Local wins 60km ultra race

Photo submitted by Meagan Hayashi
Meagan Hayashi won the Black Canyon ultra race and placed third overall at 5:36:49.

Masha Scheele

Local ultra runner, Meagan Hayashi, became the first-place female and third overall runner to finish the 60 KM Black Canyon Trail on Feb. 15 in Arizona, US.

Hayashi and fellow local ultra runner, Matt Davies, both went down to participate in the race.

Hayashi clocked in at 5:36:49, while Davies ran across the finish line at 7:34:14 in 59th place overall.

The Black Canyon Trail features a mixture of single track trail, jeep roads, and pieces of an old stagecoach route. 

Along the way, runners cross through Black Canyon and the Agua Fria river multiple times.

Both runners admitted that running in the desert and training in the Canadian winter was a challenge. 

Since the Black Canyon Trail is very technical and footwork practice is hard to come by in the winter in Hinton, Hayashi relied on exercises and drills to improve her balance and agility. 

Davies explained that he did a lot of treadmill running with long sleeves and sweatpants to try and simulate the expected heat.

Hayashi and Davies both noted the net downhill course and forced themselves to not start too fast in order to save steam for the hills in the final stretch.

Hayashi added that it was one of the best places she’d ever run.

“Winding technical singletrack nearly the whole way, with glorious mountain views to keep you distracted when the trail did get easy in sections,” she said. 

Hayashi had no idea she was in a tight race for the lead the entire way and thinks she passed some women at the first aid station without knowing it.

She spent 40km thinking she was somewhere around fifth place.

“I was simply enjoying a nice day on some fantastic trails, following the pace plan I laid out for myself,” she said.

The heat in the second half slowed her down slightly but she pushed hard in the last 10km towards the finish line with the next runner two minutes behind her.

Meagan Hayashi training on the Black Canyon trail

The Black Canyon trail is Hayashi’s first ultra marathon win.

She explained that the feeling of being chased with no idea if they’re gaining on her pushed her as fast as she could go.

“The best part about it was that the other two women I shared the podium with also ran a faster race than the third place male, putting us all in the top 5 finishers,” she said.

The significant endurance component closes the gap between male and female competitors in ultra marathons, she explained. It becomes more about diligence and willpower, rather than sheer physical strength, she said.

“I’ve done tougher courses and trails in terms of elevation gain etc. But this one is definitely unique. It’s tough to run fast in the heat and on technical rocky downhills,” she said.

Hayashi said the most unexpected aspect of the race was how easy the hills were in the second half.

Due to an injury in 2019, Hayashi spent a lot of her winter cross country skiing, which she believes gave her an advantage as she glided up the hills.

Davies knew going into the race that his fitness level was lacking from what it had been in December, due to being sick in January and losing three weeks of critical training time.

He spent as much time on his feet as he could and then flew to Arizona with Hayashi a week prior to the race in order to run part of the course as their final training.

“I was really impressed with how beautiful the course was and it’s undulating hills. Very rocky though, I had never before run in this kind of terrain,” he said.

Davies finished his race with a few more battle scars compared to his running and training partner. 

He started off with a small group of people for his first 20km, averaging about 5:15 per kilometre.

Somewhere around the first 20km mark, another runner attempted to pass Davies on a narrow winding patch of singletrack when their feet got tangled up. They slid off the course and both were left with some flesh wounds from the rocks.

He didn’t think much of the cuts and kept running towards the only crewed aid station around kilometre 31.

Matt Davies running towards the finish line

His pace had begun to slow and he had taken on a slight hobble, but his wife and Hayashi’s husband cleaned him up and sent him on his way.

He knew he would be finishing later than he planned as the pain in his knee grew to the point where he couldn’t run anymore.

“I debated briefly to DNF but knew I was well within the time cutoffs to finish and decided I’d walk it in however long it took. The last 22k took almost four hours,” he said. 

Mentally not giving up was a tough hurdle, he said, but he pushed through the thoughts of giving up. 

He soon caught up to a group of walkers from the 100km distance race and they kept each other company while sharing stories until the finish line.

Next up, Davies has his eyes set on the Canadian Death Race but thinks he’s still a few years away before attempting it.

His first goal is to stay injury free during his next ultra.

Hayashi’s next race, the Antelope Canyon 50 mile race, is less than one month away. 

Depending on her competitors, she believes she could place well again.

“However, as long as I finish, and maybe get some cool race photos running through the canyons, I’ll be happy,” she said.

To read Hayashi’s full race report, check out her blog drugrunner.wordpress.com.

AISH changes leave some scrambling

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

A Hinton resident was caught off guard when she found out the Alberta government was changing the date for when her Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) payment would arrive next month.

As of March, the date of every monthly provincial AISH and Income Support (IS) payment will be released on the first of the month instead of coming at least more than two days prior to the next month.

Jane Dresden explained that her rent is due and payable on the first of each month, as well as numerous other bills, but banks often require time to process direct deposits.

This means that despite payments being made on the first, they might not appear in Dresden’s account at that time and this makes it critical for payments to be released earlier.

The Mobile Home Site Tenancies Act, states that a “tenancy month” begins on the day on which rent is payable but this not necessarily a calendar month and can be otherwise specifically agreed on by the landlord and the tenant. After speaking with her mobile home park owners, Dresden said her rent is still due on the first of the month.

AISH payments were also cut through de-indexing them from inflation in the Alberta October 2019 budget, forcing some clients to make some spending adjustments.

Dresden stated she hasn’t received any cost of living increase since she started AISH four years ago, and her AISH payments don’t cover her medication or service dog.

She is unsure how she will pay all her bills and manage to put enough money aside to keep up with her vet bills, dog food bills, and service dog registration payments.

Dresden raised her concern with MLA Martin Long and the social services ministry.

Spokesperson for Community and Social Services, Diane Carter, said AISH and Income Support recipients will receive their payments on or before the first of the month on the new schedule, compared to the prior schedule, which could vary widely month to month. 

“The change in payment dates does not alter the amount government provides to clients each month. No payments will be missed due to the payment date moving to the first of the month. Ninety seven per cent of recipients are signed up for direct deposit and will receive payments directly. Recipients who experience hardship because of the change may be able to access emergency funds. Case workers are able to help recipients move bill payments to the new dates or sign up for direct deposit if they need help,” Carter said.

The government notice stated that when the first of the month is a holiday or weekend, benefits will be paid on the last business day of the previous month. For example, March 1 falls on a Sunday, thus the direct deposit and mailing date will occur on Friday, Feb. 28.

Dresden claimed that if account withdrawals to pay bills occur without having the proper funds, nonsufficient funds (NSF) charges will appear and late fees from rental companies may be applied.

“You the account holder will have bad credit rating and will be out as much as 125 dollars for NSF fees and late charges no one can afford,” she said.

Having an account in NSF more than once in a short period of time can be grounds for eviction due to inconsistent rent payments, added Dresden, who is a former paralegal and landlord. Eviction means moving her trailer with money that she doesn’t have, which means she would likely lose her trailer.

The government notice also suggested planning ahead and adjusting the timing of monthly bill payments if needed, contacting caseworkers to discuss the situation, or signing up for direct deposit for faster benefits.

“It’s something that the ministry has decided to move ahead with in order to make everything succinct with how the payments are distributed. In that they actually have reached out to people to ensure they have the support necessary. Although it’s subtle in how the change is, they do understand that some people will possibly have an issue with it moving forward,” said MLA, Martin Long.

He added that affected individuals would be contacted and given options for local support.

Dresden stated that nobody reached out or notified her of support services. Not only do her rent payments come out on the first of the month, insurance and other payments are also due around the same time.

Dresden is frustrated with her given budget which she calls overstretched and unrealistic.

“When you are dealing with an already challenged disabled community, you can not expect them to be able to just get out and go to the bank the day you decide to enter funds to an account,” she said.

She explained that when payments were being made previously three or four days before the next month, people who use special transit, have wheelchairs, or are on medication schedules, received a bit of a grace period to organize their finances at the bank. She calls the decision reprehensible and irresponsible and something that doesn’t align with clients payments.

Permits required as fire season begins

Submitted photo from the Marlboro, Alta. wildfire in May 2019.

Masha Scheele

Wildfire season is only a few days away and Fire Smart efforts are in the works.

Alberta’s wildfire season runs from March 1 – Oct. 31, during which fire permits are mandatory within the forest protection area.

Since March 1, 2019, there were 67 wildfires or approximately 266 burnt hectares in the Edson Forest Area (EFA) where Hinton is located.

Of the 67 wildfires, four were caused by lightning and 63 were caused by humans.

Human-caused fires made up 94 per cent of the areas wildfires last year, compared to the five-year average of 74 per cent. 

An average of 100 wildfires have occurred in the EFA per year throughout the past five years. 

“Some of the reasons the wildfire numbers were down compared to previous years attributes to the fire ban that was placed in the spring that limited recreational wildfires and the above average rainfall,” stated Caroline Charbonneau, area information coordinator of AAF.

Since human wildfires are 100 per cent preventable, the EFA could have had just four wildfires throughout the past year.

AAF is busy interviewing, hiring and training seasonal staff and other critical staff to support wildfire prevention and operations. Wildfire season preparations include opening fire towers, air tanker bases, wildfire camps for seasonal staff and other support staff such as radio dispatchers and logistics assistance.  

Charbonneau added that forest officers will be checking on snow levels and wildfire danger levels.  

AAF has various weather monitoring stations across the Forest Area to measure levels of precipitation. Through this, specialists will be able to determine the wildfire danger coming this wildfire season.

The 2004 Yellowhead Corridor and Hinton South Boundary FireSmart Community Protection Plan is also being updated as part of a greater long term plan for protecting the Yellowhead Corridor, stated Charbonneau.

She explained that the forest area around Hinton has a fire prone landscape, which, in the absence of fire, can accumulate a significant amount of burnable fuel.  

Areas with dense forest cover, low hanging branches, or an accumulation of woody debris provide an opportunity for wildfires to spread quickly. 

Treatment projects, including thinning and pruning of conifer trees, are being done near the communities of Brule and Overlander.  Government crews were also conducting some FireSmart activities near the Athabasca Tower in order to protect some critical infrastructure.

All fall and winter burns must be fully extinguished as fire permits will be mandatory for burning within the forest protection area, except for campfires.

Fire permits are necessary to help keep track of burning, smoke, and flame to avoid fire fighters being unnecessarily dispatched when they could be needed elsewhere. Charbonneau explained that with little lightning in the spring, almost all spring wildfires are human-caused and completely preventable.

“Dead and dry grass, twigs, leaves and branches provides fuel for fast-moving grassfires, making the prevention of wildfire especially important,” she stated.

Contact your local Alberta Agriculture and Forestry office to obtain your free fire permit, the number for the Edson Forest Area is 780-723-8507.

Trial date set in relation to Amber Alert

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Cody Armstrong was released on bail on Feb. 10 and returned to court on Feb.19 to plead not guilty for the charges laid against him.

His trial is currently set for June 8 in Hinton Provincial Court.

Armstrong is the father of a one-year-old Alberta boy for whom an Amber Alert was issued in the early morning hours of Dec. 20, 2019.

RCMP stated that the boy and his parents were all in the home together when the parents had an altercation and Armstrong took his son and left.

The boy was found unharmed later that afternoon and Armstrong was arrested without incident at his home in Brule after a standoff with police.

Charges laid against Armstrong include choking while committing an assault, uttering threats, mischief under $5000, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Council looking to define civic agencies

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council will receive a phase one report on best practices for civic agencies before the middle of 2020.

This came after a discussion on which civic agencies are receiving municipal funding and how these agencies are determined during the standing committee meeting on Feb. 25.

Deliberations for the 2020 budget were originally scheduled to continue at this week’s meeting, but because it wasn’t ready for council yet, they instead used the meeting to focus on the civic agencies item within the budget.

Outside agencies, non-profits, and organizations receive funding from the Town of Hinton each year to support operations, services, or agreements. 

Funding requests and allocations are considered on an individual basis, and were compiled into a grouping named “Civic Agencies” to allow Council to review the amounts during budget deliberations. 

There is no formal criteria for the allocation of these funds, but overall these groups provide or support services to the community. 

“[Our definition of civic agencies] seems to be a catch-all of everything”, said Coun. Albert Ostashek.

He said a problem with not having a set definition for civic agencies is that groups can come to council with requests and wind up in the civic agencies category with no dedicated funding.

Administration is then tasked with finding where the money is going to come from to support the ask council approved.

Ostashek stressed the importance of separating official town groups from outside organizations seeking funding.

While there wouldn’t be time to implement any changes in the current budget year, Council spoke in favour of reviewing the issue before next year’s budget.

Following some discussion, CAO Emily Olsen suggested bringing back an information report on what other communities are doing first.

Based on the next discussion with council, administration could then fine tune the report to include recommendations for a framework that would work for Hinton.

To avoid missing the mark on recommendations in a full report, Council agreed to take a phased report approach.

The total expense of these civic agencies in 2019 was $404,045 compared to $459,400 being requested in 2020, according to the report from administration.

Olsen clarified that roughly $88,000 will be transferred from reserves to cover the community grant program, instead of the $120,000 as the report states. 

The amended number is based on 30 per cent of the net revenue from the ATE program, which won’t cover the community grant program in 2020.

Agencies included are the Chamber of Commerce, the Airport, the Hinton Mountain Bike Association, the Foothills Recreation Management Association, the Hinton Historical Society, the Hinton Performing Arts Society (PATH), the Fohn Festival, the grant program, donations, STARS, and Youth Council Scholarships.

A number of additional requests were received from currently-funded civic agencies, new requests, an increase for the Airport Agreement due to a one-time capital project, and a decrease for the Hinton Performing Arts Society (PATH) were all identified in the report.

As well, the Chamber of Commerce may also be bringing forward a request for additional funds in the 2020 budget.

Changes in 2020 include an increase of $47,200 for the Hinton Historical Society, and a decrease of $27,300 for the Hinton Performing Arts Society, stated the report.

Olsen added that a new request from the Hinton Employment and Learning Place (HELP) was adjusted after the report was released from $40,000 to $10,000 due to the federal funding they recently received.

Another new request included $35,000 for the Disc Golf Society, which is not an annual request as it is a one-time capital project.

Committee recommended a phase one report with information on best practices of civic agencies to come back to council for further discussion before the end of the second quarter this year.

Close but no cigar for T’Wolves in losses to Aeros

Sarah Burns Photo
Hinton Timberwolves forward Max Sturko earned two minutes in the sin bin for charging on this hit during a Feb. 23 home game against the Edson Aeros. Hinton played Edson to another close game, but couldn’t find a way to win in a 7-5 loss.

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton Timberwolves showed during a three-game set against the division leading Edson Aeros that they definitely have what it takes to keep pace with their rivals.

The only thing Hinton needs to do now is figure out how to get over the hump and beat them.

Hinton played Edson to a dead heat for most of the final game of the weekend, played Feb. 23 at home. The score was deadlocked at 5-5 late in the game,  with Hinton goals from Thien Gamble, Max Sturko, Alim Darmenov, Damon Belcourt and Artur Chirkov.

But Edson scored twice in the final 2:58 to close out the win and a sweep of the weekend tripleheader, clinching the division and improving its record to 38-3-0-0.

Hinton also came close the night before in Edson, notching two goals in the middle of the third period to pull to within one goal at 5-4, but Edson goalie Gregory Smith shut the door the rest of the way, making 13 stops in the third.

Jakob Arsenault, Talon Thomas, Gamble and Sturko scored for Hinton and Adam Robertson made 47 stops in net.

Hinton opened the weekend with a 5-1 loss in Edson. The squads were deadlocked most of the first half of the game, but Edson pulled ahead midway through the second period and then pulled away with three goals in the final 9:27.

 Artur Chirkov had Hinton’s only goal and Kolter Pawlick and Robertson combined for 43 stops in net for Hinton.

The Timberwolves get one more crack at beating the Aeros in the regular season this Sunday with a road game at 3 pm. 

Hinton (31-10-1-1) hosts the Barrhead Bombers (11-30-1-1) on Feb. 29 at 8 pm in what could be a first round playoff preview. Barrhead just came off a three-game sweep of the Cold Lake Hornets (9-30-0-2) to vault into third place in the Provincial Division.

Decade-long case ends in $20,000 fine

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

A nearly 10-year-old case involving unauthorized guiding services for hunting near Grande Cache came to an end with guilty pleas entered on all counts.

Due to warrants out for his arrest, Robert Barthelmess, a U.S. citizen and resident of Montana, was not present as he was convicted in Hinton Provincial court on Jan. 15.

His counsel accepted $20,000 in fines on his behalf, as well as a 10-year ban from outfitting, guiding, hunting, or accompanying anyone hunting in Alberta.

The court also ordered that $17,500 of the fine amount be directed to the Forensic and DNA Research Program in support of future conservation and enforcement efforts undertaken by the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch.

Barthelmess was convicted of two counts of providing guiding services to four unknowing American clients without being a licensed outfitter-guide in 2009 and 2010. Prior to 2009, Barthelmess operated a hunting outfitter-guide service called Pinehills Outfitters as a Canadian citizen before his residency was revoked by the federal government.

Barthelmess continued providing guiding services and hunting big game without a valid outfitter-guide permit throughout the 2009 and 2010 hunting seasons.

“He continued to book and contract hunts, accept money, and provide guiding services to clients as he had always done,” read notes from Wildlife officer Kelly Moran, one of the arresting officers.

Barthelmess transferred the commercial allocated hunting licenses to another person from Grande Cache to make it appear as if a new outfitter-guide had taken over the business. However, that new person didn’t have anything to do with the business and acted under the direction of Barthelmess.

In response to a public complaint, officers attended the Pinehills Outfitters camp on Sept. 23, 2010 and inspected two bull elk that were killed by hunting clients. 

Moran determined that Barthelmess and his clients had agreed to lie about the locations they were killed, if asked, but later provided truthful statements.

It was determined one elk was hunted in a zone without a license, and one with an unlicensed guide.

Barthelmess plead guilty to four counts under the Wildlife Act in relation to the elk in Grande Prairie Provincial court on Sept. 24, 2010 and was fined $12,000 and suspended from hunting for four years.

The two clients also plead guilty for their role and were fined $3,000, suspended from hunting, and had the elk and the rifle forfeited to the Crown.

Six days later, Barthelmess was arrested by the RCMP and Fish and Wildlife officers for Wildlife Act offences while operating an off-highway vehicle with a client near the camp.

He was charged and released on $10,000 bail but his client’s hunting licenses, cheques from clients, and an OHV Polaris side by side were seized.

Barthelmess failed to attend court in November 2011 for the charges from that arrest on Sept. 30, 2010.

Additional charges were sworn against him after interviewing five more American hunters in relation to illegally contracted and conducted hunts in 2009. Twenty-four outstanding charges against Barthelmess remained in arrest warrant status in Alberta from 2011 until his guilty pleas were entered on Jan. 5, 2020.

Moran was in court on Jan. 15 to see the case through to the end, almost 10 years after the initial arrest, making it the longest-running case of his career.

Homeless supports get federal funds

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Hinton’s Employment and Learning Place (HELP) is receiving $290,052 to fund its overnight mat program and Freddy’s Resource Room for homeless people.

HELP was one of the 12 projects in Alberta included in a $3.7 million grant program being distributed by the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN).

ARDN received a federal grant through the Reaching Home Program that had committed $2.2 billion to tackle homelessness across Canada as part of the federal government’s national housing strategy.

HELP will submit its expenses for the approved project quarterly to the ARDN, said Deena Fuller, executive director at HELP. 

The funds will cover part of the operations of Freddy’s Resource Room as well as HELP’s support worker starting on April 1, 2020 until March 31, 2024.

Operations for Freddy’s room includes rent and insurance. Fuller added it was pretty exciting to receive funding for an extended period of time as it doesn’t often happen. 

HELP applied for the funding in January 2019 and learned in December that they were successful candidates. They didn’t receive the full amount they had requested in their proposal and will still have to raise funds to cover additional expenses.

Freddy’s was previously funded through a matching grant of the community initiative program (CIP), which runs out on April 1, 2020.

HELP opened up Freddy’s in 2017, which provides showers, computer access, food, clothing and a support worker for homeless people. HELP’s stats showed that the room had 251 visits between the time it opened and June 2018.

Funds also help with the initial year of the mat program which started in November 2019.

The mat program is in its pilot year and HELP will re-evaluate after this year if there is a big need.

Beyond its pilot year, HELP would have to find a different way to fund the program as this grant covers a part time worker, operations, and volunteer training for one year only.

The 12 projects that were chosen were selected out of a group of 33 applications. Other projects were selected in Fort Macleod, Slave Lake, MD Greenview, Rocky Mountain House, Vulcan, Camrose area, Hinton, Banff and Bow Valley region, Central northern Alberta region, Cold Lake, and Strathmore.

Funds will help detox programs, mat programs, numerous support programs to transition out of homelessness, a rural outreach worker for youth, a homeless count and housing needs assessments, FASD clients programming, shelter renovation costs, and staff costs.

Healthcare workers take to the street

Masha Scheele Photo

Members of United Nurses of Alberta Local 84 at the Hinton Healthcare Centre and Hinton Community Health Centre and 43 AUPE from continuing care participated in a Feb. 13 information walk.

Masha Scheele

Local nurses, front-line healthcare workers, and other labour activists showed their support for public healthcare and safe patient care, with a walk Feb. 13.

The local walk was among 33 organized throughout the province amidst collective bargaining proceedings between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) regarding their Provincial General Agreement.

Local UNA members, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) members, and other supporters participated in the hopes of spreading the message that healthcare workers like nurses are the heart of Alberta’s health care system.

“Just to have proper bedside care, patients have to be turned every two hours, patients have to be fed, if the emergency room is full, if we have urgent surgeries that have to be done, there’s just not enough staff to do it,” said, Stacy Green, a licensed practical nurse (LPN)  and operating room technician (ORT) at the Hinton Healthcare Centre.

This all came after AHS proposed a four-year pay freeze and ‘massive’ rollbacks to the nurses collective agreement said UNA local 84 president, Lara Kostyshyn.

Formal bargaining for UNA’s agreement began Jan. 15, following a wage opener in 2019, she said.

“A lot of language within our collective agreement is being attacked. We’re trying to preserve our current collective agreement and work on negotiating in good bargaining faith,” Kostyshyn said.

Kerry Williamson from AHS communications confirmed that a collective bargaining process with unions is ongoing and wages will be a part of those discussions. 

“An ingoing proposal was tabled with the UNA on Jan. 14, 2020. Our ingoing proposal with UNA reflects our goal to have our collective agreements more closely align with comparable provinces,” Williamson said.

He added that AHS hopes to move forward with bargaining while ensuring they are being fiscally responsible and using public funds as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The UNA website stated its ingoing proposal included two per cent raises in each of two years and some additional improvements to contract language in the agreement.

Kostyshyn explained that they are not interested in the potential rollbacks, and more importantly want to protect the essential jobs of nurses and the safe delivery of patient care.

Due to the planned downsizing by AHS, as many as 750 registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) could be laid off in the next year, she added.

Williamson stated that no decision has been made at this time around potential impacts to nursing staff, and that work with employees and unions will continue. 

“Our focus is always on providing effective, timely patient care and we will pay significant attention to how decisions could impact our people and patient care,” he added.

Steve Buick, press secretary to the Alberta Health Minister, stated that they are holding the line on health spending and finding efficiencies to offset the cost of population growth and other needs.

“Reducing costs does not mean reducing care. Alberta has much higher costs than other provinces where quality is just as good, and wait times are shorter. We can reduce excess costs without reducing care – it’s what we campaigned on, the MacKinnon report and the AHS Review confirmed it,” he stated.

Hinton RN, Casey MacKay, noticed that work is currently more stressful than it’s ever been.  Without being able to call in extra staff on overtime there’s a lot more pressure on the already short staff.

“We are forced to take our breaks now even if it’s compromising patient safety,” she said.

Fellow RN, Carlie Bakker, hopes to see some forward momentum throughout collective bargaining and maintaining hard-earned previous labour standards.

“Changes probably came down about two months ago and you can definitely tell [there’s] staff burnout,” she added. 

“Patient safety has decreased for sure. As you increase patient ratios to nursing staff, and people are getting sicker and living longer etc. you’re not going to get the same kind of care that they had.”

The UNA website stated that most Alberta health care workers including UNA members are facing the possibility of layoffs and major rollbacks of contract provisions. 

Kostyshyn dealt with similar budget cuts in the 1990s and was laid off following a five per cent wage rollback.

“I am familiar with the political environment,” she said. “It is worse [now] because we have the health of Albertans, it seems to be more complex than it was 25 or 30 years ago,” she said.

She added that the current contract between UNA and AHS will end on March 31, but that negotiations are ongoing throughout February.

The information walk took place in front of the Hinton Continuing Care Centre in Hinton along Switzer Drive. 

Feb. 13 also marked the 32nd anniversary of the end of UNA’s province-wide strike in 1988.

Construction to ramp up around Hinton

TransMountain Image

Masha Scheele

Construction activities for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project are underway in five different areas around Hinton.

Contractors are currently clearing and preparing sites for the construction that’s set to conclude in 2022. Pipeline construction began at the end of 2019 and is ongoing.

Trans Mountain is among a few projects set to contribute to increased construction activity over the next couple of years, said one Hinton councillor.

“This fall of 2020, TC energy, [CSN] Cascade, and Trans Mountain will all be doing work and there is likely to be between 2,000 and 2,500 extra people in the region,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson during his council report at the Feb. 18 regular meeting.

He said there will likely be some news about camps around the area to support these projects. 

“There will be extra traffic on the road and hotels filling up basically starting in September and carrying on for probably a year after that,” he added.

Contractors for Trans Mountain spoke with local businesses and the Hinton Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 9, to present the opportunities the project brings to the area.

Contractors try to hire local for things like excavation, equipment operators, pipe work, clearing work, and numerous other support services, explained Allison Hounsell, Trans Mountain manager of communications. 

Over the course of the project, she said the service needs will change as the project moves toward reclamation services like replanting trees.

During peak work time, which is set for the second half of 2020, Hounsell said around 800 people will be working on the pipeline project in the spread two section, which includes Hinton.

Work was paused due to the severe cold in January, but contractors have since resumed work. Crews are mobilized out of Edson where the pipeline is stored along Hwy. 16.

Trans Mountain is going back to communities with whom they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a community benefit agreement to re-confirm projects identified when the agreement was signed.

The Town of Hinton and Trans Mountain signed an agreement in 2015 for $250,000 towards development and improvement in the community.

Projects identified in the 2015 agreement include constructing an expanded parking lot for the Hinton Bike Park, expanding Hinton’s trail network and connections to regional trail systems and funding for education to provide support to students in the trades, technology and environmental programs.

The agreement was part of Kinder Morgan Canada effort to work with pipeline-affected communities and identifying local opportunities to give back in recognition of the public inconveniences and temporary disruption created by construction. 

Work in Yellowhead County includes four pump stations and Spread Two pipeline construction, which is 285 kilometres of pipeline construction beginning in the western part of Parkland County and extends west of Hinton. 

The Hinton pump station is located south of Entrance, and is used to put pressure on the product and keep it flowing through the pipeline.

Midwest Pipelines is the General Construction Contractor for the Spread two pipeline and the contractor building Yellowead’s Pump Stations is Cord. 

Environmental protection plans outline the surveys, permits, and requirements needed before work can commence, and all areas around Hinton have completed that stage.

According to the Trans Mountain schedule posted online every month, clearing will be done near the end of March, while mainline construction will be finished shortly after that.

In between Hinton and Edson, the pipeline follows a similar route as the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and jumps the highway in certain sections.

Hounsell explained that to cross the highway, a technique called trenchless crossings will be used.

Hwy. 16 travellers won’t be disrupted by the pipeline as they’ll drill underneath the road.

Trenchless crossing will start in the third quarter of 2020.

The current Trans Mountain Pipeline System has been in operation since 1953 and spans approximately 1,150 kilometres from Edmonton, Alta, to Burnaby, B.C., according to the Trans Mountain website.

The Expansion will twin the existing pipeline system and increase its capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, including 980 kilometres of new pipeline, 193 km of reactivated pipeline, 12 new pump stations, and 19 new storage tanks.

Pipeline capacity has increased since 1953 as they’ve twinned parts of the line already.

Twenty-three active pump stations currently located along the pipeline route maintain the line’s approximately 300,000 barrel per day capacity flowing at a speed of approximately eight kilometres per hour, said the Trans Mountain website.

Equipment at pump stations automatically shut off the line if pressure is too high and automatic leak detection and containment systems prompt an automatic emergency shutdown to isolate the station.

Since 1961, Trans Mountain reported approximately 84 spills to the Canada Energy Regulator, and 70 per cent of those occurred at pump stations or terminals, stated their website. 

The project re-started construction in August 2019 when the Government of Canada approved the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.  The project is subject to 156 conditions enforced by the Canada Energy Regulator.

Besides Spread Two of Yellowhead, work is also underway at Burnaby Terminal, Westridge Marine Terminal, Edmonton Terminal, Kamloops Terminal, Spread one, which is Greater Edmonton, and at pump stations in British Columbia and Alberta.

For pipeline project updates please go to TransMountain.com and click on Activity In Your Area to find Hinton.