Long lobbies for more MPB funds

West Fraser Photo

Masha Scheele

West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long earned bipartisan support for a push to allocate more provincial funds and to lobby the federal government for more money to aggressively combat the spread of mountain pine beetle (MPB).

Long stood in the Legislative Assemble on June 24 and encouraged the provincial government to implement its funding commitment of $5 million to address the problem and pointed to a promise made in the UCP platform to increase funding to combat MPB from $25 million to $30 million.

He also said the federal government needs to step up and address MPB like it has with forest threats in other regions.

“When I look at how Ottawa is tackling the spruce budworm issue on the east coast, plenty of resources are being deployed to tackle the issue,” said Long in speaking to his motion in the assembly.

“Yet when I stand in Jasper, where mountain pine beetle infected only 122 hectares in 2013 and, due to no management being taken, by 2017 over 93,000 hectares were destroyed – and now many communities in my riding are left vulnerable and are feeling powerless and helpless, yet the federal government is still unwilling to help.”

Long added that MPB destroys not only lodgepole pine, but is also a threat to other species of pine, like Jack pine, which is a major species of the boreal forest.

“In its wake are dead forests and economic ruin. Due to a lack of progress and due to a lack of consistent resource action against the beetle, British Columbia between 1995 and 2015 lost more than half its saleable pine timber. That equates to the loss of tens of billions of dollars to the provincial economy and countless jobs over the coming decades,” said Long.

Long stated that MPB mitigation costs Canadians tens of millions of dollars per year, and the loss of economic activity is even higher. 

“Our forest industry contributes $6 billion to our economy every year,” he said.

He also noted that without active forest management, the risk of infestation and wildfires increase.

“The forest industry contributes to a healthy forest and safer communities by harvesting mature trees before they become a risk to the area,” he said.

NDP MLA Heather Sweet for Edmonton-Manning stated that Alberta has invested nearly half a billion dollars since 2004 to control the pest. Early in 2018, the province provided Yellowhead County and Hinton with funding to control, suppress, and eradicate the mountain pine beetle on municipal and private lands through the mountain pine beetle municipal grant program, she added.

“I know that the Hinton Chamber of Commerce developed a new policy resolution on the mountain pine beetle that has since been adopted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. One of the key pieces of this policy is a request for the federal government to reinstate the federal mountain pine beetle program with funds equivalent in scale to over $200 million,” said Sweet.

Since the Canadian Chamber of Commerce adopted the policy last fall, it is committed to lobbying the federal government for funding recommended in the policy and acknowledgement of the national issue. Tracy Sheppard, president of the Hinton Chamber, stated that for it to be a national issue it needs to affect at least three provinces and currently four provinces are impacted by MPB. 

Hinton Chamber representatives met with the provincial government June 25 and asked what they were going to do to work with the feds and also lobby for the funds required and the support needed to start combating the spread of the MPB.

“The Alberta government has put hundreds of millions of dollars in already, which is why we want the federal government to step up and do their share and realize this is not just BC and Alberta’s problem. Even the Saskatchewan government has given money to the Alberta government to combat this, because of course they’re next in line,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard added that beyond the negative effects on the forestry industry, the MPB has also affected tourism in the area due to the smoke.

“That’s one of the reasons we reached out to different ministers because it’s going to be an economic development issues, it’s going to be a tourism issue. It’s an environmental and forestry issue right now but it’s so far reaching, I’m sure there are so many things we haven’t even thought of,” she said.

MLA Todd Loewen for Central Peace-Notley stated that this is not a problem limited to any constituency, to Alberta, or even to western Canada, but a national problem.

“Lodgepole pine as a tree species is most impacted by mountain pine beetle, but it also affects Jack pine and many other species of pine. It’s a common sight through our nation’s great boreal forests, as are other species of pine. These trees are seen from the borders of the Yukon all the way to Halifax, and if action is not taken to control and eradicate this threat, it will continue to spread unabated into other regions of the country,” he said.

The motion put forth by Long calls for the provincial government to partner with Alberta’s forest industry and the federal government in the fight.

“I believe that the only way we will have any hope in fighting the pine beetle is to work with our world-renowned foresters across our province to develop a plan perhaps even changing existing policy if necessary and then implementing that plan,” commented Long in an email to the Hinton Voice.

Hinton Mayor Marcel Michaels commented during the regular council meeting on June 25 that it’s rare when researchers, scientists, Parks Canada, elected officials, and industry are all on the same page, but that they all agree that after a harsh winter is when more efforts should go into bringing down the population.

“The idea is that this is when we attack the pine beetle the most, after a bad winter for the beetle that’s when you really want to make that impact,” he said, summarizing what he heard at an MPB meeting last week in Edmonton.

Based on winter survival, Jasper National Park saw 98 per cent mortality this year, confirmed David Argument, Jasper National Park’s resource conservation manager.

More trees will be turning red throughout this summer from last year’s attack, but the findings by Canadian Forest Services in the park show a decreasing MPB population, said Argument.

Results in the area of Hinton for mortality or MPB forecast have not been announced by Alberta Agriculture & Forestry (AAF). 

Surveys done in nine areas by AAF were completed and reviewed by June 15 but won’t be released until mid-July said Caroline Charbonneau, wildfire info officer in the Edson Forest Area. West Fraser also conducted 20 site surveys in the Hinton area, added Charbonneau.

Firefighters work the car wash for Muscular Dystrophy

Sarah Burns Photo

Masha Scheele

The Hinton Firefighters Association (HFA) got lucky this past weekend as the rain let up and the sun came out during their 12th Annual Car Wash for Muscular Dystrophy (MD).

The volunteer firefighters that make up the association raised rougly $6,000 in just four hours of polishing vehicles on June 22 for MD Canada.

Kids took advantage of the bouncy house and face painting and families took some time to relax and enjoy burgers.

“They were just hanging around the fire hall and the kids were just having an absolute hayday and that’s exactly what the fire department is about – community involvement,” said Lt. Adison Vidrih, president of the association.

“The reason it went so well I think was because it was raining the four days before and everyone wanted to get out and enjoy [the weather] so they came to the carwash. It was a tremendous success.”

All the money from the carwash goes towards MD Canada, and to date the association has raised $130,000 for the group.

“We really appreciate the community backing us up and helping us out. We like to try and keep the [fundraisers] in town, because the town helps out so much,” said Vidrih.

Sarah Burns Photo
At the 2019 Car Wash for MD

Earlier this month, the association also hosted a spaghetti dinner during seniors week in Hinton together with the Hinton Fire Department and roughly 135 people attended.

The HFA officially formed three years ago, but separately from the department, Hinton’s volunteer firefighters have worked to raise money for local charities and the department itself for much longer.

“The actual society was developed in 2016, but we’ve done a bunch of this stuff before that. The reason we developed the society was because the tax write off for the guys that want to donate to us is a bit better for them,” said Vidrih.

“Then we get bigger sponsorships and stuff like that, which really helps us out.”

The main purpose of the society is to fundraise for charities in the Hinton area and continue to raise money to help out the department with equipment that falls outside of their operating budget. 

Recently, the association applied for the community grant to purchase dummies for the department, which was granted to them but later council decided that the money would be found in the budget.

“It’s not just for the fire department and fire equipment, but also for other charities, all the local groups that need assistance,” said Vidrih.

The HFA raised $8,000 during the Valentine’s Day Draw this year for the association itself, and has raised $16,000 in total this year.

“During the winter we do a lot of food bank stuff, during Christmas time we sponsor the community dinner. We do the spaghetti dinner for seniors and the spaghetti dinner for the women’s shelter. We raise money for the community firefighting program,” Vidrih listed.

Among others, they host a turkey drive for the Hinton Healthcare Foundation each year, cook for the legion, buy candy for the parades in town, help out with the fireworks, the PARTY program, and Firesmarting.

“The community is absolutely phenomenal when it comes to us doing our fundraising projects,” said Vidrih.

The association’s next project will take place on June 30 and July 1 at the Canada Day parade and fireworks.

Sarah Burns Photo
At the 2019 Car Wash for MD

Velveteen Rabbit serves as farewell for young actor

Masha Scheele Photo
Paige Taylor in the Velveteen Rabbit

Masha Scheele

Paige Taylor was a quiet, shy girl when she first arrived at her audition for the part of Anne in Anne of Green Gables in 2017.

Break-A-Leg (BAL) Theatre director Don Engerdahl immediately knew that he found his Anne when the audition started.

It was even more evident when she came out in full costume, taking over the part and immediately making it her own, added Engerdahl.

“A lot of the kids are like that when they put their costumes on. They just completely become that character, it’s sort of bizarre,” said Engerdahl.

Three years later and after nearly 10 plays and musicals between BAL and École Mountain View School, she stepped out onto the Performing Arts Theatre of Hinton (PATH) stage as a toy fairy, complete with wings and glitter.

During the final show of the Velveteen Rabbit on June 15, Taylor’s character walked on stage to magically make the toy velveteen rabbit into a real rabbit.

“It’s a fun character, it’s very magical and mysterious and wise at the same time, it’s pretty cool,” she said prior to the play.

To Taylor, the most important lesson in the Velveteen Rabbit was about picking good friends, and being there for each other. 

“And looking out for people basically, so treat people the way you want to be treated and to pick who you want to be friends with and stay with them.”

Taylor said she never felt nervous to perform and was used to being on a stage long before her BAL theatre career in Hinton took off.

She started singing when she was just seven years old and with the help of her singing coach, Christina Oliver, she participated in local performances and the Yellowhead Regional Arts Festival, singing in front of adjudicators and the public.

“She’s very mature, very talented, and she’s motivated,” added Engerdahl. 

Now, at 13 years old, Taylor doesn’t find being on stage intimidating whatsoever.

“It’s fun being in front of an audience, doing what makes you happy and others. Being with all the amazing cast members and Don and Mel (Pattison) and everyone and working with everyone to create something amazing,” she said.

Masha Scheele Photo
Paige Taylor in the Velveteen Rabbit

She credits Engerdahl and BAL for her knowledge of theatre and is happy to have found great new friends through the program who enjoy the same things as her. Taylor stated that along with her love for arts and theatre she also wants to explore her interests in science.

After gracing the PATH stage throughout the last few years, Taylor and her family are moving to Edmonton.

Engerdahl stated that while they are saddened to see Taylor go, they loved working with her and hope she continues working on the skills she started building with BAL.

“I’m already registered for some productions with the Citadel Theatre and the Foote Theatre School in Edmonton,” she said.

“We’re looking at finding another singing teacher so I can get into more concerts and stuff like that again.”

Performing in front of an audience and bringing joy to others through her performances is something that makes Taylor happy, she said.

“There’s no words, just a rush of joy that goes through you, and it’s amazing,” she said about being on stage.

After the final performance on June 15, Engerdahl announced to the audience that it was Taylor’s final show with BAL, thanked her, and gave her a Velveteen Rabbit parting gift.

“I was completely and utterly touched and it was a very emotional time for us all. But I definitely enjoyed this play and working with Don for so many years,” she said afterwards.

RCMP bike patrol is ready to roll

Masha Scheele

Through mud and rain, the first bike patrol in Hinton by the RCMP hit the trails June 21.

After covering around 18 kilometres in a few hours of riding around town, Staff Sgt. Chris Murphy and Const. Michael Rathbun felt they had a successful first ride.

“We were able to hit a lot of places throughout Hinton, we were able to cover and have conversations with people outside of schools, people on their doorstep, we came across people who were out riding their bikes. We stopped and had conversations with them as well. The feedback was very positive, in certain places people weren’t expecting to see a police officer so that’s great,” said Murphy.

Murphy explained that the goal of having regular bike patrols is to increase visibility and to strategically stop crimes from occurring.

“Being on bikes we were of course able to access the wonderful trail system of this community. It allows us to get out there, but in addition to the trail system, we’re able to get into locations and be a little bit more visible,” he said.

Not having their vehicle create a barrier when accessing certain areas in town like the hiking paths allows the RCMP to strategically and proactively place themselves to prevent criminal activity.

“It’s not lost on us that we have clients involved in criminal activity that are utilizing our trail system, that are utilizing the bush and this gives us one tool to be able to get to the right place at the right time,” added Murphy.

During the patrol on Friday, the two officers made their way over to the high schools and had conversations with some of the students as they were leaving to go home. Murphy hopes an increase in RCMP visibility will lead to increased communication with the community as well.

And on the flipside, bikes also provide a much quieter, less visible option for nighttime patrols.

“And then the second piece is being strategic with the enforcement side of things, and being able to hopefully be proactive and putting resources in the right place at the right time to stop crimes from occurring. Or maybe have people think twice before [committing a crime], and for those who continue to commit crimes I’m hoping that when they come around that corner of the trail they see us,” said Murphy.

As often as resources permit throughout the summer and fall, the bike patrol will be out in different areas of Hinton based on calls for service and crimes reported.

Day shifts and night shifts will be utilized for different reasons, with a minimum of two officers out during a patrol.

“One of our priorities this year is making sure we are doing those proactive patrols in a variety of ways, bike, foot patrols, quad patrols and vehicle patrols,” said Murphy.

He explained that the bike patrol is just one tool of many and that officers are excited that the program is up and running.

“You hear a lot more, you see a lot more, you’re able to get to locations that are pretty tough [to get to] with a vehicle,” said Murphy.

The RCMP recently purchased two new bikes that are identified as police bikes for the patrol program.

“Like any tool implemented we will continue to reassess it as we go throughout the summer, but I do see positive things coming from this,” said Murphy.

Hinton FC battle back for provincial berth

Tyler Waugh

Ralph Underwood didn’t feel right cheering against somebody at soccer zones, but the Hinton FC U17 boys coach thought desperate times called for desperate measures.

With a potential provincial championships berth on the line and a 3-2 loss  against Whitecourt to open the playdowns, his Hinton FC U17 boys soccer squad needed help from Edson, of all teams.

If Edson could beat Whitecourt in the second game of the day, then Hinton still had a chance to beat Edson later in the day to win a tiebreaker and go to provincials.

“We needed Edson to win to have a shot, and it’s tough sitting there watching and not having control over your fate. Couldn’t help it, definitely found myself cheering pretty hard for Edson,” Underwood said.

Things didn’t look good early as Whitecourt took a 2-1 lead into half, though the momentum turned early in the second half. In fact, it almost turned too much as Edson scored five unanswered goals to win 6-2 and create a larger goal differential than Hinton had bargained for going into the final game … meaning not only would Hinton have to beat Edson, they would have to beat them by at least three goals to win outright.

“Yeah, may have cheered for Edson a little too well. Actually started cheering for Whitecourt for a bit there at the end when Edson kept scoring,” Underwood said with a laugh adding that, while the goal differential would be a big hurdle, it was a huge boost to  not be eliminated and control their own destiny.

“It was big … having that last game of the day and knowing what you needed to do to win. The kids went from being dejected, thinking they were out of it, to having a chance. This could be their last year of soccer for some of them … having their potential last game mean something meant a lot.”

Hinton took hold of the game early, building leads of 1-0 and then 2-1 going into the half, meaning they were still two goals from the three-goal differential they needed to take top spot in the tie-breaker.

Hinton continued to push with a couple more goals in the second half, holding on for the 4-1 win. Tyler Clark had two goals, Joel Sunderwald had one and Evan Goulet scored one as well. 

Hinton earned the right to represent the Northwest Soccer Association at the Tier IV Rural Girls and Boys provincial tournament July 5 – 7 at Mount Park Sports Fields in Fort Saskatchewan.

Hinton dominated in the league play during the regular season, but couldn’t find that same level of success against competition in tournaments at Camrose and Sherwood Park.

Underwood says that for the team to succeed at provincials it’ll come down to chemistry and team play.

“This is a hardworking, good crew of players with a lot of passion for the game. We aren’t necessarily going to match up player for player talent wise with some of these teams at provincials,” he said.

Hinton FC is the only local team to advance to provincials, but certainly not the only team to medal at their respective Soccerfest zone tournaments. The U15 boys came out on top of a three-way tiebreaker to earn silver. The U15 girls rode the home field advantage to beat Jasper 3-2 to earn bronze at Mary Reimer Park. The Hinton Riot U13 boys team capped off a strong season with a bronze medal at zones.