Sunday, 30 November 2008

More logging in Crowsnest Pass

Once again many residents of Crowsnest Pass and area are very concerned about logging operations to be carried out by the Spray Lakes corporation in the Allison Creek area. Just to remind you Spray Lakes bought out the Atlas sawmill operation, located just west of Coleman, a few years back. Their only reason for the purchase was to acquire timber rights. Atlas mill was closed and any logs harvested in the area by Spray Lakes are processed in Cochrane or other places.
Their proposal this time is to log the Allison Creek valley from the forest reserve boundary up past the Window mountain area. This picture shows the lower portion of the clear cut area.

They are proposing to log the valley on both sides of Allison Creek, a major tributary to the blue ribbon trout stream Crowsnest River, leaving a minimal buffer (3o metres and less) along the creek and no buffer along the road. At the far right of the above picture is the very bottom of Crowsnest Mountain which will also be seeing some clear cutting in Spray Lakes plan. Crowsnest Mountain is the Pass's most recognizable and important icon. Likely one of the most photographed mountains in the Rockies.
People's concerns range from protection of the headwaters of the Oldman River basin to the impact the scarring created by the clear cut will have on the recreation and tourism industry of the scenic Crowsnest Pass. Another area resident, David McIntyre, has other concerns regarding rare and endangered tree species that make their home in this forest. You can view his letter to Pass council by clicking here (please hit your browser's back button to return to this page). All of the opinions expressed by a great many people here and across the province are valid, legitimate concerns and deserve to be addressed.

Another concern that has not really been raised is the impact of this logging on our elk herds. In this earlier post I talked about our need to protect land important to wildlife for corridors and winter range. Much of the land west of Coleman is very significant to elk for winter forage. Just as important, though, is the forests those elk wintering here need for cover and warmth. Thick forests generate a great deal of heat and for elk to survive cold winters they need that energy. The main reason we have the healthy elk herds now that didn't exist fourty to eighty years ago is the healthy forest that protects them.

One has to wonder why, when the logging industry is shut down all across the west and there is a glut of timber on the market, Spray Lakes is planning on cutting trees here? In this depressed lumber market how can the company afford to cut trees here in Crowsnest Pass and truck them to Cochrane for processing? Or is their plan to cut our trees and ship them to the U.S. to take advantage of our low Canadian dollar? What benefit can possibly come to the people of Crowsnest Pass? What are we likely to lose?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


I started this blog quite some time ago to help build a positive reputation for Crowsnest Pass and to showcase and highlight at least some of the unlimited positive aspects of what our small area can offer to those whom would consider making our home their home. I enjoyed doing it. I had fun getting out taking pictures, preparing them, and presenting them here. I enjoyed writing my thoughts about our community, our municipality, or other things I feel passionate about but as many have noted there has not been a whole lot of blogging from me in the past number of months. It is extremely difficult to be positive in a sphere of negativity. It was hard not to get sucked into what others have started so I left the blog alone. Many of the thoughts I wanted to write down remained unsaid and for the most part that was a good thing. My father would tell me again and again "If you have nothing good to say, say nothing". It is too bad I learned way to late that almost all of my father's advice was damn good advice and I should of been heeding it since I was a teen. Ah well, anyway, here we are.

I am surprised at the number of comments left at my last post. Many from anonymous posters. When the first couple showed up I almost deleted them, thinking if person has to hide behind the title of anonymity he should not get a forum here to express his or her views and thought that may be a bit cowardly should someone want to condemn me for my beliefs or actions. Now I see Randall Whiteside would like me to delete the whole bunch of them. I won't do that. What one sees in these comments is what negativity and the politics of polarization spawns. No, I will not delete them. They will be left here for those who want to foster the polarization of our community to see how ugly negativity and polarization is and hopefully it will remind them that no good has come from the atmosphere that was created this past year over our community centre. I will however delete any comments left in that thread from here on out. In the future I will moderate all comments that condemn private individuals for their beliefs.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Voter Distrust

On Sept. 5 the Calgary Herald published a story on recent polling telling us the public distrusts the various levels of government to do the right thing. Recent events in the Crowsnest Pass show that distrust is well justified.Council played games with the fate of the Crowsnest Centre to the point of frustrating enough people to sign a petition demanding council to bring to a plebiscite a bylaw "That the municipality of Crowsnest Pass ensure the continuing existence and operation of Crowsnest Centre property (Plan 731227, Block H, containing 3.51 hectares), be used for public and community purposes as a community and learning centre and for providing other municipal services". The right thing for council to do would have been to do what 600 or so voters in the Crowsnest Pass asked council to do in their petition.

Council, unfortunately, chose to ignore the rights of the citizens to petition their government to simply bring to a public vote a question on a bylaw as they wanted to see put in place. Council instead chose to make amendments to the requested bylaw that would ensure the defeat of the petioners' bylaw by placing unrealistic demands on the municipality's 2009 budget.

Is it any wonder that 51% of the people distrust their local government?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Summer in Crowsnest Pass

Summer in the Pass is a time to enjoy life by jumping into a cold, clear mountain stream.

It's time to stop in at the Crowsnest Cafe and Fly Shop for coffee. Order breakfast, or lunch from Susan's unique menu. Get the latest fishing information. Get your flies and other gear, and maybe even book a guided trip with the best dry fly fisherman in the Pass, Kirby, or a float trip with Alan Brice of Alberta Fly Fishing Adventures.Summer in the Pass brings Rum Runner Days. This year Bridgecreek Development Corp. opened their new sales centre and show suites for their River Run Development to coincide with the annual event. They also used the occasion to help out our local food bank. The company donated all the burgers and pop and helped food bank volunteers prepare and sell the burgers. The food bank made over $1700 by selling burgers and a pop to the Rum Runner crowd for $3 dollars each.Summer in the Pass is Thunder in the Valley time. The magnificent fireworks display put on by our local firemen. This show brings people from all over Western Canada to our municipality. Estimates of visitors for Rum Runner weekend range from 30,000 to 40,000 people year to year and Thunder is the event that brings them here. The Blairmore Volunteer Firefighters have done a great job with our entertainment event of the year.

Of course even with all the wonderful things to do in Crowsnest Pass in the summer local politics does not take a rest. It is interesting as usual. This summer maybe even more so....but more on that later. Oh and don't forget August 1st t0 4th weekend is our annual heritage and culture festival, Doors Open. Make sure you make it down here for this fun weekend celebrating the Pass's unique history and culture

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Health Care in Crowsnest Pass, Deloitte Report

The release of the Deloitte report and comments by the Minister of Health a couple of weeks ago regarding the delivery of health care in rural Alberta caused quite a stir here in Crowsnest Pass as well as across the province. There were recommendations in the report to turn some rural hospitals into clinics. Effectively closing those hospitals. Looking through the Deloitte study on the Chinook Health Region (which the province has disbanded) it is seen that while there are some concerns regarding the delivery of health care here, there are no recommendations to change the status of our hospital.

The report projects a population increase to 12,000 people and points out some areas of concern. Future staffing seems to be the biggest problem, with some doctors reaching retirement. It also points out that there is an opportunity to increase surgical volumes. Recruitment of physicians was the responsibility of the now defunct health board. Where that responsibility now lies is unclear. It is very clear however that we (as a community and municipality) need to protect the future of our hospital. As such we may have a role to play in the recruitment of the physicians (and other staff) needed to properly staff our hospital.

An ad hoc committee was set up last year by concerned citizens to deal with the problems in the delivery of health services here in the Pass. Should that committee be looking into the recruitment problem? Are they the right vehicle to engage our current medical personnel in finding solutions? What should the municipality be doing? Is it time we thought about incentives to attract the needed doctors? The best start, I am sure, is to reactivate that adhoc committee.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Crowsnest Pass Relay for Life

One has to admire people's commitment to causes they feel passionate about. Last night the crusade to end cancer manifested itself , here, in the marathon walk called Relay for Life. Relay teams garnered monetary pledges for their commitment to walk in relays through out the night and what a night they had. Cold, rain, lightning, and even hail insured no team member had an "easy walk in the park". No matter what the night threw at them, though, they continued all night long to meet their fund raising goal. They and all the volunteers needed to facilitate the event deserve all of our thanks.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Province To Close Rural Hospitals?

It appears the provincial government is getting prepared to close hospitals in rural Alberta as the Calgary Herald reported yesterday. They are looking at turning them into long term care facilities and walk in clinics. Shawn Patience, mayor of Fort Macleod, is completely correct when he stated for the article, "If they're looking at closing more rural hospitals, that's not the way to provide proper health care in the province of Alberta". Fort Macleod lost their hospital in spite of the fact the town was home to then cabinet minister, Dave Coutts. Mayor Patience knows the negative effect a hospital closure has on our small communities.

One of our greatest assets here in Crowsnest Pass, as in other smaller towns, is our hospital. We can ill afford to lose it. Now, nothing in the article stated that our hospital was on the chopping block but I don't believe we can sit back and wait to see what the province's plans are before we act in the best interests of our community ensuring the continuing operation of our hospital as a hospital. Neither does our mayor. Right after reading the article yesterday afternoon, Dr. Irwin began his lobbying efforts on behalf of our hospital. Individual lobbying is a great start but I don't believe we can count on that alone. We have seen what happened in Dave Coutts' home town.

As this short sighted direction in health care affects all people in small town Alberta it is going to require a province wide effort to force the provincial government to reconsider what they are about to do in rural Alberta. Each and every town in this province is going to have to stand side by side in opposition to this regressive proposal. Each PC constituency association had better be exploring their options as they relate to getting their parties' elected officials on track with the needs of rural Alberta. Any action is going to have start quickly to insure the health and safety of rural Albertans.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Turtle and More

Council did come up with a land use bylaw regarding the area that could be affected by a potential second slide of Turtle mountain. The bylaw puts the area in direct control of council and allows homes to be rebuilt and repaired. The bylaw also allows for the building of garages, garden sheds and similar structures that do not add to the density of the area. While the bylaw allows residents of the area to make application for a new home to be built (according to zoning in place in November of 2007) it does not allow for subdivision. The bylaw that was finally passed was based on a collaborative effort of affected residents and council.

Pictured is the south peak of Turtle that the AEUB tells us will fall some day. AEUB has sophisticated monitoring equipment on the mountain and tell us they will be able to give us 4 weeks advance notice of a slide, unless such slide is triggered by an earthquake. Fortunately we are not prone to earth quakes here in Crowsnest Pass (another good reason to live in the Pass) so it seems unlikely a quake will trigger a second slide of this mountain.

It has been awhile since I have posted anything here so I will report belatedly on few happenings of the past couple of months. Council did finally pass a budget late in April, including the Crowsnest Centre's budget request, and set a mil rate of just below 8 with an eleven percent tax increase. While the centre's budget passed the majority of council is still pursuing the closure of the facility. As a result the people started a petition requesting a plebiscite on a bylaw that would ensure the centre be used for the provision of municipal services and an educational facility. The petition has acquired the signatures needed and administration is in the process of verifying signatures. The petition will likely be presented to council at our next regular meeting.
Council does not appear to be wholly supportive of the idea of the transfer of development credits but seems to support the idea of using money coming from the development of potentially obtainable land from ASRD to protect land that is significantly more important for wildlife habitat.

Mayor John Irwin, our CAO Gord Lundy, and I attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention held in Quebec City this year. Much of the talk and plenary sessions this year revolved around funding for infrastructure, the infrastructure deficit of 123 billion dollars and who should best fund the cost of upgrading and repairs. We heard good speeches regarding this issue from Jack Layton and Stephane Dion. Unfortunately the Prime Minister did not attend this year's FCM, sending instead his minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to speak for his party. Jack Layton and Dion both did a good job of handling questions from the assembled municipal leaders but the minister responsible for infrastructure, Lawrence Cannon, refused to answer questions from the floor. Of course one of the benefits of attending these conventions is the opportunity to get some one on one time with people with influence as is pictured here. John putting our communities interests forward to the Honourable Ray Danyluk, Alberta's Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Finally those of you who watch blogs about municipal interests may recognize this hard working councillor from Grande Prairie discussing municipal problems with a colleague as he is waiting to hear Stephan Dion speak.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Transfer of Development Credits

In an earlier post I talked about our twin needs of allowing growth and protecting important wildlife habitat. Not an easy accomplishment particularly since one need contradicts the other. To this end I met with Guy Greenaway and Kim Good of the Miistakis Institute to talk about the transfer of development credits as a way of insuring private landowners do not have the priviledge of devolping their land taken away from them without replacing it somewhere else that development can be undertaken in less sensitive areas.

At my request our CAO has invited Guy and Kim to make a presentation to council on the transfer of development credits. After a number of tentative dates fell apart due to illness and other factors Guy let us know this past week that he would be able to attend tonight's (Tuesday May 13th) council committee of the whole meeting to make a presentation. I am sure all that are interested in development and or conservation in Crowsnest Pass would find tonight's presentation at council interesting and thought provoking. The meeting again is tonight, May 13 7:00PM, at council chambers.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Centre of Debate

A few weeks back council passed a motion to approve this year's budget temporarily excluding the Crowsnest Centre's grant request excepting an allowance of $25,000. A far cry from the $105,000 grant needed to insure continued operation of the facility. In the ensuing debate I argued the motion was nothing more than a subversive attempt to shut the Crowsnest Centre down, to shut it down without having to make the motion to accomplish that feat in an upfront and honest manner.

At our last regular council meeting administration brought to council the outstanding request of the Centre and some repairs that should be done to the building. My motion to approve the grant request of $105,000 agreed to by the budget committee (all of council) on January 15th was defeated by a 4 to 3 vote. Councilors Ward, Cole, Macleod, and Salus voting against. In favour of the motion was myself, Councilor Mitchell, and Mayor Irwin. As council was informed that the centre was critically short of cash it was painfully obvious there was a plan to force the centre into bankruptcy. After the defeat of that motion I made another that council explore the feasibility of replacing the old part of the centre with a new building to be added to the newer part of the centre. The purpose of the motion was to insure some planning take place for the future provision of municipally important services from that site and further that there is no disruption in the provision of services from that facility. Council passed the motion 5 to 2 Councilor's Ward and Cole voting against. So council does have a vision for the future. All we need now is to handle the present in a fashion that brings us to that vision.

Let's make no mistakes. Shutting the facility down or forcing it into bankruptcy will not bring that collective vision to reality. Council will have another chance, when the milrate is set on Thursday, to do the responsible thing. I believe they will take that opportunity. I don't believe any councilor would vote to send our post secondary institution back to Lethbridge.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

The first question is very easy to answer. The second quite a bit tougher but they could well be intricately joined. Our Heritage Initiative, an umbrella organization comprised of representatives from the Crowsnest Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Crowsnest Pass, the Crowsnest Historical Society, Bellevue Underground Mine, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, the Municipality, Coleman Community Society, and the Bellecrest Association, has been working on initiatives for a decade now to create a future for the Pass by building on our past.

The organization, co-chaired by Fred Bradley and Shar Lazzarotto, has been successful in establishing a heritage route through the Pass complete with route signage. The logo above will identify the route and will also be visible on all highway signage directing traffic in Crowsnest Pass. The program to encourage tourists to"Discover Crowsnest Heritage" is no small accomplishment and will be the envy of many other towns in the province. The organization deserves a pat on the back and could sit back for a bit and revel in this accomplishment but knowing much more has to be done held a workshop Saturday in Historic Downtown Coleman (Parks Canada has designated it a National Heritage Site) to explore ways to capitalize on this project and to determine the steps needed to fulfill our desire in revitalizing Crowsnest Pass through the promotion of our heritage.

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day here and would have been a great day spent in the pursuit of the trout that make their home in the Crowsnest River but I am glad I resisted their call and spent it enjoying the excellent presentations and listening to the innovative ideas and suggestions articulated by participants and presenters alike. Aside from the workshop session the highlights had to be the presentations by Randal Macnair Mayor of Fernie, Ted Stilson of Lethbridge Business Redevelopment Zones, and Daryl Cariou Senior Heritage Planner of Calgary. They amazed everyone, I am sure, with what can be accomplished with vision, committment, and investment. We would do well to aspire to what they have achieved in their respective jurisdictions.

We will not get there by following past practices. We will not get there by repeating past mistakes created by our desire to climb out of recession by accepting any proposal that brought minimal investment dollars into our community. The investment community is looking at Crowsnest Pass. It is time we put in the bylaws, procedures, planning, and protocols to insure those investment dollars are used to rebuild our Pass in manner that showcases our uniqueness.
Main street in Crowsnest Pass's National Historic Site

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Land Use in Crowsnest Pass

Area pictured below is going to be at the epicentre of land use debate in Crowsnest Pass.
Past council was defined by opening the door to development and growth in Crowsnest Pass. Our current council will be defined by how well we prepare for the future of our home and how well we manage and control the growth and development of this beautiful and important corridor through the Rockies. Pass residents, council, and the different local stakeholders have to be very cognizant of the fact many diverse interests have their eye on this last mountain pass through the Rockies in Alberta that is not a national park. It is critical we do things right.

The area pictured has been named the "West Block" by conservation groups. They have determined it is critical for the north south movement of large ungulates and large carnivores. Most Pass residents know it is a significant corridor and important winter range for elk herds. The area is also some of our most desirable developable lands. In an earlier post on Sawback Ridge I talked of how much land would be needed to the accommodate the number of country residential residences that the higher density Sawbuck ridge provided for. One quarter of the flatter open land pictured could have been lost to provide a couple hundred homes. Here, then, is the conundrum. How do we allow for growth yet protect critical wildlife habitat?

Our municipality, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and Community Futures Crowsnest Pass recognized the need to work together in finding answers to that question and commissioned the Miistakis Institute to develop a tool that would assist us in that process. (I am trying to acquire the power point presentation explaining the development of the software to post here) In a nutshell the tool is a compilation of data that is important to development and conservation considerations. It can not be used on a case by case basis as the output is determined by priorities inputted by the operator of the software. It is to be used as a consensus building aid to determine the values the community feels to be important in determining the future of our home.

The municipality has endorsed the creation of an adhoc committee co-chaired by myself and Larry Simpson of the Nature Conservancy to develop, with the help of this mapping tool, a vision or visions for the future development of the Pass. The committee is a very diverse group of individuals. It is comprised of conservationists, environmentalists, land owners, industrialists, and individuals working for affected government agencies. To assist the committee are a number experts in fields relating to development and conservation issues. The committee did meet a number of times last year until logistical problems arose that needed clarifying and correction. With those problems being taken care of our group will be getting back to work in the coming weeks.

The committee's work will be brought to the people of Crowsnest Pass for their consideration and input. This process should enable us to determine a collective vision that will form the basis for a new municipal development plan.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The New Three Rs

Seemingly forever the three Rs were reading, writing, and arithmetic. Well that has certainly changed. We have been using the new three Rs for quite some time now. Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle. Here in Crowsnest Pass we are going to be hearing them much more for the next few years. Alberta Environment has a plan to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills to a limit of 500 kilograms per capita by 2010. Reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling is going to be the major focus of that campaign.

Currently in our area we are sending well over 1000 kilos per capita to our landfill. This number does not just include our personal few bags of garbage per week. It also includes industrial, commercial and rebuilding waste. To achieve this goal is going to require a concerted effort on all of our parts and looking at new ways to reuse materials that take up too much space in the landfill. We are going to have to find ways to deal with the drywall and wood that is currently being taken to land fills from the result of home renovations. Cardboard will in all likelihood be banned from landfills as it can be recycled. Sites will be needed to compost grass clippings, leaves and other organic material generated from our food waste. If you haven't started already reducing your waste you may as well be starting now. The goal to reduce our waste to 500 kilos per capita is a sensible target and should be achievable.

Another problem facing landfills is the litter generated by all those plastic bags we bring home from our retail outlets. When landfill operators start compacting garbage and the big plastic bags break open all those little grocery bags are thrown to the wind. The problem is so severe that in Lethbridge the landfill has to be closed in windy conditions. A simple solution is to start using the bags (as pictured here) the grocery chains are starting to provide for a small fee to bring your groceries home in. I started using them a few weeks ago and they are very convenient. You will never have to worry about a bag ripping and spilling your groceries all over your driveway again. Plus you are helping solve a major problem at our landfill.

Remember, reduce, re-use, and recycle.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Main Street Blairmore

Wish I had a before photo. For those that remember just 3 and half years ago this photo shows how Crowsnest Pass has changed.
This picture was taken Sunday morning Oct. 7, 2007. I went down town hoping to get a picture of a completely empty street (didn't get it) back dropped by the snow covered hills to the east. Three years previous I would of got the picture I wanted almost any day of the week. Crowsnest Pass has grown in the last three years. People have discovered what locals have always known. Crowsnest Pass is a great place to live and play.

Who are these people? Some are entrepreneurs, young and old looking for a better quality of life while hoping to capitalize on the potential of the Pass. Many are retirees here to spend their free time fishing and enjoying our beautiful outdoors. Some are young miners, here to raise their families while working the mines across the border in BC. Others have bought homes just to enjoy on weekends until they can retire here. Then there is the electronic engineer who moved from Calgary with his wife and two young children. He works for a company headquartered in Munich. The software engineers he collaborates with are in Moscow. Most of his work is done from his home online. Every so often he has to head to his corporate offices or even to Russia. From the Pass his commute is only 2.5 hours longer than it was while he lived in Calgary. There is the newest member of our municipal Culture and Recreation Board a professional employed by the University that moved here with her husband and children. Also the professional couple from Medicine Hat that are here all weekends and other holidays with their young children enjoying our ski hill and other amenities. You will see these welcome additions to Crowsnest Pass, not only enjoying our facilities and outdoors, but also volunteering their time in the kind of social activities that define communities. I could mention many others, including the newly married lawyer and engineer that decided Crowsnest Pass was the right place to start their life together, but the point is made.

These young professionals could well be (and should be) the future of Crowsnest Pass. We should be sparing no expense marketing to this demographic currently coping with a stressful lifestyle in the big city. We can offer the quality of life they are searching for.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Day By Day

I have embedded the cartoon strip Day By Day, by Chris Muir at the bottom of the page. The strip is updated each day. It is a current and fresh look at American politics divided between left and right. More importantly it is about how much alike the characters are despite their politcal differences.

Friday, 21 March 2008

No More Open Spaces..Thank you Minister Morton

Hunting is a traditional form of recreation and means of adding to the larder of many Crowsnest Pass residents. With that Minister Ted Morton's proposal (Open Spaces) to create what amounted to paid hunting on private ranches met with unanimous disapproval with hunters from the Pass and province wide. The fear was we were moving to the European model that allows only those with wealth and privilege to hunt and that private landowners would be able to profit on elk herds that belong to the public.

Surprisingly the ranching and farming community was not in favour of the proposal either. This past week I attended the convention of rural municipalities (AAMDC) the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties in Edmonton. On Wednesday March 19th an emergent resolution was brought forward from the Counties of Warner and Cardston to add the AAMDC's voice to that of the Alberta Fish and Game Association denouncing the Open Spaces proposal and to lobby the province to the end of stopping the proposal. After a very good debate the members of AAMDC did pass the resolution quite handily.

Just a short time after the resolution session a bear pit session ensued with a dozen or so cabinet ministers, Ted Morton included. Answering a question from a young women the Minister of SRD announced that the portion of the policy that opened up private land to profit hunting would not go ahead. Mr. Morton showed that he does listen to Albertans and that he is the right person for this ministry.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Coal Mining, Prostitution, and Morality

Seventy two years after the very first mines act was legislated in the United Kingdom, Crowsnest Pass earned the horrific distinction of being home to the worst coal mining disaster in Canada when the Hillcrest mine exploded, violently stealing the lives of 189 men on June 19, 1914. Mining companies, society, and governments still had not learned.

Coal mining in the UK has been carried out for centuries. In the early 19th century the industry employed over 200,000 men, women and children. In the years 1820 - 1842 there are 78 coal mining disasters listed. Disasters that killed more than 5 persons each. Nathalie Bourdenet states in this article that 4,000 people a year were killed in the mines. Many of whom, of course, are women and children. The mining industry, society, and governments had determined coal miners were a class of people undeserving of protection. Following an explosion that killed 11 young girls and 15 young boys in 1838 society finally pushed government into acting and a member of parliament, Lord Ashley, had parliament set up a royal commission to look into children's employment in the mines.

Upon the reports completion Lord Ashley, in 1842, brings a draft piece of legislation that will become the first mines act in the United Kingdom. The act was no great leap into increased mine safety. The act's primary accomplishment was to stop the employment of boys under 10 years old and females in the mine. It was, however, significant in that it created the springboard that over the next few decades would serve to increase safe mining practices. Did Lord Ashley garner support for his legislation by regaling his peers with reports of the horrifying and violent manner in which these young coal miners were being killed in order to win their support for his mines act? No. Lord Ashley appealed to their prudish sense of Victorian morality.
In the West Riding, it appears, girls are almost universally employed as trappers and hurriers, in common with boys. The girls are of all ages from 7 to 21. They commonly worked quite naked down to the waist, and are dressed- as far as they are dressed at all- in a loose pair of trousers. These are seldom whole on either sex. In many of the collieries, whom these girls serve, work perfectly naked.
Near Huddersfield the sub-commissionner examined a female child. He says, ’I could not have believed that I should have found human nature so degraded ’. Mr Holroyd, and Mr Brook, a surgeon, confessed, that although within a few miles, they could not have believed such a system of unchristian cruelty could have existed. ’Speaking of one of the girls’ , he says, ’She stood shivering before me from cold. The rug that hung about her waist was as black as coal, and saturated with water, the drippings of the roof’ .’In a pit near New Mills’ , says the sub-commissionner, ’the chain passing high up between the lgs of two girls, had worn large holes in their trousers. Any sight more disgustingly indecent or revolting can scarcely be imagined than these girls at work. No brothel can beat it’.
Lord Ashley was smart enough to know the only way to get his act passed was to count on that strong sense of Victorian morality, talking of the young women he stated ’an immoral conduct which made girls unsuitable for marriage and unfit to be mothers’. His leadership began the reversal of society's belief that coal miners were a class of people undeserving of protection.

Our country needs that type of leadership now. We all know the horrifying details of the 20 or more girls and young women viciously murdered by Robert Pickton. I am sure most are aware of young women and girls disappearing from Edmonton, only to be found murdered in some field outside that city since 1989 and the fact that charges have finally been laid against Thomas Svelka for the murder of two of them. Where is our sense of outrage? Why isn't society demanding our government establish measures to insure more of these poor young women are not preyed upon by such dangerous predators as Pickton? Why isn't our federal government swiftly moving to protect these young women and girls? Why? Because these poor young women were prostitutes. A class of people society (and obviously our federal government) has determined are undeserving of our protection.

In Vancouver sex trade workers banded together in hopes of protecting themselves with the creation of a co-op brothel. The brothel will take young women off the streets and offer them a safe controlled environment in which for them to work. The city and the province sees the benefit and should be applauded for their support. Having passed that hurdle the group needs an exemption from the federal government as brothels are illegal (while prostitution isn't). The Conservative government has said they are unlikely to give their support as is it may perpetuate the idea that prostitution is acceptable. What perverse sense of morality supports the belief that it is better young girls are violently murdered rather than act to protect them? It is long past the time that we accept the fact that prostitution has always existed will likely exist for evermore. It is time our governments implement measures for the protection of these people. Failure to do so is simply immoral! These girls deserve the same protection as any other worker. Where is these girl's Lord Ashley?

Monday, 10 March 2008

Island Lake

Whereas: We believe a diversion of Crowsnest Creek by the Canadian Pacific Railway has had a detrimental effect on Island Lake located in the west end of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.
Therefore be it resolved that the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass request the provincial Departments of Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Environment together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans conduct a study on the causes of Island Lake's degenerating health to the end of finding a solution to the rejuvenation of Island Lake.

The above resolution was passed unanimously by Council at our last meeting. After discussions with individuals in SRD and DFO I believed it was the best start to finding the solution to Island Lake's ill health. Many of us in Crowsnest Pass will be looking forward to their reply. The Hillcrest Fish and Game Association has been working for a very long time to get recognition of the problem and a solution to it. The Crowsnest Conservation Society has also expressed interest in working to a resolve on this issue. I am sure with the voices of the Fish and Game Club, and the Conservation Society, we will get the province to hear our combined concerns.

Post Script:
In my earlier post on Island Lake I stated that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had approved the diversion of the creek. I was told that by one who would be in the know. Subsequently I found that may or may not be true. DFO may not have made the ruling on the diversion. The Alberta Department of Environment may have been the agency granting approval. Of course who approved it is not at issue. The issue is a mistake has unwittingly been made now lets get to work to correct it.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Municipal Interest

I have to thank Alderman Bill Given of the City of Grande Prairie for alerting me to the municipal blogoshpere. I have included links to Bill's blog, as well as a councilor from Peace River, Leslie Ayre-Jaschke. The links to their blogs and the Muni Blog link should prove beneficial to those interested in municipal politics.

Calgary City council has initiated a very interesting pilot policy regarding municipal purchasing, the Sustainable Environmental and Ethical Procurement Policy. I learned of it in an editorial written by Randy Rudolph in this morning's Calgary Herald. The purchasing policy gives weight in the bidding process to environmental and ethical considerations. The bottom line is, there are good reasons to pay a higher price for goods and services to insure the protection of the environment, workers rights, and ability to earn a living wage. It is definitely a policy who's time has come. Be sure to read the editorial.

This story was clipped from the Vancouver Sun. This interesting policy the mayor of a small town in France has initiated should at least entertain everyone. Crowsnest Pass council, I am sure, will not entertain such a policy. We will let people pass on with dignity...............I hope. It should be noted the mayor is over 70 himself and is seeking re-election. Guess he hasn't learned the secret of political success. That all those residents of the graveyard are potential voters!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Public Hearing Date Turtle Mountain Restricted Development Area

The public hearing and subsequent 2nd and 3rd reading of the landuse amendment to have the Turtle Mountain area zoned direct control will take place April 1 2008.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Turtle Mountain Restricted Development Area

In 1903 over 70 people, living in the town of Frank, were killed in North America's Largest landslide when Turtle Mountain fell creating what is known now as the Frank Slide. Local lore says one day the mountain will fall again. Many locals have always believed that but just as many doubt that it will happen. Well upon the 100th anniversary of the slide, then premier, Ralph Klein announced he would spend over one million dollars for state of the art monitoring equipment to determine the amount of movement in the mountain and to provide a warning system to prevent such a tragedy, as happened in 1903, should the mountain fall once more.

The Alberta Energy and Utilities Board is responsible for monitoring the mountain and well over a year ago Corey Froese made a presentation to Crowsnest Pass council on the status of Turtle Mountain. Council was told that, yes, Turtle Mountain will fall again. He could not tell us when. It could be in a year. It could be in a few hundred years but it will fall. The monitioring equipment is sophisticated enough to provide weeks of advance warning of a slide. So danger to life is minimal. With the advance warning there will be more than enough time to evacuate any people in the area.

Land, of course, can not be moved and houses can only be moved with great difficulty. This prompted council to place a temporary moratorium on rezoning, subdivision and development in the potential runout area of a future slide path. The move created a great deal of angst with the residents currently living in the potential slide zone.

While council is still pushing the province for a risk assesment of the area in order that a long term plan for the area can be created council has come up with a better short term solution for those residents living in the shadow of Turtle mountain and last night passed first reading of a land use amendment creating a direct control zoning for the area. You can view a copy of the bylaw here. The land use amendment will put control of this zone in the hands of council and will allow residents to build structures such as garages, sheds, and other out buildings as well as repair or replace buildings damaged by natural or man made causes. Residents will be able to apply for new residential structures and additions to current structures. Second and third readings of the bylaw will be decided on after a public hearing on the land use amendment. The public hearing and subsequent readings of the bylaw should take place in Crowsnest Pass council chambers on March 25. With many hearings scheduled it is possible that the hearing could take place on April 1st. When I get confirmation as to the hearing date I will post it here.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Congratulations to Steady Eddie

Well its over and I am sure there are an awful lot of surprised people tonight. Not because the Conservatives won another majority but at the size of it. A landslide in an election where for the most part everyone (including me) was feeling the PC's would get a majority of around 50 seats. At this time (around 11PM) Ed has reduced his opposition to just 10 seats. Simply put its incredible. Paul Hinman has lost. Liberals down to eight and the NDP cut in half down to 2. Congratulations Premier Stelmach on winning the right to form your new government.
We are seeing continuity in the provincial government and here in Crowsnest Pass that is good news. We have established good working relationships with many cabinet ministers in the past government and those relationships will continue to help in addressing long term solutions to creating a new sustainable economy here in Crowsnest. We have been successful so far in getting progressive movement on issues that have held back the Pass for a number of years. Alberta Transportation is starting to see our concerns with Highway 3. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development has recognized our twin needs of protecting wildlife habitat and insuring we are able to acquire the land we will need for our continued growth. We will not have to start all over again getting new politicians on side with our needs here in Crowsnest. I am hopeful that Ted Morton will retain his cabinet position as Minister of SRD. He has proven to be a Minister with a passion for the difficult portfolio and has been a great ally for our concerns here in Crowsnest Pass.

Well the answer I asked in the poll has been answered. Contrary to the results of the poll, Albertans were not ready for change. Poll results: PC 6, NDP 10, Liberal 11, Green 10, Wildrose Alliance 11

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Election Eve

Well the most boring campaign in my memory has all but concluded in Alberta. The campaigning here in Crowsnest Pass has been all but non-existent and I would presume from what I am reading around the province the campaigns have been similar in most rural ridings. The thrust of the campaign was geared toward the bigger centres with most announcements being made for the benefit of urban dwellers in the large cities. I believe it is not by accident that the PC's ran quiet campaigns out in the hinterlands. The campaign strategy of the PC's is definitely geared toward keeping the people opposing the current government at home secure in the belief that while they may want change there really is no point in voting for any other party. We are going to see, I am sure, the lowest voter turnout Crowsnest Pass and our province has ever seen.

Still that is no excuse not to exercise your democratic right to vote for the party or person of your choice. It is the only way that democracy works. You have to show the politicians what you are thinking. Don't count on the research polls to speak for you. This link probably spells out the reality on polling. The link is Rick Mercer's take on research polls. Take the few minutes tomorrow to register your vote. Remember if you don't think there is anyone worth voting for you can let everyone know by going, registering, then refusing your ballot. That is the legitimate form of a protest vote.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Budget or Lack of One

In my post of January 16th I reported that council came to an understanding on the 2008 budget. The motion to recommend council approve this years budget was passed by a vote of 6 to 1. Quite truthfully it felt good at that to have the budget process all but finished at that time. From there though things went south very quickly. When the exact same motion was made at the next regular council meeting a motion to table for more information from Crowsnest Centre was passed instead.

Subsequently the president of the board and the manager of the Centre presented their business plan to council and showed us how they would manage the Centre for the next few years. There were a couple of minor addition mistakes in the plan (which of course at best is an educated guess). When the motion to approve the budget was again made it failed by a vote of 4 to 3 presumably because of the mistakes in the business plan. We are now close to jeopardizing planned projects in this years budget.

At the next regular meeting of council I again made the motion to approve this year's spending. One councilor was absent due to holidays. A councilor that previously voted to defeat the budget now voted in favour of it. On the other hand a councilor that previously voted to pass the budget now voted to defeat it. The motion fails due to a tie vote 3 to 3. Looks like this year could be a repeat of last. While it is still possible to have a budget in place by the middle of March it may already be too late for some projects.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Equalized Assessment / Thank you Calgary

Council received a copy of a letter sent to the Alberta Municipal Government Board by Mr.
Gordon Sharek, Q.C. of Sharek Logan Collingwood vanLeenen, advising of the Withdrawal
and Discontinuance of the costs application brought by the Minister of Municipal Affairs
against the City of Calgary’s appeal of its 2005 Equalized Assessment. The letter also
advised of the Withdrawal and Discontinuing the Equalized Assessment appeals filed by theCity of Calgary for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The province a number of years ago required all municipalities to start taxing home owners on the current market value of their properties. Assessors have very tight parameters regarding market value that they must adhere to. Per housing class they have a 10% range they must fit into. They have to fit between 95% and 105% of market value with their assessment and that must be proven to the province.

The city of Calgary, being the new centre of the universe and all, felt they should not have to apply those principles in their taxation process and for a time they didn't. This of course put a strain on all the municipalities that did because the money the province budgets for schooling is collected by municipalities for the province with property taxes. What this meant, is that all the municipalities that followed the property tax rules were subsidizing the lower residential tax rates in Calgary. Much of the property tax paid in smaller municipalities went to pay for schooling in Calgary. The first paragraph in this post means the City of Calgary has finally agreed to play by the rules (I believe they started last year) and a couple of weeks ago the Calgary Herald reported on a tax revolt in the city because many residents received a 10% or more increase in their property taxes. Glad I am not an alderman in Calgary right now but the city did do the right thing. I hope Calgary's Aldermen continue exercising the taxation powers granted to them by the Municipal Government Act before looking at generating revenue from the rest of us.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Rum Runners and Pizza in Crowsnest Pass

The history of Crowsnest Pass is exciting and unique from natural disasters and coal mining tragedies to all the intrigue and drama of the days of prohibition with characters like Emperor Pic and Filumena fueling the drama. This post though is not about those Rum Runners its about a good day and good things in Crowsnest Pass.

For the first time in over 6 weeks I had a chance to get out on the river with a good friend (Susan of Crowsnest Cafe and Flyshop) and our dogs for a few hours of fishing. It was a beautiful sunny early spring day. I am sure the dogs enjoyed running through the still deep snow much more than Susan and I did on the way to the river but the effort to get there was definitely worth it. We had the river to ourselves. Many holes and runs were still under the cover of ice but we did find some fishable stretches and even got a couple of rainbows.

It was nice catching but the afternoon would of been great even without hooking any fish. It was beautiful. The blue skies and bright sun made the bright white snow sparkle. The dogs made the afternoon interesting and the company of a good friend in these gorgeous settings can not be topped by much. I don't believe there is anywhere else in Western Canada that can provide this quality setting at this time of the year for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.

To wrap up the afternoon we stopped in at the saloon in Frank for a cold one and talked fishing and how we would like to see down town Coleman rejuvenated. It was a great way to cap an incredible afternoon on the Crowsnest River, sharing a passion for the outdoors and building Crowsnest Pass in the western surroundings of one of Crowsnest Pass's friendly watering holes and restaurants Pure Country Saloon.

After arriving home shortly after my wife, Paddy, got in from work we decided to go out for dinner. Choosing a place to go out is always difficult as we have some very good restaurants here. Tonight we went out to Rum Runners on highway 3 in Coleman. The restaurant was built in what was the social hall for the old Catholic church in Coleman and has a unique decor that capitalizes on our mining and rum running heritage. The place does have a super menu and the food is always good. I decided on a three topping pizza, pepperoni, pepperoni, and pepperoni.It was superb.

Crowsnest Pass does not just have stunning mountain vistas. Crowsnest Pass does not just have excellent fishing in beautiful surroundings. Crowsnest Pass has the best pizza! It's served at Rum Runners. There may be better...but not in this hemisphere.

Friday, 22 February 2008


Hinman just does not get it does he? He would do well to take a look outside his home and see what families with out his resources have to deal with daily. I don't think I have ever heard such narrow thinking from any political leader from any party. How is giving a tax break alone going to keep one of two parents in the home to look after the kids? How huge does that tax break have to be to insure young parents with children can still afford their mortgage payment or rent with one salary? Who will pay for such a huge tax break? He is talking about a small taxbreak replacing an income. Is he stupid? How is a small tax break going to make a $400,000 home in Calgary affordable for anyone making less than $250,000 a year? Not that the family making that amount even won't have trouble paying for it. How are his tax breaks going to insure quality health care for those same families? Hinman just does not get it!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Island Lake, A Lake In Distress

Island Lake is located near the western most boundary of Crowsnest Pass, west of Crowsnest Lake and close to the British Columbia border. It was a nice typical mountain lake, clean, clear, and cold. The lake, named after the island with the group of trees in the centre of the picture, was never a great fishery but it did provide a home for trout and whitefish that locals persued on occasion. It didn't take long, mind you, for Island Lake to begin deteriorating to the point of near death.

Highway 3 used to lead into BC along the north shore of the lake. In the 60's the Department of Highways decided to dissect the lake with a new wider road. The road was built right through the centre of the lake, touching the south side of the island. Even though they put a culvert through the highway to ensure a water supply to the southern part of the now divided lake the water does not circulate enough to keep the southern lake healthy. The south of the lake slowly started to lose its pristine mountain appearance and began turning into a large, shallow, ugly slough. The north side though did keep its appearance of health. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development did stock the lake with trout and even began to dump many of the brook trout brood stock from the Allison hatchery into the lake. Which made the icefisherman happy of course. Unfortunately the sad tale of the demise of, the once beautiful, lake is not over yet.

Crowsnest Creek flows from the mountains south of the lake and ran prettty much straight to a point just east of Island Lake. There it emptied into a huge hole with Island Lake just to the west and unfortunately CPR's tracks to the north and running at right angles to the creek. What would happen to this water was very interesting. When the lake was below a certain level the water from the creek flowed into the lake filling it. When the lake was full the creek flowed on to its final destination to the east, Crowsnest Lake.

The CPR did not like Crowsnest Creek and its path that was crucial to the health of a beautiful mountain lake. The creek when running high began to erode the rail bed. CPR had to do something to protect its track and that large, arrogant, uncompromising corporation did. They could have used ballast or formed some other sort of bulkhead to protect their rail at the point it was being eroded. That option must of been too simple for the godlike heads of CPR. They, befittingly, came up with a god like solution. Move the creek! After all the creek was the problem. The best way, in their superior way of thought, to deal with the problem would be to remove it.

CPR knew that in order to move a creek they would need the permission of that other all powerful Canadian entity, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Candian government department that is responsible for the protection of fish and fish habitat. Even the almighty CPR would not dare act with out their approval. DFO is the only government body that can impact the CPR. Well DFO did look at what CPR wanted to do. Somehow though their investigation failed to see the importance of Crowsnest Creek's route to the health of Island Lake. So the government department responsible for safeguarding fish and fish habitat allowed CPR to move Crowsnest Creek at least 500 yards to the east.

Water does not run uphill. Crowsnest Creek can no longer supply Island Lake with fresh water. One can see each year lower average water levels. Inspite of many efforts (mainly our local Fish and Game Association) to get action on the restoration of Island Lake no one seems willing to act.

The province of Alberta played a role. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans allowed this to happen. The CPR is responsible for this disaster and have realized a benefit to themselves because of it. These three bodies should be held accountable. These three bodies are responsible. These three bodies had better make up for their collective mistake and find a way to bring life back to Island Lake.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Another Train Derailment In Crowsnest Pass

It should come as no surprise to anyone that late yesterday afternoon or early evening another CPR train derailed in Crowsnest Pass. This is the CPR's first derailment in Crowsnest Pass this year. Two engines left the track near Crowsnest Lake. Apparently the only damage done was to the tracks and no other cars derailed or were damaged.
It is getting to be a common occurrence here in the Pass. We are seeing a derailment every year. This one seems to be a minor event. If you could call any derailment minor. Two years ago in June 22 coal cars derailed next to highway 3 in Frank just outside Blairmore. Last spring a derailment (pictured) occurred just near our eastern boundary close to Leitch Colleries and not far from the Crowsnest River. A number of cars were severely damaged as well as a long piece of track. The cars were empty but one car that had been carrying propane did have to be lit allowing the residue to burn off.

A significant portion of our population here in the Pass live close to CPR tracks and the train route parallels the Crowsnest River and the north shoreline of Crowsnest Lake. The CPR themselves say "Not if a disastrous derailment occurs but when it occurs". With that acknowledgement and recognizing the hazard to our residents and the head waters of a major tributary in the South Saskatchewan River basin it is far past the time Transport Canada stepped in and forced tougher safety protocols and rules on the CPR.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Senior's Tax Rebate Policy

Last term I brought a tax rebate policy for senior's on fixed incomes to council. The policy was passed by council inspite of objections raised by Councillor Ward, who cast the only dissenting vote. The policy was brought into being because a number of residents (not just seniors) were concerned that Crowsnest Pass was becoming unaffordable for senior residents on fixed incomes because of rising property values and taxes. You can view the Senior's Tax Rebate Policy here.

One of the conditions of the policy is that it be reviewed each year. Council reviewed the policy at the January committee meeting where council was reminded of the good reasons why the policy is needed and of the importance in maintaining the 2006 taxation year as the base for eligible resident's rebate. Basically the rebate states that seniors on fixed incomes taxes be frozen at 2006 rates and that they would be rebated any increases over and above that rate. At our last council meeting the motion to maintain 2006 as the base year for the policy was approved unanimously.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Back To Local Politics

Council has had some meaningful talks with Alberta Infrastructure andTransportation regarding a number of important issues. First and foremost was Highway 3. Council and Transportation established a good working relationship and have come to an understanding on resolving traffic problems from Frank through Coleman for the short to mid term (5-20 years). They include, a 4 lane undivided highway to Coleman from the east. Three lanes through Coleman. The third lane being a 2 way turning lane. Lights at the Mac's intersection. Other areas needing consideration would be the intersection of highways 3 and 40 and the high school area. Some other options are being explored for those areas. Transportation will be continuing to explore a long term solution (30 years) which will necessitate a bypass of Coleman.

The municipality will be continuing to work with Transportation toward a viable solution regarding the use of their right of way for a waterline to connect Coleman to Blairmore. This is a critical project to insure an uninterrupted water supply to our hospital and its dialysis unit.

A short time ago Transportation graded and prepared a parking area for trucks on the old Turtle Mountain Hotel site. The site was used for only a very short period of time before the department was sued successfully for a trailer that was stolen from a similar parking area elsewhere in the province and suspended using this area for that purpose. We applied to lease the area from the province in order that local truckers had an area to leave their trailers. We received a letter last month notifying us that our application was denied. I had this item put on the agenda for our meeting and Transportation agreed to take another look at our application.

It's Battle Ground Calgary

One fact has come out strong and clear in the opening days of this provincial election campaign. The big parties are fighting over our cities, in particular, Calgary. Course they are fighting with all of Abertans' tax dollars. I just hope they remember there are some small towns and rural areas outside of Calgary and Edmonton that need as much consideration from the province as the cities do. Hell, matter of fact many small towns need more. We do not have the large and diverse tax base of the cities and are faced with the same high costs of infrastructure upgrades and maintenance as they are.

The provincial government did pledge 11 billion dollars over the next 10 years to infrastructure demands and Edmonton's mayor is upset, arguing his city is being short changed. He may want to talk to the Mayors of Hinton, Edson, Banff, Canmore, and of course Crowsnest Pass if he wants to hear about unequitable funding formulas for provincial grant money. Message here, is of course, Crowsnest Pass wants its fair share!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Election Call?

Well all the speculation says we will have a provincial election call in the next day or two. The campaigning has started in earnest already and is shaping up to be one of the most interesting elections we have seen in Alberta for quite some time. The question is: Are Albertans ready for a change of government? I have included a poll to the blog just for interest's sake. Take part.

The governing Conservatives have held power for over three and a half decades. Albertans under 37 years old have never seen any other party in power. Without a doubt one would have to say the Progressive Conservatives have definitely learned how to govern and how to keep governing. In talking with people around the province, though, I feel many Albertans are tired of a stagnant party and government and are looking for a party to bring new ideas and put a fresh spin on how our province is governed. They are looking for a party to bring some excitement to the provincial political scene the way Peter Lougheed did in 1971.

Lougheed and his party of red tories put a fresh face on conservatism in the province and started the dynasty that governed for 37 years. Is there any one in position to achieve what Lougheed did? Brian Mason, with help from Ray Martin one of the best street fighters the ledge has ever seen, has done his best to showcase the short comings of the Conservatives and elevate the status of the New Democratic Party. Unfortunately, though, very few Albertans outside of Edmonton know who Brian Mason is and what the NDP stand for. They are definitely in no position to knock out the champs and govern.

Kevin Taft, leading the Liberal party and its 16 MLAs, should be well positioned to deliver that knockout punch. The demographic of Alberta has changed drastically in the past few years. Alberta's population has shifted to the towns and cities. 81% of our population is urban, with many of those new people moving into Alberta from the east where, we have seen, they are not afraid to vote for Liberals. The Liberals will, without a doubt, increase their numbers in the legislature. The increase in seats coming from urban ridings. Kevin Taft, as bright as he is, (the most uninspiring political leader I have ever heard speak) has completely failed to ignite the imagination of Albertans. You can't capture people's minds without capturing their hearts. Should the conservatives form another government, and they should, they can thank the Liberals for their leadership selection.

I don't think for a minute that Alberta is ready to return to the days of the Social Credit government that Lougheed tossed out. We have grown as a province and have seen socially progressive change. Albertans will not willingly go back to the days when bars were segregated between men and women with escorts. The Wildrose Alliance is simply a fresh name for a socially regressive movement. The best they can hope for is to steal some of the conservative's traditional support in a rural riding or two. Albertans wouldn't buy the Byfield's rag why would they buy their party?

Many people are tired of the old political parties that have minor differences in policy direction but when in government tend to govern much the same. They feel disenfranchised with no place to mark their ballot. By all accounts the environment and environmental issues are the top concerns not only of Albertans but all Canadians. The Green Party then is the alternative many of those disenfranchised people could vote for. We should see this movement grow from the fringe to a responsible political party with a future. They will receive votes from a respectable number of Albertans.

So, while there is desire for change in Alberta I don't think we are going to see it in this election.

With the choices Albertans have I would hope there is no sense of apathy in this election. All Albertans should be willing to let their voices be heard. Remember in Alberta if you feel there is no one that deserves your vote you can go to the poll, register, then tell the election officer you want to have you ballot marked as being refused. Refuse your ballot. It is a legitimate way to protest the quality of the candidates or the parties and its counted unlike a spoiled ballot.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Good things in Crowsnest Pass

Pictured is Pass Powderkeg our most visible community recreational facility. For decades this little hill has provided countless hours of recreational fun for children and adults and is only one of the affordable community facilities that make Crowsnest Pass a great place to raise a family.

Crowsnest Pass has two hockey arenas. The Sports complex in Coleman which also has a curling rink and the Albert Stella arena in Blairmore. The curling rink attached to that arena has been converted into a skate board park and climbing wall. With these two arenas we have no shortage of ice time in the Pass. A Calgary bantam team hosted a hockey tournament here last year with all teams coming from outside of the Pass. I was told that even with having to stay in hotels and eating out it was still cheaper for them to come here and play than if they could have gotten ice in Calgary. Which they couldn't.

Community centres are a very important element of any town. They are the places where people come together and celebrate the important events in their lives. They are the places people come together and mourn their losses. They are the places that define who we are as a community. Again Crowsnest Pass has two. Crowsnest Centre was the Pass's old hospital that was taken over by the town and converted into a unique community centre. The centre houses our food bank. It is a home for an adult educational and extended learning facility, the Chinook educational Consortium. It provides a very attractive and friendly banquet and meeting hall complete with food service provided by a caterer that any hotel would be proud to have working for them. With a number of hotel style rooms the Centre's operation gets much of it’s funding from conferences’, elder hostels, business and government seminars. These rooms and the centre have provided emergency shelter from storms, floods, fires and an extended power outage.

MDM was a school in the town of Bellevue that was taken over by the municipality about 5 years ago and turned into another community centre. MDM houses one of the Pass's Libraries. The other is housed in its own building in Blairmore. Provides office and meeting room space for community organizations and houses our Kids College preschool. MDM has a gym that provides recreation and with an adjoining kitchen also provides a large banquet and entertainment facility.

We do support a swimming pool as well that is operational throughout the summer. On everyone’s wish list is a new indoor pool to replace this one. Somewhere down the road new growth in Crowsnest will make that wish a reality.

Almost since its inception in 1979 Crowsnest Pass suffered with a stagnant economy. Previous councils struggled with the rising costs of providing services to the people of the Pass without the luxury of having a strong industrial or commercial tax base. To add to their problems they had no revenue resulting from new growth. It would have been easy for them to cut costs by shutting facilities or reducing the provision of recreational services. To their credit they did what was necessary to provide good quality community and recreational facilities. They have done a good job. We are now finally starting to see new growth. Why should we think about doing different?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Crowsnest Pass, Specialized Municipality

Council received good news from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ray Danyluk. The provincial cabinet passed an order in council granting the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, Specialized Municipality status. This is the same status granted Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Strathcona County, M.D. of Mackenzie and Jasper. This unique status recognizes the urban rural composite of Crowsnest Pass. We will now be able to join the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties as well as retain our membership in the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association the two largest lobby groups in the province.

Weed control has always been one of our most difficult areas of responsibility. Rural municipalities receive provincial grants to be used for the control of noxious and other weeds. Our municipality has not been eligible for these same grants because of our status as an urban municipality. We have been dependent on the good graces of the MD of Rockyview to help us with funding for weed control in Crowsnest Pass. The municipal district has been good enough to share a small portion of their grant money for weed control with us. With this change in our status to a specialized municipality we will now be eligible to apply for those same grants. This is a very real benefit to our community.

The Honourable Minister, Ray Danyluk, recognized the urgency of our application and is to be commended for his swift action on our behalf. Our mayor, John Irwin, can take the lion's share of credit for this significant change in our municipal status. This approval came about because of what one letter writer in the Pass Promoter last year described as "a junket to rub elbows with Edmonton's elite at the tax payer's expense". Hope the writer will now be happy to know the mayor's "junket" worked out in the best interests of us taxpayers.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Sawback Ridge

The area structure plan passed 2nd reading this week at council. The plan was sent back to administration for some minor amendments regarding road grades widths, and garbage collection. As stated in an earlier post this development will provide 200 units of housing. It will be a combination of single family residential and higher density multi family residential.

There is still opposition to this development from area residents. Many of their concerns (water drainage etc.) will be addressed at the subdivision and development agreement phases of the develoment process. Most arguments however are strictly zoning issues (density). The land was zoned grouped country residential. The owners could well have applied for subdivision and would likely have been granted it based on that zoning. Meaning this land would of only provided a maximum of 12 homes compared to the 200 homes with the new zoning. Again should we allow our Crowsnest Pass to be developed in that fashion we will quickly lose its most precious and scarce resource. Our land. Land that is also needed to sustain healthy large ungulate habitat and to insure good large wildlife corridors for the free movement of elk herds and grizzly bears. Two hundred homes on country residential acreages would require over a section of prime wildlife habitat to accommodate them. Most everyone speaking in opposition to this development seemingly have no objections to growth in Crowsnest Pass. Which then is better? Do we allow the wasteful sprawl of country residential or is it better to concentrate development through higher density?

This debate brings me back to the first post of this blog. "The Pass has suffered with a stagnant economy for the past two decades. Now the municipality is on the verge of seeing some significant growth. Growth, based on the natural beauty, lifestyle, and amenities our community and surrounding area provides. Our challenge, as a community, will be how to accommodate and allow that growth while maintaining and protecting our ecological, historical, and cultural integrity."

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Community Enhancement Fund

The Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce has to be commended for the direction they have taken and the work done to insure Crowsnest Pass becomes an even better place to live, work, play, and of course do business in. The Chamber has long been an ardent advocate of making Crowsnest Pass an attractive destination area. It has always been challenging finding ways to fund projects that are needed to enhance the urban atmosphere desired to compliment our beautiful and wild mountainous landscape. The chamber may have found the vehicle to get us there with the proposed Community Enhancement Fund.

Last night council deliberated on their request to set up a CEF committee funded by a $50 increase in business license fees. While council felt unanimously that such an initiative should not be funded solely by our business community there was sufficient support for the concept raised by the Chamber to pass a motion referring the creation of a CEF to our community development committee. The community development committee will in conjunction with the chamber come forward with a recommendation to council prior to the deadline for next year's budget request.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Hauling Logs in Crowsnest Pass

A local company has timber quotas in the York and Star Creek basins. There is in that area about 15 years worth of logging. Those logs of course do have to get to where they are going to be processed which necessitates the logs being hauled out of that area to the highway by truck.

A couple of years back the company approached the municipality for a road use agreement to use the roads through Willow Drive and West Coleman to haul logs out of the Star Creek area. Council approved that road use agreement much to the dismay of the local residents. After being approached by them with their concerns I talked with a local forestry officer and found out that SRD had stated their preference to the company that the logs be hauled out to the highway westerly to Crowsnest Lake. I brought that information back to council and council changed its position on the road use agreement. The company then used the better route for its log haul.

In 2006 the company was logging in the York Creek area and because of legal wranglings with Luscar was stopped from being able to haul through their mine yard property. A truck or two did end up going right through Bushtown. A local resident informed me of this and the municipality did stop this unapproved route. In discussions with the owner of the company I learned of the basis of the dispute between him and Luscar Coal. I called a friend employed by Luscar and because of his company's commitment to establish good will with the people of Crowsnest Pass he did agree to let the company haul through the property for that year only.

This winter prior to Christmas operational services committee brought a recommendation to council to approve a road use agreement for the same company to haul logs through South West Blairmore past the Seniors lodges and to the highway on the west end of Blairmore. In response to my question regarding alternate routes the committee's response was there was no other way out. Council then unanimously passed my motion that the residents of the area be given the opportunity to state their position on the proposed route.

Last week I was in contact with the buyer of Luscar's property and he agreed that a short term solution (2 - 3 years) could be worked out with the logging company should the company be co-operative. I did talk with the owner of the logging company and it appears there is good potential for the parties to come to an understanding on using the Luscar property for the log haul. I was also told by the logging company that because of the delay in getting a road use agreement he had lost a contract and would not be hauling any logs this winter.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Chamber of Commerce Position

The Chamber of Commerce has sent an email elaborating on the proposed fee increase to business licenses. This email was sent on the 17th of January. Click here to see the Chamber of Commerce's position. The letter does explain their position well. My comments in the earlier blog post were based on the presentation given to council in December and are not inaccurate. The letter does answer the question asked in council regarding the disbursement of funds and accountability.

Poll Results

Well the results are in from the first poll on the blog. Fourty people voted. Twenty voted yes. Twenty voted no. What conclusions can I come to after seeing the results? Keeping in mind of course the results can not be considered accurate to any real degree. The purpose of the poll is to keep the blog interactive.
  1. I could assume the people that voted represent a cross section of our citizens and believe our residents are divided completely on the issue.
  2. I could also assume the people that voted are individual business men or women who would be directly affected by councils decision and again are equally divided on the issue
  3. Just checked my old email account and found a letter emailed from the chamber asking members to go vote in the poll. The timing of the email and all the voting would coincide. All things being equal then I would not be too far wrong in assuming the vote came from chamber members and they are split on the proposal.

Thanks for taking part in this little exercise. This could end up being a useful tool and I will be looking for ways to make it work.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Coleman Tipple Yard

Since 1968 the big green "tipple" has been the dominating feature of downtown Coleman's main street and skyline. For close to 20 years it was the generator of Coleman's and Crowsnest Pass's wealth. For the past twenty years, however, its only role has been to stand silently watching as Main Street Coleman slipped into depression.

No longer serving the role for which it was created the tipple's decline paralleled that of main street. The bright green facade faded. Parts no longer protected from the elements began to rust. Pieces fell or were blown off the structure. Yet still it stands, an inescapable remnant of more prosperous times, an icon of Coleman's past glory.

Many Crowsnest Pass residents look at the once critical component of our economy with disdain. Seeing it as an eyesore, a hazard, an ugly reminder of a black dirty past. Many others look at it as an important component of our mining heritage, a significant piece of our skyline, hope for the future. Their hope was to use the tipple and mine yard once again, this time as an attraction, as the generator to rivitalize the economy of Main Street Coleman. These polarized groups of people have a couple of things in common. They want prosperity for Crowsnest Pass and would love to see Main Street Coleman rejuvenated.

Good news. We all know Luscar has sold the property. The new owner has been meeting with the group working to protect the property and together they have come up with a solution to preserve some of the unique mine buildings on the property. No, the tipple won't be saved from demolition. It would require more capital outlay than anyone can afford to put up. With that, though, this property will retain some of its historic significance and new development on the site will generate the wealth needed to revitalize historic downtown Coleman. Crowsnest Pass and the people that love it win. Good work everyone and goodluck to Mark Kerwin in getting this property developed.

THE TIPPLE (Coleman Collieries preparation plant)The washouse, power house, and machine shop. Plus other buildings...some of this will be protected and restored.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Taxes likely to increase 3%

Well administration came back much quicker than expected with changes to the budget. The big news would be taxes will likely be increased by 3%. That increase will bring in an additional $195,000 in revenue. An expected 3% growth rate will add the same amount to revenue. A combination of small increases to some service fees, funding projects from other sources, deferring some projects until 09, and reducing a number of other budget items brought us to a balanced budget.
The committee of council passed a motion to bring the proposed budget to our next regular council meeting for approval. That motion passed with one dissenter. The proposed budget will not see any major changes in the services the municipality has traditionally provided. Of course we will not be setting the mill rate until April when we will find out what the province wants for school taxes. Additional changes to the budget could take place at that time or when we debate the proposed budget at our next council meeting.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Budget and Business Licenses

Budget deliberations are pretty much at a stand still until the end of January. Council did, however pass an interim budget based on the 2007 budget that will keep us operational until we do pass a new budget. We did make some minor adjustments last night that saved an additional $140,000 or so. That of course still leaves us with over $900,000 to make up for. Council directed administration to take another look and bring back some recommendations for further cuts. We will have to wait until the end of the month to find out from our assessor what increase in revenue based on new growth we will have access to before we can pass this years budget. I believe we will still be looking at tax increases to meet our rising costs.

Just before Christmas the Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to council concerning funding the maintenance of the snowmobile trails and other initiatives to market Crowsnest Pass. The Chamber asked council to raise business license fees from $75 to $125 and give that increase to the Chamber to use for marketing and maintenance of the trails. I should mention here that the municipality has budgeted $10,000 in the past for the purpose of maintenance. I asked the Chamber's representative if they had polled the businesses for their opinion on the proposed increase. The response was they had not. I further queried them as to how they would disperse and account for the money and where exactly it would be allocated to. To which they could not respond. Then I asked the chamber to get the answers to those two questions and made a motion directing administration to bring back to council information on the amount of money that would be raised with such an increase. The purpose was to insure the Chamber's request and all pertinent information would be reported on giving the business community a chance to consider the pros and cons of such a request.

There are many things to consider with this proposal and some questions that have to be answered. Does this proposal have the support of the business community as a whole? Should the Chamber be the disbursing agency and deciding where the money is to be spent? Even if this proposal has the support of the business community should the municipality be the collector of the funds? Businesses would have no option to opt out...licenses would have to be paid. If the business community supports the initiatives the chamber wants to take over why wouldn't they pay the Chamber directly and cut out the middle man (the municipality)?

Any way it is definitely an interesting proposal and we will undoubtedly hear from the businesses. The ones that have contacted me so far do not favour an increase in business licenses for this purpose. Give me a call. Give me your thoughts. Call the Chamber and let them know.

I have just added a poll...take the time to vote.