Provincial job cuts impact wildfire and forestry

Finance Minister Travis Toews stated job eliminations are result of Alberta departments following through on efficiency plans from last two budgets.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


Position reductions signalled through budget 2020 means the loss of around 930 jobs in social services, agriculture, and wildfire management in Alberta.

The cuts could impact up to 546 positions in Community and Social Services and 247 in Agriculture and Forestry, according to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

Within Forestry, 57 positions will be abolished across the functional areas of Wildfire Management, Forest Management and Forest Health, stated the disclosure letter from the province to AUPE.

“I suspect there will be a lot less people coming through the [Hinton Training Centre] to get training if they’re getting rid of positions,” said Kevin Barry, vice president of AUPE.

Barry did not have exact specifics on the Hinton Training Centre, but he knew forestry is taking a hit and suspects a reduction at the centre as a result.

“They make these announcements but don’t give any exact specifics. It leaves it up in the air for what will happen in your area,” Barry said.

Finance Minister Travis Toews stated that the job eliminations are the result of Alberta departments following through on plans in the last two budgets to make government more efficient. 

“As we found efficiencies in delivering government services, it has resulted in some reduction in terms of the size of the public service,” Toews said. 

“The vast majority of reductions will be obtained through attrition as government employees find other opportunities.”

He said the reality is that Alberta is facing a great fiscal challenge and significant economic headwinds.

Justin Laurence, press secretary to the minister of agriculture and forestry, stated that difficult decisions were made after careful consideration.

“After carefully reviewing the forest management program, long term goals were set to streamline the services we are providing. Our Forest Jobs Action plan includes an emphasis on helping to grow the value added wood manufacturing industry in Alberta while increasing fiber supply,” Laurence stated.

Besides the hit to wildfire management and forestry, Hinton will also feel the impact of the social services cut, according to Barry.

“You can certainly rest assured that the folks that are in need are probably going to have a much harder time accessing them,” said Barry.

The McCullough Centre in the community of Gunn, about 90 kms north-west of Edmonton, will close with the loss of 63 jobs, stated the AUPE.

The centre helps homeless men with mental-health and addiction issues transition to stable, healthy lifestyles where they find employment and secure housing.

There are 63 staff at the facility who currently serve 11 clients at an annual budget of $3M, said Jerry Bellikka, press Secretary and Senior Advisor to the Minister of Community and Social Services.

The decision to close McCullough Centre by February 2021 was made after a thorough review of the operation, he added.

“Anybody from Hinton who may be struggling with addictions now has one less facility that they’re going to be able to access,” Barry said.

Alongside the fact that the Hinton mat program is struggling to get off the ground this winter, which services mainly men, it could be dangerous for those in need, he added.

Social services are going to be harder to access, even in rural areas like Hinton, according to Barry.

On the other hand, Bellikka stated that they have not cut programs in rural communities.

Alberta Job Corps facilities are closing in Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lac La Biche and Calling Lake. 

After a review of the program it was determined the program was not effective at placing people in permanent jobs, fewer than half the clients completed the training programs, and less than half of the remaining clients were able to find full time employment. 

Bellikka stated the closure will save approximately $6.9 million annually.

“Clients of these centres will be referred to other job training and placement programs available through Alberta Supports,” Bellikka said.

Barry pointed out that the UCP continues to hand out money through almost a $5B tax give-away for corporations and other tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

While Albertans need oil and gas in the province, cutting jobs in the public sector is not going to help the oil and gas industry recover and will instead hurt the province further, he added.

“We’re getting tired of being cut, you see the 11,000 Alberta Health Services job cuts and now you’re seeing 930 in the Alberta government. There have been thousands of job cuts in the post secondary, boards and agencies have lost positions, they’re getting sick and tired of it and they’re getting angry and they’re not going to take it,” Barry said.

Any change is going to take action, not just from workers in the province but also from everyday Albertans that are going to lose services. 

“It’s time for Albertans, especially rural Albertans to say enough is enough and start to hold this government accountable and not wait three years for an election. They can do it now,” Barry said.

Coats for Kids collecting until end of this week

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


Residents of Hinton have been generous this year in donating their used coats for those who need them.

Coats for Kids is an annual event that has been running in the community to provide free coats to not only kids, but also for adults in need as the weather turns cold.

The Hinton Employment and Learning Place (HELP) most recently organized the event and this year the Hinton Alliance Church volunteered to run the program.

“We have received quite a few. I know Big Rock Dodge, their bin is exploding with coats. The response from the community in terms of donating has been fantastic,” said Ryan Levi, associate pastor at the Hinton Alliance Church.

Mr. Mikes also stepped up when the church needed extra places to collect coats and they were very quick to jump on board to help, Levi noted. He added that this event is something the community has been loyal to.

The church has collected at least 50 coats so far, and Levi predicts they will have between 200 and 300 coats at the end of the week.

Levi is keeping track of how many coats will be distributed this year in order to track the need in the community as well as how the event is meeting those needs.

“I know families that use the program will actually donate coats from the previous year that don’t fit and then get coats for the present year. It’s really a community minded event and program,” Levi said.

Coats for Kids is an event that gives the opportunity for anyone in the community to give back.

Coats will be collected until Oct. 30 at three locations in Hinton including the Alliance Church, Big Rock Dodge, and Mr. Mikes.

Anyone in need can come pick up a winter coat at the Hinton Alliance Church, 147 Swanson Drive, on Nov, 5, between 5 pm and 7 pm, Nov. 6, between 5 pm and 8 pm, and Nov. 7, between 9 am and 1 pm.

For more information, contact Ryan Levi at ryan@hintonalliance.com or 780-865-0603.

‘We have now crossed a tipping point’: Hinshaw

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


Three COVID cases in Hinton as provincial numbers rise

Hinton currently has three cases of COVID-19 while Yellowhead County has four confirmed cases.

In the last announcement from Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, new mandatory and voluntary measures were introduced in the Calgary and Edmonton zones as numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to rise again.

“We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking,” said Hinshaw.

Face mask bylaws were activated in several Albertan communities as a result of their local active cases but Hinton does not have a face mask bylaw in place.

Council discussed the use of mandatory masks in public spaces during the standing committee meeting on Aug. 25 but made no decision going forward.

During that meeting, Todd Martens, Hinton’s protective services manager, indicated the Town looked at bylaw examples in Banff, Jasper, Edson, Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge. A few of these would be triggered and activated in response to rising numbers of COVID-19.

At the time, council concluded that administration and a trigger of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) could deal with any potential risks of COVID-19 in various ways. The state of local emergency (SOLE) would allow administration the power to do what is necessary for the protection of the community, including mandating masks. A potential bylaw could be either educational or enforceable, Martens added.

Grande Prairie’s mandatory mask bylaw was activated in response to its triggers on Oct. 26 and will be valid until Jan. 31. A similar temporary bylaw was also triggered in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, including Fort McMurray, and will be effective for at least 30 days. Westlock just passed a face mask bylaw on Oct. 26.

A new change from AHS is that if a positive case attended an event while infectious, AHS will notify the organizer and provide them with written notification that can be emailed to event attendees within 24 hours. 

“This change will make the close contact notification process quicker for large events,” said Hinshaw.

There are active alerts or outbreaks in about 11 per cent of schools in Alberta with a total of 680 active cases, she added. There are currently 101 schools with an outbreak, including 39 on the watch list with five or more cases. 

Hinshaw added that just six per cent of all COVID cases in those aged five to 19 since Sept. 1 have been acquired at school, which means schools are not a main driver of community transmission.

Due to the demands on the health system, AHS moved to postpone up to 30 per cent of non urgent surgeries in the Edmonton zone.

No additional health measures have recently been put in place for rural Alberta, but Calgary and Edmonton are now limited to gatherings of only 15 people. 

Hinshaw noted that in the last two weeks in both cities, social gatherings made up 15 per cent of all outbreaks, and almost a third of all outbreak related cases.

“This 15 person limit is temporary, it will be reassessed after one month and can be lifted if we see our growth rate or R value decline below one and new case numbers consistently below 100 in each city,” stated Hinshaw.

Town removes oversight of Golf Society

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


Council and Town of Hinton administrative oversight has been removed from the Hinton Golf Society for the 2020-2021 Golf Course Operating Agreement.

“The original intention of council and administration oversight to the Golf Society was in regard to the loan amount,” stated CAO Emily Olsen, during the Oct. 20 special meeting of council.

The Town of Hinton entered into a Loan Agreement with the Hinton Golfing Society in June of 2017, which included a condition of the transfer of all Golf Course assets to the Town in the event of default on the loan payments. Due to the society defaulting on their payment and the asset being transferred to Town ownership, the oversight requirement is no longer needed, Olsen explained.

Coun. Dewly Nelson clarified that the Town owns the asset while it is operated by the Hinton Golfing Society.

“I really respect the work the society has done. I really look forward to what they’re doing in the coming years. This year has been a glimpse of what is possible for the golf course,” said Nelson.

Olsen added that the Hinton Golfing Society and the Town of Hinton have agreed on a one year operating agreement and there will be a chance to review that next year.

Council also approved a 100 per cent cost recovery plan for maintenance and operations of the golf course lands, buildings, and operating equipment, and charges related to insurance and utilities within the 2020/2021 Golf Course Operating Agreement.

“It’s the cost to do the business of golf. It has been budgeted by the Hinton Golfing Society in the budget for next year,” said Coun. Trevor Haas.

Those costs include a $15,000 monthly debenture payment, up to $2,000 in monthly utilities, a $22,000 annual insurance payment, a $40 monthly payment for the security system, and up to $15,000 each month in asset maintenance. These will all be recuperated by charging them back to the operator in the form of an operating agreement and are taken on by the operator as business costs. 

Council also approved 100 per cent cost recovery based on a fee for service with respect to golf course road and building maintenance, where road clearing does not take precedence over the clearing of other Town roads.

“This is just one other way to de-risk this project for both parties,” added Nelson.

Council approved the Asset Acquisition between the Town of Hinton and the Hinton Golf Society on Oct. 6, 2020, which will take effect on Oct. 31, 2020. The one-year Operating Agreement will also start on Oct. 31.

With the asset acquisition process completed, and matters related to the 2017 Loan Agreement settled, Council and Administrative oversight is now removed.

Town to seek partnership in land development

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


Council discussed and recommended that the Town pursue the collaborative partnership approach in the development of the Boutin Avenue lands with other organizations and developers.

The Town of Hinton has been exploring development opportunities for the undeveloped, Town-owned lands at the intersection of Boutin Ave and Drinnan Way since 2018. 

The design team from the development firm, V3 Companies of Canada, and architect firm, ncx+, conducted the Boutin Avenue design charrette at the Government Centre in July 2020. The result from the four-day intensive collaborative design charrette was a final preferred concept for the lands to be developed.

“The partnership could be set up as simple as you as the municipality don’t necessarily front the cost but you may be the person who leases the land in a long lease arrangement,” said Nick Pryce, from V3 about the partnership approach on the development project, during the standing committee meeting on Oct. 27 where he presented the results from the Boutin Ave Design Charrette.

He added the Town could agree on a low lease rate, and the developer would then be responsible to develop the site or the municipality could cover certain approval costs to help the partnership move forward in the development. Any collaboration to make it more inviting for a developer, Pryce explained.

Collaboratively, other sources of grant funding can be determined to provide affordable housing through a phased approach.

“The Town is getting more housing, which of course is beneficial for the Town. If you did look at a solution being a long term lease, then you’re deferring the cost of the land to make it more desirable for a developer to get in there quicker to do the development and make something happen,” Coun. Ryan Maguhn stated in response to Pryce.

The report brought to council presented three options the town could pursue in the development of the lands to achieve affordable housing, with collaborative partnerships being the one council chose.

Rather than choosing to pursue collaborative partnerships, council could have chosen to sell the land to a developer or become the land developer. Pryce believed the salability on the actual lands overall isn’t there.

Next steps in the Boutin Ave project includes redistricting to align with the preferred design concept and thereby enabling the lands for future development. 

Pryce recommended the Town create a direct control district to maintain the integrity of the work, giving council control over the development during a collaboration. Council would then approve any changes.

The next steps of the development include moving on to phase one and two and further analysis of servicing the land to which $150,000 is slated to be included in the 2021 budget to finance that, stated CAO Emily Olsen.  

Administration can now pursue seeking out partnerships and grant opportunities, and some of those conversations have already started, said Olsen.

Another step forward will include sourcing potential housing grants to assist with off-setting the estimated $2.5M to service the lands.

Approval from council is required to access any grant funds and any impacts to the budget will come forward in coming weeks.

One of the main constraints for development moving forward, is the need to carry out further analysis on the servicing infrastructure to identify design solutions to improve the capacity levels.

Pryce explained that phasing of the development is based on obtaining quick wins and providing a product that is currently in demand within the local market.

Phase one of the project would include tiny homes as affordable senior housing, a professional centre or medical-type facility, and a storage facility. This phase would be done between 2021 and 2024.

Feedback from the seniors community was positive about the price points of the proposed units, Pryce stated.

He added that there was a developer who tried to develop senior facilities in Hinton for around $340,000 per unit, which was too high for most seniors that were looking to downsize.

“The other comment that I heard from the seniors was that there are a lot of people that aren’t ready to go into the seniors facility but they were by themselves and they had friends in there, so they wanted to be nearby,” Pryce said.

If units can stay around $230,000, Pryce believes the units will be popular.

Phase two would begin in 2024 until 2027 and include multi duplex units for seniors. Town houses would be built in phase three between 2027 and 2032 but requires additional work on the sanitary system. 

Additional analysis is required to evaluate the capacity of the stormwater line between the utility right-of-ways (ROW) manhole and the stormwater manhole at Hart Cove on Maurer Drive. Additionally, there are capacity issues downstream in the system and the updated flows will need to be reviewed for the proposed concept.

A mixed-use multi unit would be done in phase four during 2032 and 2042, and phase five includes a four storey multi unit residential building between 2037 and 2042.

A total estimated cost for phase one is $14,331,221, but this could still change, Pryce said.

Pryce noted there is some flexibility in changing the phasing or layout of the project, but that the costs should be considered and the impact on the downstream upgrade.

He added that the phasing timeline is based on the unknowns of the market take-up, which includes subdivision cleanup, detailed design, building permits, followed by construction, and the sales.

“It could happen a lot quicker but it’s just to get a gauge of what could be the uptake. If we get the price point right, they might go in a year,” Pryce said. “From a phasing point of view, it’s always good to just have a little bit of a buffer on expectations.”

Administration retained the services of V3 Companies of Canada in 2019 to prepare a due diligence report for the three parcels owned by the Town. 

The purpose of the due diligence report was to determine the overall suitability of the parcels for residential development, to determine the geotechnical nature of the lands, to conduct an environmental phase one analysis, to determine if the servicing to the site could support residential development, and to prepare an estimated cost to service the parcels. 

The charrette earlier this year invited different stakeholder groups to collaborate and discuss their needs and vision for the site.

Xtreme score big in openers

Tyler Waugh Photo
Audra Repecka of the Hinton Shooting Stars U10 ringette squad makes a stick save during an Oct. 24 home game against St. Albert.

Tyler Waugh
news@hintonvoice.ca


Kennedy Davy scored eight goals and added two assists as the Hinton Xtreme U16 ringette squad started its season in style with a 15-6 win Oct. 24 over Leduc in Steve Hotchkiss Arena.

Kaydence Hollingsworth added three goals and three assists for the Xtreme, while Ella Kempin added two goals and one assist and Bryn Dammann and Alyssa Klaver each had one goal and two assists.

Emily French and Mikayla Ruszkowski had three assists each and Paige Pero, Logan Sweet and Ashlyn McDougall had one helper apiece.

Klaver led the way the next game with a four-goal, three-assist effort in a 14-8 win later that day. Ruszkowski and Hollingsworth both added two goals and two assists and Dammann and Davy both had two-goal games.

Ella Kempin and French had the other Hinton goals, while McDougall had two assists and Sweet and Pero had one each.

Gracey Kempin earned both wins in net for the Xtreme.

Davy sits atop the points leader board in the Black Gold Ringette League after the first weekend with two other teammates – Hollingsworth and Klaver – also in the top four. 

The Xtreme are back in action Nov. 7 with two games in Leduc.

Hinton B&Es drop while rural numbers rise

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


Habitual offender management program seeing some successes

Hinton RCMP has met its goal of reducing break and enter incidents within the community this year, but break and enters in rural areas around Hinton have increased.

Staff Sgt. Chris Murphy of the Hinton RCMP shared some of their progress, statistics, and new initiatives during a virtual town hall on Oct. 21. Around 37 residents tuned in to ask questions and listen to the update.

“We should be listening to the community, and based on that feedback we should be using that feedback to select our objectives and our priorities for the upcoming year. We have to be very fluid in our approach because things can change, what is a priority or concern in March, may not be a priority or a concern in August,” said Murphy.

During a town hall in March, RCMP stated it was targeting a seven per cent reduction in break and enters in 2020 compared to last year, based on the feedback received from the community.

So far this year, the RCMP has responded to 42 break and enters, which is a reduction of 52 per cent compared to 2019. RCMP also responded to 14 break and enters in rural areas, compared to eight in 2019.

The clearance rate of these crimes has also increased, which means the rate of solving the crime and holding someone accountable.

In 2020, break and enters have a clearance rate of 23.75 per cent in Hinton and 25 per cent in rural areas around Hinton.

Murphy noted that Hinton is doing well in respect to clearance rates, and that Hinton had a higher clearance rate than other locations in the province.

Another target by the RCMP was community consultation,which means being engaged and listening, patrolling and interacting, as well as updating the community through a town hall event. Murphy said officers have been patrolling areas, and not waiting for complaints to be received. 

“Thus far in 2020, we’ve done 313 random proactive patrols in our rural area,” Murphy said.

Officers work with crime mapping to identify crime hotspots, which allows them to put resources in the right places before crime occurs.

One important initiative by the RCMP includes the habitual offender management program, where RCMP officers work with repeat offenders to address underlying issues 

Instead of being arrested, charged, attending court, potentially being incarcerated or being released, possibly reoffending, and cycling through the system again, RCMP works with them to break that cycle.

“There has been a variety of different means for this, it can be addictions, mental health, it could be unemployment, it could be a number of factors all together. And it’s us working with the offender to identify those, but then recognizing that the police aren’t the best people to address some of these issues,” said Murphy.

RCMP make referrals to the proper agencies in the community that have the ability to work with the individual, while the RCMP continues to hold them accountable. 

“We have seen success with this program midway through the year. We have two individuals that are still receiving our assistance and working with us to get themselves the treatment they need,” said sergeant Graham Gurski.

One individual is no longer in the program after taking advantage of RCMP assistance and is no longer committing offences in the community.

Unfortunately, another individual was not as receptive and is now incarcerated after another conviction, Gurski explained.

“We have three of four, 75 per cent, success rate right now with that program,” Gurski said.

Murphy shared that in 2019, there were 2643 traffic collisions in Hinton and 1876 in 2020, a 29 per cent decrease. He noted, there was an increase in rural traffic this summer.

An issue was brought to attention in regards to speeding on highway 16 near the Thompson Lake area, which is an area being monitored for speeding.

Gurski responded to a question about racing drivers between Hinton and Jasper and said the Hinton detachment monitors dangerous driving behaviour and also works together with an integrated traffic unit with Edson and the Western Alberta District, as well as partners from the Jasper detachment.

A question from the public addressed laced drugs and if there have been any overdoses or issues with laced drugs in Hinton. Murphy noted that there haven’t been any new issues but if they become aware of tainted drugs, a media release would be sent out. 

“If we notice a rise in overdoses, we get info out to the public as quickly as possible,”Murphy said.

When it comes to illegal cannabis, Murphy noted that as long as there is a demand, there will be a supplier, and that there are still people who continue to purchase illegal cannabis products.

RCMP has not seen an increase of concerns since legalization but it is bringing a new spotlight to the concerns of impaired driving. This has lead to additional training of police officers.

Other statistics presented in comparison to 2019 was a seven per cent reduction in person crimes, a 29 per cent decrease in property crime, a 42 per cent decrease in criminal code offences, a 43 per cent decrease in theft of motor vehicles, and a 39 per cent decrease in theft under $5000.

In rural areas covered by the Hinton RCMP, there was a 27 per cent increase in criminal code offences, one more persons crime, a 38 per cent increase in property crimes, six more break and enters, one less theft of a vehicle, and seven more thefts under $5000.

“Overall, we have some work to do in the rural area. The results right here in the community of Hinton are promising, again I think there is a number of factors at play and I hope that our initiatives and objectives have an impact on those numbers. There is no doubt that COVID is having an impact and has had an impact in respect to some of these numbers,” Murphy said.

Another increase has been in family violence related complaints, with 131 in 2019, and 173 in 2020. 173 complaints is a five-year high for the Hinton RCMP. 

Family violence also increased in rural areas from three in 2019 to 18 in 2020. Murphy noted that number has dramatically increased in the last two months, because during the initial months of COVID-19 those numbers had not climbed as quickly as anticipated.

Calls of suspicious behaviour in Hinton remain high and Murphy encourages anyone that sees suspicious people or vehicles to call the RCMP. This allows RCMP to act proactively.

Going into the winter months, RCMP urges people not to leave vehicles running outside with the keys inside as that creates an opportunity for criminals to take advantage. Don’t leave valuables in vehicles, or in visible areas.

Entrepreneurship alive and well in Hinton:CFWY

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


While small businesses in Hinton are doing well despite COVID-19, there is still a tremendous amount of support available.

Recovery is slow and businesses will feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the next couple of years, said Nancy Robbins, general manager of Community Futures West Yellowhead.

It’s difficult to plan in unpredictable times, but Robbins said it’s important for businesses to stay on top of their finances, as well as knowing which government support programs are available to them, and that they take a break and make sure they’re taking care of themselves and their families.

“I would say 95 per cent of our businesses are using the federal relief programs. And I would encourage people to investigate them and see what works for them. If it means the difference between keeping the business going, I would highly recommend they check it out,” Robbins said.

Support programs are changing quickly, and the best thing businesses can do is call the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and explain their situation and challenges. Community Futures can also direct businesses to the best spot to go. 

The wage subsidy has been extended as well as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

“We received the first round of the regional relief recovery fund about two months ago and out of that we have lent probably $1.4M out in the region. We are waiting for the second round, we don’t know what that’s going to look like or when the money is going to come,” said Robbins.

She encourages small businesses to look at the new regulations for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan first, and then start an application.

Community Futures, together with the Town of Hinton, the Chamber of Commerce, Alberta Labour and Immigration, the Mayor, and a few council members held a business walk where they visited roughly 70 businesses in Hinton to see how they were doing.

“It’s important to go to them to ask for what they need as opposed to making them come to us,” said Robbins.

The business walk was a great way to check on how businesses are doing and to see if anybody needed referrals or information.

Robbins found that businesses in Hinton are doing okay and that new businesses continue to start up.

“Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Hinton and businesses are doing okay. Really, we recommend everybody put a plan in place to get through the winter,” she said.

In certain situations, the pandemic has pushed businesses to explore other opportunities.

Businesses were forced to change their business model and a lot of them have been successful, according to Robbins.

“We need to be realistic going into Christmas that everybody is hurting this year, not only business owners, and maybe we won’t spend as much retail-wise. But the fact that a lot of businesses have gotten through the first lockdown and they’ve done well and are still open at the end of the summer, there’s a tremendous amount of positivity right now,” Robbins said.

While it’s not perfect, Robbins believes Hinton is in a good situation on a long road of recovery.

She added that it’s really interesting to see how people have transformed their spaces and to see the different strategies and measures they’ve put in place. 

Alberta’s small businesses employ more than 530,000 Albertans and contribute about $100B into the economy each year, according to Martin Long, West Yellowhead MLA and parliamentary secretary for small business and tourism.

“Alberta’s economy depends on small businesses. They work hard, and through Alberta’s Recovery Plan and initiatives like our efforts to reduce red tape for business, the Investment and Growth Strategy, and our SME Relaunch grant, Alberta’s government is committed to working just as hard to support them,” he said.

Long encourages Albertans to support local businesses that continue to play a key role in Alberta’s economy throughout recovery.

This year, the Hinton Chamber is unable to host the Annual Business Awards Gala, and instead, for Small Business Week from Oct. 18 to Oct. 24 they are sharing nominations and stories submitted.

Throughout Small Business Week, a business will be showcased in communities across West Yellowhead. Community Futures will feature a business that has done a great job despite the pandemic restrictions through a Facebook Live event.

“I think there’s a tremendous amount of success stories of people that have really embraced change and adapted their business model and are still reaching their clients and customers but have changed the way that they do it,” Robbins said.

In Hinton, The Old Grind was showcased on Oct. 21, because of the way they transformed their space, putting necessary safety measures in place, while still making their customers feel welcome and comfortable.

Businesses should make sure they have a good plan in place, working on their cash flow, and asking for help if it’s needed, Robbins said.

Community Futures provides services for free and businesses can call to ask questions, book an appointment or email them.

“A plan, realizing it will probably change about a hundred times, but it helps people feel a sense of control over their situation,” Robbins said.

The CRA hired extra staff during the pandemic to help businesses get the proper support.

Besides the support programs, Robbins added that it’s important businesses work with their bookkeeper to understand the future implications of these support programs.

Any individuals taking advantage of CERB benefits should be aware and prepared for tax time as well, she said.

“It’s really important to be aware of the changes those programs can make on your financial situation in the long term,” Robbins said.

An accountant or bookkeeper can help make sure a business or individual has everything covered.

Community Futures has been very busy throughout the pandemic but tries their best to help people as quickly as possible.

There are roughly 4,000 businesses in the area covered by Community Futures and they deal mostly with startups.

In Hinton, there are roughly 750 registered businesses of every size that Community Futures works with. 

As things continue to change with support programs, individuals and businesses can call 1-800-O-CANADA to talk to someone about what support is available for them.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) small business recovery dashboard for Alberta showed some positive indications as well for October.

According to the CFIB, 71 per cent of Alberta businesses are fully open compared to 65 per cent last month. Forty-two per cent of Alberta businesses are fully staffed, compared to only 33 per cent last month. The CFIB also says 24 per cent of Alberta businesses are making normal sales, compared to 18 per cent last year.

Small Business Week is running Oct. 19 – 24 and the CFIB says that recognizing the importance of small businesses in a community is critical.

“This year, the stakes are much higher—small businesses have been pummelled by months of closures and restrictions, many have had to lay off valued staff, and sales remain dangerously low. They need our support now more than ever,” said Laura Jones, CFIB executive vice president.

Hinton’s mat program put on hold this year

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


The Hinton Employment and Learning Place (HELP) decided not to go forward with opening the mat program this winter.

With the lack of volunteers, security of the program, and funding, it is currently not possible to offer a warm night indoors to those who have no other options.

“We are thinking the only way to safely run the program this year without enough volunteers would be to hire a security guard to stay the night, and we just don’t have the funding for this,” said Candace Pambrun, homelessness coordinator at HELP.

HELP needs to make sure volunteers are safe and secure in their positions overnight at the church where the mat program took place last year, and that’s not something they’re able to do right now.

Last year, the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) funded the pilot mat program.

Fourteen individuals took advantage of the program last year, four of those individuals were not from Hinton, and the majority were men, while only two were women.

“That’s what I see in my job anyway is more men than women,” Pambrun said, noting that women often manage to find other accommodations.

Despite the current standstill of the program, HELP continues to look at different ideas for a warming space this winter, and possibly partnering with different organizations.

Maybe it won’t be an overnight program but it might be something where people will have access to what they need during the week.

If funding does become available, they will reconsider opening the doors to the mat program.

“A lot of effort was put into carrying it out last year, to the best we could. And what we know this year is that we can’t do it without a secure person in a paid position overnight,” Pambrun said. 

It’s tough to know what the demand would be this winter as people are usually temporarily housed, living in vehicles, couch surfing, or moving between friends and family, Pambrun noted.

Options for homelessness in Hinton are very few and far between right now, whereas in the past HELP could rely on Alberta Supports to help someone out.

“There are no other options. When I hear from somebody that they have nowhere to go, then it’s a serious conversation about ‘Hey, let’s look at who is in your network. What support do you have,’” said Pambrun.

Pambrun and staff at HELP can work with individuals to look at their situation and options to find some relief or help, as well as financial assistance or housing availability.

She noted that regular local support programs like the Hinton Food Bank have seen lower attendance and demand over the past few months, not because individuals can’t access them but because they have the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) funds to fulfill their needs.

“We are seeing very high needs and a difference in the mental health of people this year, a lot due to CERB money and availability of substances for use as well as the closure and inability to access resources,” Pambrun stated.

Once the CERB money runs out, the community may see a drastic change. Since many people have been housed and fed very well due to CERB, the demand for other programs might increase afterwards, Pambrun said.

“[CERB] has provided an income to people who don’t necessarily have the skills to know properly what to do with that money,” Pambrun said.

While the money could have been spent on damage deposits of an apartment, it was often spent on hotels and temporary solutions instead, she noted.

Choices by some individuals were made to better their current situations, but those decisions didn’t necessarily create long-term improvements.

“I feel like the money was too easily distributed and I feel like we will soon see the fallout in that,” she said.

Pambrun noted that her clients with addictions and her clients that are homeless will still be in the same position once the CERB money is no longer available.

The difficulty that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic is that all the doors to regular programs and support resources were shut.

HELP has tried their best to stay in contact with people throughout the pandemic, and has found ways to stay connected.

Some face-to-face programs transferred into online programs, but nothing takes the place of face-to-face interactions, Pambrun said.

HELP’s ability to reach people by going online has improved throughout the last months, and they’ve taught a lot of their clients to use zoom and various google tools.

“We definitely want to see that face-to-face and have people come back into our office. Our doors are open, I feel like there’s a hesitation for people to go back out,” Pambrun said.

Throughout the pandemic, HELP has worked together with the food bank and Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) to deliver food to those in need.

“That’s wonderful, I feel like we really strengthened our networks and things like that and we are working diligently to strengthen our relationship with people via distance, text, and in different new ways,” Pambrun added.

Freddy’s Homeless Resource Room at HELP’s office has also reopened and anyone can contact HELP to access the shower, laundry facilities, and other amenities provided by Freddy’s room.

HELP is a charitable society and donations are always welcome. They are always in need of men’s underwear, socks, Hot Paws, long underwear, and warm winter items this time of year.

Other local businesses can contact HELP to arrange the use of their commercial kitchen if they want to do some team building by making meals to freeze.

For more information or questions, Pambrun can be contacted at HELP from Monday until Friday by phone at (780) 865-1686.

Boardwalk repairs approved on closed section

Town of Hinton Boardwalk map

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


Council approved the repair of a section of the Beaver Boardwalk that is currently closed, located East of Happy Creek.

Funds allocated for the boardwalk in the 2020 operational maintenance budget will allow this section to re-open for public use, explained administration during the Oct. 20 special meeting of council.

Opening this specific section means people can use the loop that runs on both sides of Happy Creek.

“The cost and time commitment to opening this section is really minimal and it doesn’t affect the ability to continue maintenance on any of the currently open sections and it doesn’t affect the budget,” said Coun. Albert Ostashek. 

Despite a previous direction from council to concentrate efforts on currently open sections, reopening this section is a bit of a win, he added.

The repair needs to be done before ice is formed to avoid the use of machinery to move or replace pilings.

A portion of about 20 meters in this section (‘H’ on the map) requires minor repair consisting of straightening with the use of hand tools, placing cross braces and supporting boards to strengthen the structure. 

In order to reopen this section, other minor repairs to sections that are currently open and slated for 2020 will be re-prioritized. 

“Addressing and reopening this section of the Boardwalk will satisfy many stakeholders and visitors, and can be accomplished with minimal staff time and resources,” stated the Town of Hinton.

Ostashek added that quite a bit of feedback from the community was received about this section and they would like to see this reopened.

Sections that are at risk of being closed in the near future will be addressed as planned, while attention to lower priority areas can take place in following years.

The total operational budget available for 2020 regarding Beaver Boardwalk work, including materials, labour, tools, and the Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) application, is $60,000.

The continual funding for maintenance is part of the budget deliberations. The Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) grant funding requests that are underway will also support major repairs and rebuild of structures of our Beaver Boardwalk asset.

Work has begun or has been completed with straightening and replacing several sections of the boardwalk. That includes sections c, d, e, f, and i on the boardwalk map.

These sections require levelling or sideways alignment, a task which requires little material or disturbance to complete and improved safety.

Section B and any of the sections that are currently closed, including a, j, k, and o, are not likely to see work until 2022, or 2021 if needed.

“For section b, we likely have to use machinery to address this section, and machinery use is not yet approved by AEP, it is awaiting approval under the Water Act application. This would not be included in the low level maintenance deemed permissible,” stated Hans van Klaveren, parks, recreation and culture manager.

The other sections that are currently closed are also in need of intensive work requiring machinery and rebuild, or other structural solutions.

“In addition to AEP, we will need Council’s approval to work on, and open, closed sections. Administration would also need to secure the funding to undertake this work,” van Klaveren said.

At this time, work is not deemed needed in section g, i, m, and n, due to them being in relatively good shape.

This judgement is made in part as larger sections are on solid soil and not in risk of failure right now. The Town is prioritizing the remaining work season and resources to other areas.

Decisions on how work on the Beaver Boardwalk is prioritized is done by the Town’s Parks department.

Staff take into account the community survey done earlier this year and any feedback or input from residents and other Town staff members, stated van Klaveren.

In the meantime, sections could close temporarily during the day when work is being done that pose a safety risk to the public.

All previous maintenance of the Boardwalk was put on hold pending the Water Act Approval application submitted to AEP. 

Administration received written confirmation from AEP in September that minor repairs to the existing footprint of the Boardwalk is permissible outside the wetland approval, which is still required for intermediate and major repairs. 

Town staff started with maintenance work on open sections and continue to work on open sections that need immediate attention to avoid closure of those areas.

Maintenance and repairs began on Sept. 24 and include fastening and replacing deck boards, leveling and straightening sections, and adding cross braces and side support where needed. This work will be completed to the extent supported in the 2020 Budget and a Request for Decision Report may be addressed during the 2021 Budget process.

For more information on the Beaver Boardwalk, go to Hinton.ca/Bebo.