Tuesday, 10 November 2009


People in Crowsnest Pass and across our nation will be silent for a few moments tomorrow remembering the sacrifices selflessly given by our soldiers, past and present, in order that we might live our lives in a peaceful and just society. Speeches will be made and stories will be told in remembrance and respect. Here is one story. A story that was never told to me. A story I only became aware of just a year or so ago.

Copied from the website of the Saskatoon Light Infantry

On August 3rd, 1943, the Edmonton Regiment, with under command 1 Platoon M.M.G. (2 Cdn. Inf. Sp. Gp.) (Sask.L.I.) was given the task of capturing a hill feature north of REGALBUTO.

The country to be crossed precluded the use of mechanical transport and supplies, ammunition, and heavy weapons had to be carried on mules.

At daylight, 4 Aug., the mules carrying the weapons and ammunition for the Platoon of M.M.G.'s came under enemy Mortar and M/M.G. fire; many of the mules were killed and most of the remainder dispersed.

While the platoon was being with drawn to cover to reorganize Cpl. Taje, in the face of heavy enemy fire, made his way to the guns and removed the locks, thus rendering them valueless.

Cpl. Taje was then unable to find his own Platoon and so reported to the Edmn. R. On arrival there he was informed that two enemy M.G. emplacements were holding up the advance.

Cpl. Taje returned to the location where the mules had been killed, despite the enemy fire which was being brought down, collected the two guns and some ammunition which he placed in position to engage the enemy. This undertaking required about four hours.

Cpl. Taje then engaged both enemy M.G. emplacements preventing the enemy from firing and enabling the Edmonton Regiment to advance and silence the posts.

Cpl. Taje. accomplished this feat single-handed and with complete disregard for his personal safety. His courage and determination under fire were an inspiration to all ranks taking part in this action.

Dad never talked about the war nor his role in it. Like other baby boomers, I grew up watching Audie Murphy, John Wayne and others take on the Nazis in guts and glory movies about World War II and found it strange that Dad didn't revel in the glory of all he had to have experienced. When talk turned to the latest war movie Dad would only say "don't believe that American s***t. It's not true."

Over the years I began to get a sense of why Dad wouldn't speak of the war, mostly through little snippets of events blurted out after he sampled some of the finest red wines sold by the ALCB. Tiny bits of the horrors eating at his conscience would show themselves in his wine induced, uncontrolled speech. Anything Dad could have been proud of was destroyed by what circumstance forced him to do and witness.
Well Dad and the thousands like him that sacrificed their youth and piece of mind deserve to be honoured. They are heroes. They fought and survived. They came back to raise a new generation with a standard of living they could not have dreamed possible. With all those that gave their lives for us they deserve our undying respect.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Ernie Patterson

Once involved in politics you get to meet some of the most interesting people. One such person I have had the opportunity to meet was the past mayor of Claresholm, Ernie Patterson. Ernie served his town as a councilor and mayor for at least 40 years. Quite an accomplishment. Ernie was a Liberal. He was heard quite often to say . "Yes I am a Liberal but, I'm a right wing Liberal."

I met the good mayor of Claresholm during the 1989 federal election. The free trade election. That election saw Ernie bringing the Liberal message, Ken Copithorne introducing Reform, myself (thrown to the wolves) carrying the NDP banner, and Ken Hughes who won the last federal PC seat in our riding. Ernie is very articulate and made some interesting and entertaining speeches at the many forums held around Southern Alberta.

In one forum, with a wry smile on his lips, he teased "Gary says it's lonely to be a NDP'er in Southern Alberta. Well he is lucky because us Liberals are hated. I even had an individual run me off with a water hose!" In Pincher Creek he brought down the house with the following. "You know every one in Southern Alberta votes PC, and always votes PC. You guys never change. Maybe its time to show the country that you can. Gary over there is a good honest young man. He deserves your vote. Ken is bringing a new conservative message and is worthy of your support. And if you can find it in your hearts vote for me, Ernie Patterson. But don't, don't vote for the PC candidate because in Alberta you can grab that mop handle over there, stick a cabbage on it for a head, call it a Conservative...and you people will send it to Ottawa."

I ran into Ernie at the 2004 convention of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. Ernie was the out going president of that large lobby organization as he was defeated in the municipal election. I can hardly imagine what that defeat, after 40 years, felt like for him and asked how he handled the defeat. He responded with a canned reply to the effect that, that is how democracy works and obviously the people decided it was time for a change. I pressed him further "after 40 years as councillor and mayor that is all you can say?" He looked at me. His ever present little smile gone. "Well, I can go away knowing I got the library built."

Thursday, 7 May 2009


People come to Crowsnest Pass simply because it is beautiful and opportunities for recreation and relaxation in a wilderness setting are endless.

Our communities are backdropped by some of the most dramatic views in Alberta.

Crowsnest Pass is not a "cookie cutter" town. It is a real place with real character and, of course, real characters. It has a soul.
This is what we have to capitalize on. We start with what we have and what we build on. Quite a few have recognized what and who we are and have started that process of rebuilding our community. People such as Crowsnest Pass Dreamer, who is renovating a commercial building in Bellevue. Dr. Maritz who has renovated the historic Alberta Hotel downtown Blairmore.
The Centremore Corp. that has restored another commercial building in Blairmore.
Adaptive reuse as the Crowsnest Pass Dreamer and others have suggested is a vital component of rebuilding. Many of our older buildings could be used for purposes other than what they were created or zoned for. It is very important though to at least recognize the importance of the facade and restore that mining town look. We can achieve what Canmore failed at. Growth with out losing our soul.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Land Use

Looking west from the Brocket hill towards Crowsnest Pass you can see Turtle Mountain just left of centre in this photo (click the pic to see a larger image).

One can guess from this picture that there would not be an overabundance of land available for development in this pass through the Rockies and one would not be far from wrong. Crowsnest Pass is about 33 kilometres long and up to 16 km wide and currently houses approximately 5800 full time and ove 20% more weekend or part time residents, most of whom live in the current urban areas of the pass in single family residences. Our land base is constricted with, steep slopes, important wildlife habitat, wildlife corridors, and property owned by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. If the Pass is to grow in a sustainable fashion responsible land use planning is critical.

Drive out of Calgary in any direction and once you leave the urban sprawl you will see the obscene spread of country residential development on land that was once used for growing grain or raising cattle. Those acreages are located with the Municipal District of Rocky View which surrounds the city of Calgary. That MD does not have the restraints on developable land our Pass does. If they wished, and landowners desired more subdivisions, they could develop in this fashion, taking away agricultural land and open spaces, for a very long time. The people and council of Rocky View recognized the waste and just recently their municipal council adopted a new Municipal Development Plan stopping country residential development in favour of higher density development within the existing villages located in the MD. They chose to decide how they should grow.

Here at home council, in the past month, approved extending the reach of country residential development into one of the few remaining areas of the Pass not already zoned Grouped Country Residential with the rezoning and subsequent approval of an area structure plan for country residential development at the north east end of our municipality along Gold Creek. Council subsequently cut funding for a new municipal development plan from the budget and went on to approve that budget.

The Regional Advisory Council of the Land Use Framework will be considering MDPs as part of their local consultation process. The adoption of a new MDP, here, developed with full public consultation would have given our municipality the statutory documentation needed to show the RAC what the people of Crowsnest Pass want to see in terms of responsible land use. Our collective voice would not be ignored in Land Use Framework deliberations.

Fortunately, the Province is taking land use seriously. The Land Use Framework appears to be based on strong conservation values and much of what many (including myself) have been advocating will likely be achieved through the Land Use Framework process. Sadly, though, we have to wait for the Province to pick up were we failed.

A press release and background information on the Alberta Land Stewardship Act can be found here http://www3.telus.net/garytaje/Landuse/ In the folder you will find a number of pdf files. They are arranged in proper order for reading

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A real surprise

Not a post about Crowsnest Pass, fishing, or politics. Instead a link to some amazing entertainment. If you have a few minutes check out this youtube link (no embedding) you will be glad you did. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

As a young guy I had the opportunity to attend a number of broadway shows in London's theatre district. The first was Gypsy and I went only because a young lady from Israel suggested we would enjoy it. It was enthralling from the opening song and I could not get enough. This video recreates that incredible rush I felt when I first heard a live musical.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Heritage Initiative receives award

In this earlier post, Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?, I wrote about the successful Heritage Driving Route project developed by the Crowsnest Pass Heritage Initiative. The program is well under way complete with highway signage, route markers, and driving map. The Initiative is now finalizing completion of the story telling portion of the enterprise, which will include kiosks and additional signage through out the Pass on the Heritage Driving Route. For all its hard work the Heritage Initiative has unexpectedly received the above reward from The Chinook Country Tourist Association.

Congratulations to all involved in the innovative program. You have shown everyone what new ideas and hard work can bring to our community. Well done!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Crowsnest Pass Dreamer

Just a quick post to inform everyone of an interesting new Crowsnest Pass blog: Crowsnest Pass Dreamer. I have also added a link under Crowsnest Pass blogs. The blog looks as though it will be presenting some positive ideas, direction, and selling points for our Pass. Take a look.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Budget Process

We are now approaching the middle of March and Crowsnest Pass Council has yet to determine our spending for 2009. Seemingly we do have agreement on the capital budget. In the past couple of months we have had 3 meetings set to deal with this year's budget.

The first of the three meetings began quite well with only six of council present. The mayor was absent due to emergency surgery (he is a surgeon). Council made a few cuts with the decisions being made by a show of hands and no debate. Recommendations then came forward to eliminate our budget for marketing and economic development. Further recommendations for savings were tendering of advertising, cuts to non government organizations, and changing the base year for the senior's rebate. I gave council my opinions in opposition to those changes. Council's reaction was; Since we can't make a decision there is no point in continuing and the meeting was adjourned.

Our next budget meeting was even shorter. At the outset I proposed we cut $65,000 from the budget by eliminating a corporate review, with of course, my reasons for that recommendation. The majority of council disagreed. I then presented a proposal to eliminate that $65,000 and then put in the budget a Municipal Development Plan. $25,000 of which would come from this year's budget and $25,000 to come out of next years. This proposal would of saved $40,000 from this years budget and get us started on a new MDP. Giving the people of the Pass the chance to determine the direction the Pass should proceed on. A councilor then stated that since we weren't discussing budget we should end the budget meeting. Then made a motion to go into camera to discuss some legal issues pending. The motion passed effectively bringing to an end that budget meeting.

Last night's meeting was the shortest yet. Upon commencement of the budget portion of last night's committee meeting council only discussed proposed future dates on which we could meet to discuss budget. Dates were set and the meeting adjourned.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Frank Slide

I had made plans to spend the holiday today (Family Day) skiing with friends at our Crowsnest Pass ski hill, Pass Powderkeg, a super community ski area.

My wife, mind you, had other plans. Paddy suggested we take advantage of the free admission for family day at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre being as we hadn't been there since the massive renovations completed this past September. Fortunately, for a change, I was smart enough to listen to her.

Wow! Was I impressed. Brilliant new interpretive displays that even the most ardent Crowsnest Pass historian can learn from. Exciting interactive demos, that kids of all ages will love, of the sensitive monitoring equipment in place on Turtle Mountain to warn of an impending slide. "In the Mountain's Shadow" the audio visual depiction of our mining history, so powerful, it could surely incite Conrad Black to pen a manifesto guiding us to a new social order, one in which capitalists would walk with heads hung low. "On the Edge of Destruction" the new stimulating docudrama truthfully brings to life the story of the destructive and lethal rock slide. All in all an entertaining, educational, and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. I will go back and happily pay the token admission to dig into the interpretation a little deeper.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

January in the Pass

Well January is acting up again turning things here into a deep freeze. The previous couple of weeks though (because of a little wind) saw gorgeous weather. Chinooks make Crowsnest Pass the best place in Alberta to live. We invariably get warm breezy breaks from winter. The best way to take advantage of those welcome respites from frost bite is to get out with fly rods in hand to exercise some of the local trout and get out we did. It is an incredible feeling breaking trail through virgin snow, knowing you are going to be the first person to fish the water this year.
Even Susan was able to escape her Crowsnest Cafe and Fly Shop, in Coleman, a couple times to beat the winter doldrums with some well caught rainbows. Sunny days and co-operative trout can't be beat. Susan got a much bigger one this day, a real lunker, but unfortunately I was a ways away and didn't get a pic. Here she is though playing with a nice 17" rainbow.
Kirby and I got out quite a bit while the weather held. We picked up a few nice bulls and some good rainbows including one I caught that was bigger than any rainbow (with one uninspiring exception) I got all last season. Kirby (being a dryfly purist and all) doesn't get too many big bulls a year but this year he is hammering them constantly. No, not on dries! Here he is fighting a good one. He is so happy fishing sub-surface now that he can not help but give his award winning smile for the camera while showing off one of his good bulls.
No matter how long one fishes an area he can still be surprised by what is pulled out of the water. This fish was not just a surprise it was a bit of a shock.
It is not very often one catches a lake trout in Southern Alberta on a fly in flowing water. Matter of fact this one is my first.

Great weather in January. Another super reason to live here in Crowsnest Pass!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


The times being what they are I think it is good time to post this little story that Canada's greatest orator, Tommy Douglas, used to describe a capitalist economy.

I used to visit in farm homes, particularly around meal time, and if I got in around dinner time of course, everybody in the family was busy. They were unhitching the horses. They were pumping the water. They were milking the cows. They were pitching down the hay and the oat sheaves. Somebody else was out gathering the eggs. Somebody else was feeding the pigs and the chickens. Everybody had something to do. Even the youngsters were given a job doing something, for instance gathering the eggs or feeding the chickens.

And here I was, right off the city streets. I didn't know what to do, and I said "give me something to do." Well, nobody was going to trust this city boy with milking a good cow. They gave me the one job that anybody could do. They gave me the job of turning the handle of the cream separator.

Any of you ever turned the handle on the cream separator? Well it's quite an experience. I got to be quite good at it. I got to the place where I could tell you how many verses of "Onward Christian Soldiers" it takes to put a pan of milk through this thing. And as I was turning the handle and they were pouring in the milk, and I could see the cream come out the one spout and the skim milk coming out of the other spout, one day it finally penetrated my thick Scotch head that this cream separator is exactly like our economic system.

Here are the primary producers, the farmers and the fishermen and the loggers. They are pouring in the milk. And here are the workers, whether they work on the railroad or go down to the mines or sail ships or work in a store or a bank, or teach school, clerk in the store, work in a hospital. They are the people whose services make the economy go round, and they're turning the handle. So here you have it: primary producer puts in the milk; people who work with hand and brain turn the handle. And then I thought, but there's another fellow here somewhere. There's a fellow who owns this cream separator. And he's sitting on a stool with the cream spout in his mouth. And the primary producer and the worker take turns on the skim milk spout. And they don't like skim milk. Nobody likes skim milk. And they blame it on each other And the worker says, "If those farmers and fishermen, you know, would work a little harder, well I wouldn't be drinking this skim milk." And the fishermen and the farmers say, "If those workers didn't demand a forty hour week, didn't want such high wages, I wouldn't have to live on this blue milk." But you know, they're both wrong.

The farmers and the fishermen have produced so much we don't know what to do with it _ we've got surpluses of foodstuffs. And the workers, they've produced so well that today nearly a million of them are unemployed. The fault is not with the worker. It is not with the primary producer. The fault is with this machine. This machine was built to give skim milk to the worker and the primary producer, and to give cream to the corporate elite.

As a matter of fact, it doesn't always do that because every once in a while this little fellow sitting on the stool with the cream spout in his mouth gets indigestion. And he says, "Boys, stop this machine. We got a recession!" He says to the worker, "You're laid off, you can go on unemployment insurance. and after that on welfare." And he says to the farmers and the fishermen, "You know, we don't need your stuff. Take it back home." And then he sits for a while,indigestion gets better, burps a couple of times, says, " Alright, boys, start the machine. Happy days are here again. Cream for me and skim milk for both of you."

Now what the, what the democratic socialist party has been saying to Canadians for a long time is that the time has come in this land of ours for the worker and the primary producer to get their hands on the regulator of the machine so that it begins to produce homogenized milk in which everybody'll get a little cream.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Forest Growth in Crowsnest Pass and area

My last post on the proposed logging along Allison Creek generated quite a few excellent and well thought out responses. Obviously the impact of logging near the Pass is deserving of a broader based debate. The anonymous poster talking of the burned forests is exactly right when he talks of why the trees along the east slopes of the Rockies are all the same age class. I have heard that by the 30's 80% of the east slopes were deforested mainly by fire. Most of which were started by men. Here are a few pictures showing how the Pass and South Castle looked. A couple of them are before and after shots taken from the same location 8 or so decades apart.

The picture above is looking from the ridge above the golf course south. The newer picture had to be taken from a higher position than the first in order to get above the trees that had grown since the first picture was taken.

This picture was taken from Bellevue looking close to area of the current Hillcrest intersection. It looks quite a bit different now.

This picture is taken from Mt. Choulthard looking north to Crowsnest Mountain, Coleman, and north. The final picture below is a before and after of the South Castle.The pictures clearly show why our forests are mainly 80 to 90 years old. They also show how forests recover. Any people that spend time in the Pass can also see the area looks better now (even with the burn of the lost Creek fire) than it did back in the 30's.

The issue here regarding logging is simply, what does the Crowsnest Pass get out of it? How does it benefit our economy? What does it do for our quality of life?

Quite truthfully Spray Lakes"rights" (as anonymous states it),I prefer the word privilege, to log the area are not at the top of my priority list. They have shown how much they care about the aesthetic appeal of the Pass. A quick drive up the Kananaskis outside of Coleman will show you how much they care. What benefit did we get out of that mess?

Spray Lakes, SRD, local land owners, local stakeholder groups (mainly cross country skiers) got together a couple of years ago looking at fire smarting our northern boundary, keeping in mind impact on the trails and other aesthetic concerns of the local landowners. Surprisingly the process went quite well with all sides compromising their positions in order to accomodate the greater good. The compromises were a bit of a hard pill to swallow for the local stake holders but they agreed. All sides agreeing on cut block size (the height of one tree) 60 to 80 feet depending on the area. Where the small blocks would likely be etc. Then a couple of months later the logging company comes back to the stakeholders demanding more. Demanding bigger blocks. Fortunately the locals held their ground.

Back to Allison. Alberta SRD has listened to the concerns brought to them and have limited what could be taken on Crowsnest Mountain, and created a bigger buffer along some trails. They have also increased the buffer size along Allison Creek to 60 metres but have not created a buffer along the road. Is this good? Well, its better than what Spray Lakes wanted to do. Should they be allowed to log though, who will be there holding their feet to the fire? Once its cut it is too late.