complainant, whose name is redacted from the letter, wrote that the Riplinger project would feed into a 45-kilometre transmission line through the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, which borders Cardston County. 

“I believe the Town of Pincher Creek has an inherent relationship to the proposed project,” the letter states, adding that Oliver’s presence at the Hill Spring session “could be seen as potentially using one’s councillor influence for the financial gain or benefits to their associated business/employer,” regardless of whether he attended as a town councillor or a company employee. 

“I thought it was just another day at TransAlta,” Oliver told the Breeze. 

“I don’t think I was in a conflict of interest,” he said, noting that the info session was no different than the dozen other public meetings he’s attended for other TransAlta projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan. 



His professional involvement with Riplinger would happen after the project is built, assuming that it’s approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission, which regulates the province’s utility sector. 

“Sometimes, I conduct my life and forget that people view me as a town councillor. I’m now aware of this potential perception and I’ll manage my affairs with that in mind,” he said. 

Oliver recused himself when council addressed the letter at chambers. 

“From my point of view, we really have no jurisdiction [over Riplinger] unless we become an intervener somehow: We’re not really involved,” Mayor Don Anderberg said. 



TransAlta has not submitted an application to the AUC on behalf of Riplinger, nor has it put in for the necessary permitting for the transmission line, James Mottershead, spokesperson for TransAlta, told the Breeze on Feb. 17. 

A consultant retained by TransAlta said the transmission line would likely go through the MD, but qualified that it would be routed according to the Alberta Electric System Operator, the non-profit organization that oversees planning for the province’s electrical grid.  

Pincher Creek town council unanimously voted to conduct a review of its code of conduct.

“Council members must be vigilant to avoid any perception or actual activity which may be seen as a conflict of interest” and “must never use their influence as elected representatives for personal advantage,” the code states.

“Frankly, I get paid the same whether Riplinger gets built or not. So, there’s no financial gain for me,” Oliver said.


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



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Group of people in business suits at the base of a large hurdle

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Pincher Creek town council narrowly approved first reading of a $4-million borrowing bylaw to pay for a new curling rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 948 Hyde St. Council then unanimously voted to expand the project in hopes of qualifying for a federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings grant for up to 60 per cent of the build. 

A second grant could deliver up to $1 million in construction costs, while council has already set aside $1.25 million in its 2023 capital budget.

Council greenlit the new curling rink through a contentious 4-3 split Feb. 13, with councillors voting along the same lines when the borrowing bylaw was put to the test Feb. 27. 


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Coun. Mark Barber tabled the borrowing bylaw at chambers, stressing that grant funding and a hoped-for contribution by the MD of Pincher Creek would offset the rink’s $4-million price tag.

Both councils discussed a potential contribution by the MD at a closed meeting last month, but MD council hasn’t decided anything, Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze last Thursday. 

“We’re keeping our options open at this point,” he said. 

Mayor Don Anderberg and Couns. Gary Cleland and Wayne Oliver supported Barber’s motion, with Couns. David Green, Sahra Nodge and Brian Wright voting against. 



Barber and Anderberg cited the town and MD’s joint master recreation plan, which ranked a new curling rink as a third-tier priority in March 2021, based on a survey of around 630 residents. 

The curling club and its estimated 150 members hope to donate $200,000 toward the project, plus an ice plant that Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Anderberg said council has funded new walking trails and has started to address upgrades to the Memorial Community Centre arena at 867 Main St., which survey respondents listed as first- and second-tier priorities.

The mayor’s comment drew jeers from residents in attendance, to which Anderberg replied, “I believe the survey was accurate and that it was done for a purpose.” 



“I would say we’re aggressively pursuing grant money, and all indications are that there would not be a need to borrow the entire [$4 million] amount,” Coun. Oliver said. 

Coun. Nodge was the first to speak against the motion, reminding council that the project remains largely unfunded, and warning that residents might have to support a heavy debt load through higher taxes. 

Nodge also highlighted the town’s 2022 master infrastructure report by the engineering firm ISL, a planning document that recommends roughly $13 million worth of sidewalk, storm sewer and other upgrades as part of a 10-year capital plan. 

Acknowledging strong support for the curling rink among some portions of the community, Nodge insisted that council hasn’t hadn’t done its homework ahead of the project. 


Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek


“If this goes ahead, which it probably will, and somebody asks, ‘What are the implications for this on taxpayers for the Town of Pincher Creek?’ I don’t have an answer other than my own speculation, and that worries me.” 

Noting the town’s acute, chronic housing crunch, Coun. Green reminded council that the community and the municipality have limited resources to bear across a host of civic projects. 

“Consequently, a plan for priority spending should be developed in conjunction with the current council’s strategic priorities from 2022 through 2026, which will help eliminate any reactive or misaligned development decisions,” Green said. 

Council then unanimously voted to add a bouldering wall and an exhibition space to the Community Recreation Centre. The additions strengthen the town’s chances of receiving the GIBC grant by making the facility more accessible, according to the grant’s funding criteria. 



The grant requires a carbon net-zero build, which would add about 30 per cent to projected construction costs, according to Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead for the town and MD. 

Walker said the additions would ultimately save money because the grant would cover up to 60 per cent of total construction costs — if council receives the grant. 

The recreation centre currently runs year-round, and project supporters say the new amenities would offer a more robust selection of activities.

The borrowing bylaw must be put to a public hearing and two more readings at chambers, according to the Municipal Government Act. 

If passed, opponents would have 30 days to challenge the borrowing bylaw, according to finance director Wendy Catonio.


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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.



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. 



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.




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Highway leading toward mountains with fields filled with wind turbines

Concerns raised over TransAlta’s Riplinger project

A proposed wind farm in Cardston County is facing opposition from a group of residents who say the project threatens the region’s sensitive environment and that their voices are being ignored as the project approaches the regulatory phase. 

The project, dubbed Riplinger by Calgary electricity wholesaler TransAlta, has meanwhile drawn the attention of Pincher Creek’s MD, where the company will likely seek to build a transmission line, according to an information package sent last December to county residents within 1.5 kilometres of the project’s tentative boundaries. 

The Riplinger farm would generate power from 46 wind turbines on 14,000 acres of private land roughly 30 kilometres southeast of Pincher Creek, the package states. James Mottershead, spokesman for TransAlta, later told Shootin’ the Breeze the project would involve 50 turbines. 

Mottershead said TransAlta “introduced” Riplinger to the MD in May 2022, though the company has not filed an application with the Alberta Utilities Commission, which has broad authority to approve utility projects. 



Many people who attended TransAlta’s public information session in Cardston County’s village of Hill Spring last Friday were asked to sign a petition circulated by Riplinger’s opponents. 

“This is the wrong place for a wind farm,” Bill Merry said as locals steadily filed into the village community centre.

Merry said he was frustrated that TransAlta “has done absolutely the bare minimum in communicating with the project’s stakeholders,” many of whom Merry said live beyond Riplinger’s 1.5-kilometre radius. 

“It’s like they’re trying to shove this under the rug,” he added. 

Angela Tabak, who lives in the nearby hamlet of Mountain View, said she’d been networking with residents within the project radius, who can intervene if they notify the AUC that they will be directly and adversely affected by Riplinger. 

Merry and Tabak said they hoped for a public hearing where TransAlta would be called to show its plans to protect migratory birds and other wildlife species, as well as the wetlands between the Waterton and Belly rivers. Fifty people had signed the petition roughly an hour after doors opened at the community centre. 



Speaking to MD councillors at chambers on Feb. 14, Reeve Rick Lemire held up TransAlta’s information package, which outlines a host of federal and provincial bodies that will enter the regulatory process ahead of the MD and Cardston County. 

 “This is where we fit into the hierarchy of approvals — when everything else is done,” he told council. 

The AUC can approve utility projects over the objections of local governments, according to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act.

“The commission takes into account local governments’ positions on projects, both when they support a project and when they oppose a project. It is incredibly helpful to the commission for municipalities to participate in the AUC’s decision-making process,” AUC spokesman Geoff Scotton told the Breeze.

Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, takes a different view. 

The AUC “ignores municipal planning authority on a regular basis,” he said earlier this month. “They actually institutionally ignore it.”



McLauchlin said renewable energy will play a critical role in southwestern Alberta’s economic future, adding that many food producers have welcomed projects like Riplinger because developers typically pay well to lease private land. That money spurs investment in ranches and farms, but McLauchlin warned that unchecked development on arable land would jeopardize regional food security. 

James Van Leeuwen, who heads a power company in Pincher Creek and sits on the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative’s board of directors, said Riplinger would be “unremarkable” if it weren’t tentatively sited near the Waterton Biosphere Reserve, an environmentally sensitive area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1979. 

“Waterton is an ecological gem,” he said.

Van Leeuwen participated in SASCI’s 2018 regional economic study, which was commissioned by Shell Canada, the Town of Pincher Creek and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, shortly after Shell announced it would probably shutter its Waterton gas plant (Shell Waterton) by 2030. 

Shell Waterton employed about 100 people when SASCI published its findings. Most lived in the town of Pincher Creek, while the plant generated about 20 per cent of tax revenue in the surrounding MD.

The study found that Shell Waterton generated 10 per cent of regional GDP, which renewable energy projects can’t match.



Van Leeuwen noted that renewable energy projects might pose similar environmental impacts at the construction phase, especially because concrete and steel bear heavy carbon footprints. 

“But that’s not the point,” Van Leeuwen said. “What we’re looking at are the impacts over the lifetime of the infrastructure and for renewable energy.… We’re displacing a high-impact energy source with a low environmental impact energy source.”

Speaking at last Friday’s info session in Hill Spring, James Mottershead said TransAlta hasn’t finalized plans for Riplinger, including the proposed transmission line. 

Ryan Desrosiers, an environmental consultant retained by TransAlta, said the line would probably come through the MD. Transmission lines are regulated by the AUC in conjunction with the Alberta Electric System Operator, according to Geoff Scotton. 

Desrosiers said TransAlta hopes to host an information session in the MD sometime this spring. 

TransAlta hopes to submit its application for Riplinger to the AUC by June, according to Mottershead.






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Keyboard with large, orange key with pause written in white letters

MD of Pincher Creek hits pause on rezoning applications

Pincher Creek’s MD is pausing recreational development pending a review of the district’s land use bylaw.

Council voted last month to put off decisions on all rezoning applications for rural recreational development through the end of June, or until council updates the MD’s land use bylaw. The resolution, tabled by deputy reeve Tony Bruder, follows a recent spate of applications by residents and outside entrepreneurs hoping to launch tourist ventures on MD ranchlands, especially campgrounds. 

Ranchers who opposed a rezoning bid by the Waterton outfitter Blak Star Globes had called for a rezoning freeze at a public hearing last November. 

Council voted down Blak Star’s application in December, but approved a broadly similar rezoning at the same meeting. 

“The perception was that we were picking winners and losers,” Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze on Feb 8.



Lemire said the MD has heard from a number of hopeful rural recreational developers since the new year, prompting council to take a beat while it hashes out a consistent policy framework. 

Council had planned to update its land use bylaw, which outlines zoning, as part of its upcoming strategic plan — a long-term priority, according to Lemire.  

Seven rezoning applications came through council in 2022, five of which were approved, according to MD spokeswoman Jessica McClelland. 

“We decided that we couldn’t wait,” Lemire said. 

Council sat down for an initial review of its land use bylaw last week, drawing on the advice of Gavin Scott, a planning consultant with the Oldman River Regional Services Commission

The Covid-19 pandemic thrashed Alberta’s tourist economy, plunging tourist spending from $8.2 billion in 2019 to $4.9 billion in 2020 — a 43 per cent decrease, according to Travel Alberta. 



But the industry is recovering — tourist spending hit $5.7 billion in 2021 — in part because pandemic travel restrictions inadvertently drew Albertans to camping spots in the Pincher Creek area. 

“There’s going to be lots of rezoning applications coming, so we need to look at them with a refreshed perspective,” Lemire said, explaining that council went through a similar process when windmills started to crop up in the MD.  

“We did a study that showed us where we wanted windmills to go and where we didn’t want them to go. So, we’re doing something similar here for campgrounds.” 

Developers can still file rezoning applications in the interim, but a staff report appended to council’s Jan. 13 agenda notes that “Council has the right to refuse them at first reading.”









Dave Friesen, an RCMP officer with short, dark hair, chats on the phone while seated at a desk

Dave Friesen’s relentless pursuit of justice at Lower Post IRS

A small crowd of people filtered through the doors of MD council chambers on April 12, chattering excitedly, filling the room with more noise than it had seen in years, to witness local resident Dave Friesen receive a certificate of appreciation for his significant contributions to society and his service to the RCMP.

Flanked by friends and family members, Dave Friesen, age 93, made his way to the front of the room and accepted the certificate from Reeve Rick Lemire, as onlookers applauded and cameras flashed. Coun. Harold Hollingshead, who first proposed the idea of the ceremony, shook his hand.

Friesen was an exceptional RCMP officer, dedicating his life to pursuing justice for victims of residential schools, at a time when many were content to ignore uncomfortable truths. He was a trailblazer, who, back in the late 1950s, started one of the first-known investigations into a residential school predator — possibly the only such RCMP investigation made prior to the 1980s.

In 1957, Friesen was transferred to Watson Lake, Yukon, where he investigated cases of sexual abuse involving a staff member at a residential school in northern British Columbia and Indigenous boys. He was relentless in his pursuit of justice, and thanks to his steadfast efforts, a dozen survivors were able to win their lawsuit against the school.

“Sixty-seven years later, these boys are vindicated. They spoke the truth and the truth came out. I appreciate what this council has accepted. Thank you very much,” said Friesen, addressing the crowd at council chambers.




Dave Friesen, a young RCMP officer dressed in red serge grins broadly while walking with his wife, Pat, on their wedding day. She is smiling and carries a large red bouquet and has a veil that matches her wedding dress.
Dave and Pat Friesen smile broadly on their wedding day.
Photo courtesy of the Friesen family


Lower Post Indian Residential School

Friesen, a corporal, arrived in Watson Lake with his wife, Pat, newborn daughter Shannon and three-year-old daughter Trish. The newly built Lower Post Indian Residential School was located half an hour south of the community. Although it lay just across the border in northern B.C., it still fell within his jurisdiction. 

It was run from 1951 to 1975 by the Catholic Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who operated 48 residential schools across the country, including the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, where 751 unmarked graves were discovered, and the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the probable gravesites of 200 Indigenous children were found, both last year.

At the time, Friesen was already well aware of the poverty many Indigenous Peoples faced, and he had no doubt that powerful institutions such as government and churches were seeking to erase Indigenous ways of life through cultural and religious assimilation. 

Growing up in the Fort Garry district of Winnipeg in the 1930s, he had many Métis friends and witnessed the ill treatment that befell them.

From 1952 to 1957, he worked in Whitehorse, and prior to that in rural Alberta near Cardston — communities where he came to believe the church had more sway and influence than the police. Friesen attributes this power imbalance to the fact that RCMP officers were often transferred frequently and were never able to spend much time in one place.

“We would spend two, three years at any detachment. The priests and the mission, they were there for 35, 40 years,” he explains.


Dave Friesen, a young officer with crew cut, sits on the hood of an RCMP jeep that is in water that comes halfway up its wheels
Dave Friesen at his first RCMP post in Cardston, Alta., taken around 1950. Photo courtesy of the Friesen family


Friesen’s daughter Shannon, who grew up in remote northern communities has similar recollections.

“The church was the lord and master of the community. They were the law. They decided what did and did not happen in the community,” she says.

So great was the church’s influence, that Friesen deliberately avoided attending services because he didn’t want local Indigenous people to associate him with it.

From the outside, Lower Post looked like any other school: a modest rectangular-shaped brick building with stark white paint. But inside, children faced abuse and ill treatment.

At the time, over 100 Indigenous students attended, coming from 40 different communities across the Yukon and northern B.C. The area was home to Kaska Dena, an Athabascan-speaking ethnolinguistic First Nations group made up of five local bands.

Friesen had no way of knowing that abuse within residential schools was a Canada-wide issue at that time, but he was suspicious of one of the school’s employees, who he believed was a predator.



Ben Garand

The employee was 34-year-old Ben Garand, a lay brother who was the boys’ supervisor. As Friesen acquainted himself with the community, he caught wind of Garand’s disreputable reputation. Unsavoury rumours had led locals to nickname him “Backdoor Benny,” and, Friesen noted, he was almost always in the company of Indigenous boys, offering them rides in his Plymouth. 

Friesen trailed Garand in his cruiser, monitoring all his activities, and for a while he was never able to charge him with anything. Opportunity came when he observed Garand leave the local liquor store with a few Indigenous boys in his car and head out on the highway towards his cottage in northern B.C.

Friesen followed them, planning to charge Garand for transporting alcohol across a provincial boundary. When he arrived at the cottage, he found Garand and four Indigenous boys with multiple bottles of liquor, and alcohol-related charges were laid against Garand.

In the days that followed, he interviewed the boys. Most of them were reluctant to talk, all save one, who recounted enough information for Friesen to lay a charge of indecent assault against Garand.

Friesen expanded his investigation, interviewing more than 30 students at the school. Many confirmed the rumours that Garand would often assault young boys at his cottage.



Once he had gathered enough information, he paid a visit to Father Yvon Levaque, principal of the school, to discuss the investigation. Friesen expected him to be sympathetic to his cause, but says that much to his surprise, Levaque admitted he’d known about the sexual abuse all along, but instead of reporting Garand to the police, the school had decided to fire him and keep things quiet.

“I wanted to protect the church and the school,” said Levaque, according to Mr. Friesen’s recollection.

Friesen was furious and stormed out of the school.

“That was my only interview with Father Levaque,” he says.

From that point forward, whenever Garand was released on bail, Friesen would charge him and lock him up again. By 1958, Garand had four counts of indecent assault against him.

A trial to convict Garand of sexual abuse was scheduled in Prince Rupert, B.C., for Dec. 9, 1958. The boys Friesen had found in the cabin planned to testify. Friesen and the Crown both thought there was a solid case against Garand, but the boys suddenly and inexplicably retracted their testimonies and the case was closed.

“One after the other, they went up to the stand and wouldn’t testify,” Friesen remembers.

Even more puzzling to Friesen was the fact that none of the boys’ parents would talk either. He began to suspect that Levaque or someone else at the school had threatened them to keep them quiet, but he was never able to prove it.

“A lot of people, they just turned a blind eye without a second thought,” Shannon recalls. But with her father, “it was eating him up and it bothered him for years.”



Memories follow as Friesen moves on

Friesen and his family eventually left Watson Lake and served in many different Arctic communities, including Coppermine, Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith, but he never forgot the boys and the case continued to haunt him. He maintained a mistrust of church officials whenever they interacted with local Indigenous groups. 

He remembers one incident in particular, in 1964, where three Indigenous boys escaped while being transferred to the Missionary of Holman Island in the Northwest Territories. Friesen was asked to find them, but he wanted no part in it and asked the church to send them home to their families.

“I said the best thing you can do is to get a hold of the diocese in Inuvik, charter a plane and pick the boys up and send them back,” he remembers.

In the end, the boys never returned to the school.

While living in Coppermine, N.W.T. — now called Kugluktuk —  he found out that the local Anglican church was bribing Indigenous children by offering them skates in exchange for attending religious services. Friesen appealed to his friends in Manitoba and his brother-in-law in Saskatchewan to help him procure hockey equipment and he built his own rink, so the Indigenous children could skate without the pressure of religious assimilation.


Dave Friesen, an RCMP officer with short, dark hair, chats on the phone while seated at a desk
Dave Friesen during his posting in Yellowknife.
Photo courtesy of the Friesen family


Friesen and his family had a special relationship with local Inuit people.

“We would walk into a tent and they’d feed us and they’d entertain us,” Shannon says. “They’d tell us all these spiritual stories. They’re very spiritual people and you could feel it. They have this intuition built into them.”

Shannon recalls that her father would often be gone for weeks at a time, journeying across the Arctic by dog sled to police remote communities, and that the shaman, whose name was James, always knew when he was about to return.

“He’d stand on the beach and I’d say, ‘Dad’s coming!’ He knew and within an hour you’d see dad’s dog sled,” she says.

Friesen retired in 1973 and moved to the Cowley area shortly after, putting down roots at a farm in the Porcupine Hills, which he affectionately named Dunmovin.



An opportunity for justice

He never expected to revisit Garand’s case, but in December 1995, just before Christmas, he opened the Calgary Herald, only to find out that a lawyer from Whitehorse had launched a lawsuit on behalf of 12 Indigenous men who had attended the school in their youth. The lawyer was appealing for help to locate the documents of the original investigation.

Friesen contacted the lawyer and informed him to communicate with the Watson Lake RCMP in order to find the investigation documents. The RCMP responded to the lawyer within hours, and told him they already had a substantial file on Garand.

Const. Paul Richards, who was stationed in Watson Lake, told Friesen that two people had come forward in the early 1990s, naming Garand and another man — George Maczynski, who had taught at the school prior to Friesen’s arrival — as sexual offenders.

The two men were charged and a trial was scheduled in Terrace, B.C., in December 1995. Maczynski was sentenced to 17 years in prison for 28 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency, among many charges. Garand died of illness while imprisoned at Mountain Institution Penitentiary, and never faced trial.

While news of Garand’s death provided Friesen with little satisfaction, the lawsuit went ahead. The 12 Lower Post survivors sued the government, the church, Levaque, Garand and others for the abuse they faced, and the evidence that Friesen had meticulously compiled proved instrumental in the case.

It was one of the earliest known residential school lawsuits in Canadian history and the survivors were henceforth known as the Trailblazers.



It wasn’t until last year, however, that Mr. Friesen found out why the boys had withheld their testimonies. Patrick White, a journalist for the Globe and Mail who investigated the court case, found that the boys were told that if they took the stand, their lives would be threatened.

The Lower Post Indian Residential School ceased operation in 1975, after which it became a community administration building, but it was only last year that the Kaska Nation began its journey to healing.

Harlan Schilling, deputy chief of the Daylu Dena council, oversaw the demolition of the building in a ceremony last summer. The community has plans to build a new space on the grounds — a multi-use facility where locals can enjoy Indigenous cultural activities like beading, traditional storytelling and tea with the elders, and where survivors can heal and youth can learn the history of their people.

Kaska First Nation gave the local RCMP gifts of beaded orange-and-black tags that read Dene Ts’i-Négedī Koą, meaning “Helping People Build.” It replaced Kaska’s former pejorative for the RCMP, which was “takers of children.”

This message was restated on the certificate of appreciation the MD council gave to Mr. Friesen. 

“Yours was one of the first steps to take us from where we were, to where we stand today, and will not be forgotten,” it read. “We have moved from ‘takers of children’ to ‘Helping People Build,’ because of individuals such as yourself. Well done sir.”


Dave Friesen, senior male in wheelchair, accepting a certificate from Harold Hollingshead, grey-haired man in turquoise plaid shirt and jeans, and Rick Lemire, bald man with grey beard, dressed in a grey shirt and khaki pants.
MD of Pincher Creek councillor Harold Hollingshead, left, and Reeve Rick Lemire present a certificate of appreciation to David Friesen in council chambers on April 12, 2022.
Photo courtesy of the Friesen family


Editor’s note: Dave Friesen passed away June 10, 2022, three weeks after this article was published. View obituary.

He was also posthumously awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in December 2022. Read article.

This article was first published in the May 18 issue of Shootin’ the Breeze.






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

Dave Friesen first investigated residential school in 1950s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

Friesen helped where and when he could.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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





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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 and connection links

Grey rocks/gravel

Alberta Rocks gravel pit rezoning approved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Public hearing focuses on proposed gravel pit



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

Box of grocery items with sign indicating food donations

Legion food hampers fill holiday need


Pincher Creek’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 ran a successful Christmas hamper project this past holiday season. The project has grown into a long-standing tradition of the Legion, one that has supported many households since its inaugural year.

The Christmas hampers are intended to assist local families who struggle with food insecurity, providing enough food to ideally last families the entirety of the Christmas holidays. Any leftover food that remained after the project was organized and taken to the Pincher Creek and District Food Centre to assist locals in the future.

With the help of many local organizations and selfless individuals, the Legion was able to put together and hand out about 100 food hampers to families within the town and MD of Pincher Creek who had previously signed up.

“We had a lot of support from many of the service clubs and various organizations and it made for a tremendous number of volunteers this year — it was amazing to see,” says Maggie Christians, president of Legion Branch 43.



On top of numerous individual volunteers, the Legion received help from several notable entities such as the Pincher Creek women’s shelter, the area 4-H clubs, Napi Friendship Association, the local Lions clubs, the Pincher Creek food centre and many more wonderful groups looking to support the community.

Maggie not only expressed tremendous gratitude to all those who contributed to the project, but furthermore expressed the value of giving such support to the community.

“It always means something when you can help others and this year we had a lot of great  people help. It means a lot to not only the people receiving hampers but to everybody that helped out,” she says.

“It’s just simply a good thing and to do this always feels good. It worked out really well this year.”





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Man wearing black clothes and toque points out a location beside a red stone building with a blue door

More EV chargers for Pincher Creek

A climate change initiative is set to deliver electric vehicle chargers to Pincher Creek, the outlying municipal district and Castle Mountain Resort.

The project combines funding from the SouthGrowth Regional Initiative, a non-profit economic development organization based in Lethbridge, and Enel Green Power, which operates Pincher Creek’s Castle Ridge wind farm, according to Tristan Walker, energy project lead for the town and MD. 

The town will install a public EV charger on the northeast corner of the Pincher Creek Spray Park at 1020 Robertson Ave., where batteries can be topped up at an estimated cost of between $2 and $5 per hour. The charger will fit any EV, with a special adapter required for Teslas, Walker said.

The spray park was selected for its easy accessibility and for the average length of stay at the nearby multipurpose facility, which includes the town’s swimming pool, library and Memorial Community Centre Arena. An hour’s worth of juice will fuel most EVs for between 50 and 75 kilometres.

Town hall hopes that the added boost will ease EV drivers’ “range anxiety,” especially as they travel between regional swim meets and hockey tournaments.

Two more EV chargers are destined for the MD administration building and work yard at 1037 Herron Ave. One will be installed for public use in front of the main office, with the second dedicated to the MD’s vehicle fleet, which doesn’t currently operate EVs.

“The MD is looking at bringing in electric vehicles within the next one to five years,” Walker said last week.

All four chargers will run off the province’s energy grid, drawing electricity powered by coal, natural gas, wind and solar energy. 

“You’re going to propel an electric vehicle much further, using much less energy, regardless of where that energy is coming from,” Walker said, contrasting EVs’ 80 per cent fuel efficiency with the internal combustion engine’s 36 per cent. As an added benefit, EVs don’t emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. 

All four EV chargers are due for installation in early 2023, according to Walker.

Nov. 2, 2022


Grey rocks/gravel

Public hearing focuses on proposed gravel pit

The seating area of the MD of Pincher Creek council chamber was filled Oct. 25 for the scheduled public hearing of a requested land rezoning that would allow the development and operation of a gravel pit.

The applicant, Craig Anderson of Alberta Rocks Ltd., is proposing to change the current property designation from agriculture to direct control, a unique designation that would require any future changes outside the initial application to return to council for approval. The applicant would also have no opportunity to appeal council’s decisions.

Alberta Rocks already manages an operating pit farther east along Highway 3. An initial application for the gravel pit was denied back in 2020 by the previous council.

The proposed gravel pit would be for an extraction operation only, with no crushing or processing occurring on-site. No retail sales, buildings or bulk fuel storage tanks would be on-site either.

The pit would be located near the Villa Vega Acres subdivision, with two residences about 300 metres away due north and 700 metres west of the proposed location. Alberta Rocks plans to build well-vegetated berms to block view of the gravel pit from the subdivision.

“The majority of houses are about eight- [or] nine-metre drops,” said Anderson. “So they’re quite a bit below as far as trees being a sound buffer, the distance being a sound buffer, the dust and everything.”

“As far as dust being controlled,” he added, “we’re just asking to extract it and process it at our pit that is existing. We have been at our existing pit for 15 years with no complaints from the neighbours. The water’s there, we’ve dealt with that, and never had an issue. All our neighbours [at the existing pit] do support us moving forward.”

Rick Tassen, a family friend of the Andersons and an Alberta Rocks customer, said concerns surrounding residents’ water supply were being taken seriously by the company but the depth to which the pit would be dug is well above the local aquifer.

“The issue of the aquifer below came up lots, and it should,” Tassen said. “Test holes were dug at the site and went down to a depth of six metres with no indication of water.”

Reclamation would be an ongoing process, Anderson added, and because the company would not be crushing gravel on-site the increase in traffic to and from the pit would be minimal.

“We only sell so much product a year as well, so we don’t need to move [a lot] — just like why we’re only going to open it up so much at a time,” he said.

“Because we’re not crushing there, we don’t need to open the whole pit up and have stockpiles there. We can open it up a chunk at a time, haul it down and reclaim.”

Many of those who spoke at the public hearing, however, said plans in the proposal did not address their concerns, particularly that the pit’s operations would affect the quality of life for residents in Villa Vega.

“If you can just imagine the NAPA building down the street a couple blocks [from the MD building], that’s how far this gravel pit is proposed to be from our home,” said Randy Baker.

“It’s the size of six football fields. It’s three times bigger than our lot. It’s not a pretty thing to look at — we all know what gravel pits look like. You’re asking us to look at it for the next 15, 20 or 30 years, which is honestly the rest of my life.”

“It’s just not right now for them to come back and look to take more money out of that property at the expense of the neighbours who have already given good money to be there,” he added.

Other residents were not satisfied with the reassurances that the water aquifer would be safe from risks of contamination.

“If there’s any contamination that gets in the water, into our drinking water, or gets into the Crowsnest River — you think you’d have problems with the residents if we smelled diesel fuel in our water?” asked Greg Townsend.

“Wait till Alberta Environment and Federal Fisheries get their hands on you — you’ll be paying that back regardless of costs. And it won’t just be you, the municipality. It will be the taxpayers. It’s us. It’s not you, it’s us.”

The pit’s proximity to the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 507, Townsend continued, is also a major safety concern since 12 intersections exist in the 2.1 kilometres between the pit and the junction.

“In this tiny little block we already have a busy little area where traffic is going, I think that the municipality needs to look at the dangers associated with that road,” Townsend said.

“And I don’t think the solution for a safety concern is to add gravel trucks into the mix a minimum of eight hours a day and five days a week.”

The denial of a previous application for the pit should be enough precedent for the current council to determine the proposal is inappropriate for the location, he added.

“I also find this entire process to be aggravating, frustrating and really unnecessary, given the previous application was turned down unanimously,” said Townsend.

“The current proposal is equally unjustifiable. The changes this time are minor, and our litany of concerns last time are not mentioned, never mind addressed. But here we are.”

It is anticipated council will vote on the proposed rezoning at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22, 6 p.m. in council chambers.


Male youth pins poppy to Remembrance Day cross held by female youth, while another male youth stands at attention, on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 9, 2022

We will remember them

Peter Van Bussel and Abigail Rigaux receive a poppy from Walker Anderson at the MHHS Remembrance Day assembly in Pincher Creek.

Smiling woman displays homemade pie at auction

Rooted in colourful past, good times endure at Maycroft

Eighty-four years ago, back in 1938, the good people in and around the Maycroft area decided to build themselves a hall. In typical old-fashioned country tradition, land was donated by George Heaton, lumber came from a sawmill on the Dennis Ranch and hardware (building supplies) came from Art Densmore’s Lundbreck Trading.

Pretty much everyone north of Lundbreck and Cowley pitched in every chance they could to make it happen and, true to fashion, they did.

The hall had its first concert in 1939, and used to hold three or four concerts a year. The kids from nearby Maycroft School also held their Christmas concerts there.

According to longtime supporter Ida Dennis, in the early days the ranchers used to sort their cows (sometimes 800-plus) in the fall at the hall area until corrals were built in the Gap.

The whole idea of events at the hall was always to support the Christmas concert and to maintain and improve the place.

Ida says, “They also put on dances where the ladies made a special lunch box, which would then be auctioned off. The one who brought the most money usually had a bottle of beer in it! The buyer would share the lunch with the lady who made it.”

A few additions have been made over the years. In the early days there was a wood stove to make coffee on, and lighting was with Coleman gas lamps until they got electricity in 1960.

For the longest time, Ida says, there was no bar inside and the dances were known to get pretty rough, with lots of “fightin’ and drinkin’ outside.” Apparently local residents would appear in the afternoon and hide their bottles in gopher holes for later in the evening, “so they could step out with a buddy for a little snort.”

Ida recalls that some of the gals would sneak out and move the bottles to different holes just to see the cowboys’ reaction.

Kathy Rast, organizer of the annual fundraiser for Maycroft Hall, says there used to be spring and fall dances, which eventually morphed into the more popular annual supper and concert. This has been going on since 2010 and it is just an awful lot of fun, which includes their now famous pie auctions.

Last Saturday, Maycroft Hall rolled out the carpet for area residents to dine and dance, and to support the hall by getting into crazy bidding wars for specialty pies created for the event.

Through the years, Kathy says, they have raised $64,252.58 with the pie and roast auctions. With this kind of support, the hall committee has replaced the hardwood dance floor and has installed new siding (inside and out), new windows in the entire hall, hot water on demand, natural gas hookups and, recently, Wi-Fi connections.

This year the auction was zany as usual, with auctioneer Dylan Bates skilfully extracting over $2,600 from the pockets of the always-supportive locals. The standing record at the hall is $2,100 paid for one pie some years ago, which was bought and re-donated several times.

Kids trick or treating in lion costumes – one roaring and one smiling on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 2, 2022

Lion’s share of fun

Ames and Miles were spotted enjoying Spooky Town and the great weather Saturday at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.

Women dressed in costumes representing the four seasons

Spooky Town delights families

Spooky Town delights families every Halloween.

The event takes place at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek and welcomes children of all ages to trick-or-treat on the museum grounds. Local businesses and non-profit groups, as well as the town and MD, are invited to participate and man the different stations.

Those adventuresome enough could also test their mettle by touring the BooBerry House and the Haunted Barn, both expertly prepared by KBPV staff.



Four Seasons from the Pincher Creek Family Centre – Leason, Amanda, Jacqui and Colette

Four Seasons from the Pincher Creek Family Centre – Leason, Amanda, Jacqui and Colette

Everett to the resuce

Everett to the resuce

Ames and Miles

Ames and Miles

Meghan, Mae And Claire

Meghan, Mae And Claire

Vision Credit Union

Vision Credit Union



Delilah and Brianna

Delilah and Brianna





Curling rock with red handle is pushed with a stick in a game of sturling

Pincher Creek celebrated as Alberta’s sturling hotbed

It’s official — Pincher Creek is the sturling capital of Alberta.

“What is sturling?” you may ask. Invented in Didsbury, Alta., in 1998, the sport is much like the game of curling.

The biggest difference between the sports is that, in sturling, rocks are delivered with sticks or sliding, rather than exclusively sliding when curling. Other differences include sturling teams made up of two players instead of four, and games taking only one hour to complete compared to curling’s three.

Garry Cleland, Pincher Creek’s director of sturling, helped introduce the sport to the community in 2017. What began as a group of four members — Garry and his wife, Ruth, his cousins Dennis and Mel Cleland — has now turned into 58, with more on the way.

“It’s opened the game to a whole new group of people,” Garry says, adding that individuals of all abilities can play.

Garry recently reached out to Curling Alberta to inquire about how many sturling members other communities had. He was informed that Curling Alberta does not keep track of sturling statistics, but that the sport’s inventor, Carson Schultz, had all of the numbers available.

After contacting Carson, Garry found out that only one community had more members than Pincher Creek — Red Deer, with 60. However, with Red Deer’s population at just above 100,000 and Pincher Creek’s sitting below 7,000 with town and MD combined, our community has far and away the most sturlers per capita, making it the sturling capital of Alberta.

“It’s been getting very, very popular,” Garry says of the sport.