No raise for Fish and Wildlife for RAPID response

Alberta Government Photo

Masha Scheele

While in the process of joining the Rural Alberta Integrated Defence Force (RAPID), Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife officers have been notified they will not be compensated for additional responsibilities and risks added to their roles by the province.

Their added duties and responsibilities would come into effect by December 2020, according to a post from the Alberta Game Warden Association (AGWA), a non-profit organization whose members are Fish and Wildlife officers. 

“The RAPID Force is a critical component in the Government of Alberta’s strategy to combat rural crime. By integrating Alberta’s provincial peace officers, response times are significantly reduced and communities feel safer,” stated Jerrica Goodwin, press secretary of the Treasury Board and Finance.

When contacted by The Voice, West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long’s office had nothing to add on the topic beyond forwarding the same statement already made by Goodwin.

Despite a promise from the provincial government last year that said these extra duties would come with increased salaries, officers were notified of the change to that commitment on Oct. 2.

“RAPID Force duties have not been assigned at this time. Alberta’s Public Service Commission completed a job classification review finding the additional duties would not substantively change the job function. With new work we know adjustments may be made and if there are substantive changes to the job descriptions after six months they can be submitted for review,” stated Goodwin.

Officers were informed that according to the classification review, their duties have not substantively changed in the areas of knowledge, problem solving, or responsibilities. 

“If they’re saying nothing has changed in their duties, then that means they were functioning as full police officers all along and getting way underpaid compared to everyone else. Or the government is actually going back on their word from last year,” said Bill Peters, a retired Fish and Wildlife enforcement manager.

One of those new duties means Fish and Wildlife officers will be responding to the most dangerous 911 emergency calls in rural Alberta, stated Mike Dempsey, vice president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) representing the officers.

“Fish and Wildlife Officers have the most training with weapons because of what they do with wildlife. They have weapons training, which is why they would be doing the most dangerous work for the RCMP,” said Dempsey.

Dempsey noted that one officer recently wrote about going through a two-day domestic violence course, trying to wrap his head around what business he has as a game warden to attend a domestic abuse course. Officers would be taking statements, photographs, and potentially getting into high risk violent scenarios, which raises alarm bells.

The average RCMP officer doing the same work, is making $15,000 to $25,000 per year more, according to Dempsey.

In addition to that, traffic sheriffs and commercial vehicle officers will be given authority to respond to a wider range of calls, such as complaints by erratic drivers, collisions, and impaired driving incidents, he added.

“This is a broken promise, it was in writing that these [officers] would be paid more for stepping up to the plate and then lo and behold they said, ‘Sorry, we’re not going to pay you more after all,’” Dempsey said.

Premier Jason Kenney and former Justice Minister, Doug Schweitzer, announced the creation of the RAPID Force initiative last November.

RAPID would provide extra training to 400 peace officers who work in Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services and the Alberta Sheriffs Highway Patrol to help combat rural crime.

About 130 Fish and wildlife officers will be impacted, roughly 115 highway patrol sheriffs, as well as Commercial Vehicle enforcement.

“[The increase of rural crime] doesn’t seem to be dealt with, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient police resources,” said Peters. 

He added that the RAPID initiative was one way the premier hoped to combat the issue.

Training the 400 officers to respond to some emergencies, if they are closest to a crime in a rural area, would cost $6.5M and the total initiative would cost about $7.7M more each year, mostly for increased officer salaries, stated reports last year. Peters said they’ve given the officers additional training, additional firearms, additional responsibilities, without sufficient pay and without a choice.

“The officers are not asked if they want to do this, they are being told. There’s a reason people are game wardens and not Edmonton city police officers, they chose their career. Wildlife officers are very, very passionate about what they do, and their job is an incredibly complex law enforcement job,” said Peters.

He noted while fish and wildlife officers are paid substantially less than municipal police officers, they were doing what they are passionate about.

Fish and Wildlife officers are still tasked with delivering their core mandate of conservation law enforcement, but will now also provide initial response to emergency 911 dispatches for crimes in progress. Dempsey noted that parks conservation officers will have to be reassigned as well to do the work of Fish and Wildlife officers who are being called out to respond for the RCMP. 

“An employer has the right to tell people what they do, even if they change what they do rather drastically. What they need to do is first of all, if you’re going to give them increased dangerous work, then you need to compensate them accordingly,” Dempsey said.

As of Oct. 1, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch members joined the Alberta Sheriffs and called the Alberta Sheriffs – Conservation Services.

Dempsey explained that the Fish and Wildlife Officers are set to take on their new duties as of Nov. 1. Dempsey is hopeful that concerns are being heard and will be acted upon.

“It would be wise and prudent, but with this government, I haven’t seen any evidence of changing direction on anything,” he said.

Peters is hopeful that, what he calls common sense, will prevail in the end, and that the officers will be compensated for their work.

“The sad part is if it doesn’t get fixed, Alberta is going to lose an awful lot of very good front line fish and wildlife officers,” he said.

If these officers don’t get paid for the work they do, they will likely apply as a police officer in the city and be compensated properly, Peters believes.

“They will get a 15 per cent to 20 per cent increase in salary and the losers will be natural resources of Alberta and the public. They will lose all these super trained-up wildlife officers that are going to go find employment elsewhere,” Peters said.

The Saskatchewan government implemented a similar program in 2018, Conservation Officers were required to go through similar training and equipment upgrades, but they were given a 15 per cent salary increase.

Contact fish and wildlife by reaching out to one of offices listed on this page:

The public can continue to report suspicious or illegal hunting or fishing activity and dangerous wildlife through the 24-hour Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800 or at

Feds announce $60M in MPB funds for Alberta

West Fraser 2017 Photo

Masha Scheele

The Government of Canada has announced $60M in funding for Alberta over the next three years to support ongoing work to combat the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB), but it is still uncertain if the funds will have any local impacts.

“To address the threat, we need a united front, a team Canada solution,” said Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, during the announcement on Oct. 8.

This funding includes $24M for fiscal year 2020–2021 to address the outbreak of MPB in Alberta and the Rocky Mountain National Parks while mitigating negative impacts on the forest sector and communities. 

The Government of Alberta will use funds to help continue with and expand it’s aerial and ground surveillance and beetle control work that includes removing infested trees, and fund new research.

Final details associated with the announcements are still coming and it is unknown how this funding will be distributed, explained Keith McClain, FRI Research program lead of the Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program in Hinton.

The Town of Hinton believes the funding is a positive step, but agrees that it is uncertain where the province will prioritize activity.

“The announcement of these funds in and of themselves is good news, but it is hard to foresee what level of impact it will have in our local community directly. The province has full discretion in how to disburse these dollars, and it is possible that they will follow their existing strategy of investing efforts and dollars to the fight at the leading edge, which Hinton no longer is. The current edge would be east in the Edson Forestry area,” stated Hans van Klaveren, Hinton’s parks, recreation, and culture manager.

He added that the Hinton Mountain Pine Beetle Advisory Committee – which was formed in fall 2017 and produced a workplan approved by council in September 2018 – can engage with and put recommendations forward, or take other actions they deem possible to positively influence the provincial strategy.

The Hinton and District Chamber of Commerce made a recommendation in a policy that was approved by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to be advocated upon in 2018, to reinstate the Federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program with funds equivalent in scale to the $200M, similar to what was allocated during the 2007-2010 program. 

Natalie Charlton, executive director of the Chamber noted, “This could potentially mean that we are getting less.”

Federal contributions for the fight against MPB include $8M in 2007-08, $10M in 2009-10, and $370K in 2010-11, according to Justin Laurence, press secretary to the minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

The $60M for the Alberta Government will support Alberta’s strategic objectives for MPB management to limit the spread of MPB into the eastern boreal forest, limit the spread of MPB along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, and mitigate damage to Alberta’s pine resources in locations where MPB is already established, stated Claire Teichman, communications of the Minister of Natural Resources office.

Alberta uses aerial and ground survey techniques to detect and monitor beetle populations, looking to detect red-crowned pine trees symptomatic of MPB infestation, as well as infested trees that have not yet turned red. 

Surveys will also be done in Alberta and Western Saskatchewan to identify potential critical pathways of the MPB, Teichman added.

This funding would also augment existing control operations by the Government of Alberta and enable the removal of additional trees annually.

An additional $6.9M will go to Parks Canada to mitigate pine beetle impacts and reduce the risk of wildfires within the national parks, and $1.5M is going to Natural Resources Canada’s canadian force service, which employs the nation’s largest team of scientists devoted to pest management, to learn more about the beetle’s risk of the eastward spread.

Parks Canada will use funds to reduce the wildfire risk related to the MPB infestation in the Rocky Mountain National Parks, enhance safety for adjacent communities, and increase resiliency to MPB impacts and potential spread. 

This will be done through aerial and ground monitoring surveys, the development of decision support and planning tools, and prescribed fire and fuel modification operations at key locations in Jasper, Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks, stated Teichman.

Natural Resources Canada will advance laboratory and field studies, through its funding.

This includes activities such as field observations, collection of samples, measurements, laboratory analyses, data analyses, scientific publication, and knowledge transfer. 

“Thanks to Alberta’s efforts and the hard work of Albertans, our aerial surveys have shown that the fight against MPB is working, and that our work along with favourable winters have been working,” stated Hon. Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

More than 147,000 trees killed by the beetle were detected through aerial surveys across Alberta this year, compared to almost a quarter of a million trees that were detected last year, he added.

In the Edson Forest Area, where Hinton is located, 140,997 trees were killed by MPB in 2019, while 115,020 dead trees were detected in 2020.

Right now, Alberta is developing detailed ground surveys and the control program for the upcoming winter. This is when individual MPB infested trees will be cut and burned to stop the spread, Dreeshen stated.

“This is a comprehensive control plan the province has seen over the last two decades. We will not stop until we have successfully safeguarded our resources and shielded the rest of Canada from this devastating infestation,” Dreeshen said.

In the province of Alberta, about 40,000 Albertans rely on the forestry sector and the forest sector is a major contributor to Alberta’s economic recovery, Dreeshen added.

Since the early 2000’s, Alberta has invested over $560M to combat the MPB and this infestation. 

The pest continues to threaten about $11B worth of pine trees in the province, according to Dreeshen.

The government of Saskatchen has provided millions of dollars over the last six or seven years to the province of Alberta to help fight the MPB.

Since 2010, Natural Resources Canada has invested $12.9M in mountain pine beetle related research in Alberta.

O’Regan noted that the forestry sector has stepped up over the past few months to supply necessary wood products and provide essential items for Canadians.

“All the important work you do requires our forests to be healthy in Alberta and right across the country. The mountain pine beetle has been harming our forests, hurting our economy, increasing wildlife risk, reducing our ability to enjoy the parks that showcase Canada’s stunning natural beauty, and depleting carbon storage in forests,” O’Regan said.

MPB is jeopardizing $9B of pine timber, according to O’Regan.

This funding will help protect forests, jobs, and companies in communities across Alberta that are dependent on forests. 

He noted that a healthy forest functions in a carbon sink, and because of that they will move Canada closer to a net zero goal in 2050.

Jason Krips, president and CAO of Alberta’s Forest Product Association, agreed that working forests are a critical part in the carbon solution and an important vehicle to reaching net zero.

“Working forests sustained more than 230,000 direct jobs throughout Canada. Our forests aren’t just important to our economy, they’re critical to our environment and well being,” he said.

He noted that the United Nations has also highlighted the importance of working forests in the global recovery.

The Eye In The Sky

Lars Benson, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry forest officer, explained what a day in the life of a fire lookout tower observer is really like. Pictured behind Benson are both the Athabasca lookout tower north west of Hinton and the cabin where an observer spends six months of the year. Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

A look at the  life of a fire tower observer

From May until September, staff from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) sat at the top of the Athabasca fire lookout tower scanning the horizon for smoke.

During high and extreme fire hazard periods, that individual spends six hours straight at the top of the tower.

“There are no washrooms up there. There is nothing here, sometimes there is a pulley line where you can pull your food or lunches up and then you don’t have to carry it,” said Lars Benson, AAF forest officer.

Based on the fire hazard at any time and the current conditions, the tower operator may spend less time in the tower. Whenever it is raining, or it is damp and wet with frost in the morning, the operator may be able to go up and come down multiple times throughout the day.

“In a day in the life, they start off with weather. Right in the morning, 8:15 am they have it in,” Benson said.

They record the weather twice every day, and the rest of the time is spent looking for fires from the tower. The weather station is set up at each tower across the province in the exact same way for consistency. The station collects data including temperature and humidity.

“Everything about how the stand is, how it’s faced, the height of it, is all super specific down to a scientific exact. That way it’s consistent across the entire province. It’s set up at a specific height off the ground, has to be away from trees, the screen has to point a certain way,” Benson explained.

At the top of the tower, there’s a scope, a topographical map, and a 360 degree view that stretches about 30 kilometres in each direction.

At the end of the Athabasca tower’s line of sight, another tower picks up, making sure that no areas are missed.

“Some areas are hard, you can’t see right down this hill so we have blind spots,” Benson said.

On certain weekends with more activity in certain areas like the Brule sand dunes or nearby campgrounds, AAF will send out flights to cover off the blindspots of each tower. Due to the Athabasca lookout tower being so close to Hinton, it opens up earlier in the year and has someone operating it for a longer time period.

Masha Scheele Photo
View from the Athabasca Lookout Cabin

Towers are spread along the Eastern slopes and cover most of Alberta’s forest areas.

“Basically the entire province is covered by towers,” Benson said.

The province announced back in 2019 that between 15 and 30 of the province’s 127 wildfire lookout towers would no longer be staffed as part of the budget reduction.

Three towers within the Edson Forest Area, where Hinton is located, didn’t open this year.There used to be 14 towers within the Edson forest area, which is now reduced to 11. In the Edson Forest Area that means the tower near Adams Creek, Moberly, and Obed didn’t open, which are located northwest and northeast of the Athabasca lookout tower.

“It was a number of different factors, how much overlap is in place, how many historical fires were detected. A mix of different factors,” explained Pat Scobie, AAF wildfire technologist.

The majority of fires are called in through 310 FIRE, while only a small number are detected by lookout towers, said Benson.

This year, 53 fires were counted in the Edson forest area, and only 11 were called in by towers, while the rest was 310 FIRE. Six of those fires were caused by lightning, while the rest were human caused.

Benson added that the normal number of fires within the Edson Forest Area in a year ranges from 130 to 180, including abandoned smoldering campfires to massive wildfires.

Last year was very rainy and this year has been an odd year due to the pandemic, explained Caroline Charbonneau, forest information officer in the area.

“Last year, there was around 1,400 hectares [burned] and this year it’s 3.5 hectares,” she said.

A fire restriction, fire ban, and an ATV ban early in the season this year shut down any fire activity and likely prevented a lot of human caused fires.

Education to the public may have had a factor in the low number of fires and hectares burned this year. 

“They’re seeing all these fires from previous years and results coming out like, ‘oh this was human caused’,” said Benson.

Any communication towers are protected in case of a major wildfire through FireSmart.

FireSmart reduces the likelihood of large uncontrollable wildfires in forests near communities and infrastructure.

“We want to cut down the amount of fuel that’s accessible for a fire coming in. That would allow you the opportunity for suppression activities,” explained Scobie.

The area around the Athabasca lookout tower is pruned back to prevent fire from burning up into the trees.

Scobie added that prior to the FireSmart activities in the area, ladder fuel filled the side of the hill. Ladder fuels refer to live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the landscape or forest floor into the tree canopy, like grasses, shrubs, or branches.

“It will move faster along the tops of the trees in a crown fire, it’s just decreasing the intensity around your value, in this case the tower,” Scobie said.

The first lookout at the Athabasca site started in 1917 with a tiny three by four metre cabin.

Benson added that the operator of a lookout back then used to trap, catch, and grow their own food, whereas now, groceries are delivered.

Some towers, like the Athabasca, have the luxury of being very close to towns and their amenities, while others are far away from anything or anyone.

In 1953, the first wooden tower with a new fibreglass cupula was constructed, which was replaced by a steel tower in 1969. The current Athabasca lookout tower was constructed in 2012. Most cabins at the lookout sites have a common space, a kitchen, a living room or dining area, a bedroom, and an office with a radio. The Athabasca site also has power and a phone, but most towers run on generators. 

None of the towers have running water, and potable water has to be brought in. Water is collected off the roof and into a storage tank for wash water, which is piped into the house.

“When I started my career, that was the drinking water too, it was the runoff off the roof. It was filtered out with a piece of cloth to get all the little shingle pieces out,” Scobie added.

Tower observers apply and are interviewed before they train for one week to operate the tower. Go to for more information.

ATE fine revenue continues to decline in second quarter

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

The latest quarterly update  on automated traffic enforcement (ATE) activity in the Town of Hinton showed a decline in enforcement time and revenues.

Non-residents made up 97 per cent of all violations this quarter, with three per cent being residents of Hinton.

“Typically when most violations are Non-Residents, these are people coming through our community making it less safe and are speeding through our designated zones,” said Todd Martens, Hinton’s protective services manager.

Martens said that Hinton residents have actually gotten the message regarding traffic laws and have been slowing down in the zones throughout the community, Martens noted. Non-resident speed violations are always higher, and this comparison remains fairly comparable over the years.

When the program started, between February and December of 2007, 24 per cent of violations were residents and 76 per cent were non-residents.

The majority of violations this quarter were made in private vehicles with 103 in July 2020 and only 16 in company vehicles within that same month. In July 2019, 292 were private and 96 were company vehicles.

In total, 189.79 hours were spent monitoring different zones in Hinton that quarter, with the majority of time spent at Hwy. 16 near McArdell Drive. 

Nine of the zones prescribed time were on hold since March 2020 because of school closures due to COVID-19 and there are no approved playground zones in Hinton, according to Martens.

“The approach to working zones is based on the heat trace maps but every zone is hit during the year. We usually have the operators spend a minimum of one hour in a zone when they set up and no more than two hours per zone with 30 minutes to set up,” Martens said.

If operators spend less than an hour in one zone, quite frequently the operator got blocked by a vehicle and was no longer able to shoot or the number of vehicles in that location was low during that time.

COVID-19 caused a decrease in numbers on violation tags due to the low volume of traffic, stated the report. No citizen complaints were received in that quarter.

Twenty-one zones are currently within the program, including nine school zones, six 50km/h zones, two 60km/h zones, two 70km/h zones, and two 80km/h zones and one 100km/h zone that is pending.

Each year since 2015, the total of offences and issued tickets has gradually reduced due to zone and hour reductions.

In 2019, there were 4,197 offences committed totalling 2,203 tickets issued and 947 hours were spent monitoring zones. In 2015, there were 27,223 offences, totalling 22,065 tickets issued and 3,330 hours spent monitoring zones.

In 2015 there were also 2,073 stop sign offences, totalling 1,302 tickets issued, while in 2018 and 2019 this program was dormant.

The Town of Hinton hired Global Traffic Group in July 2006 to provide photo enforcement after receiving citizen complaints and concerns regarding speeding within town limits.

Global Traffic’s contract initially ran out last December but was extended for two years, until December 2022, due to the province’s decision to review the program.

The province also has put a hold on the program meaning no new programs or zones will be approved until all recommendations are flushed out.

Global Traffic Group uses photo laser, and describes the difference between photo laser and photo radar as the difference between a laser pointer and a flashlight, according to the Hinton website.

Automated traffic enforcement is governed in Hinton in part by the Automated Traffic Enforcement Committee, which is made up of the Staff Sgt. of the Hinton RCMP, the protective services manager, and the CAO of the Town of Hinton.

As part of the Town agreement with Global, all individuals who receive a traffic infraction ticket also receive a video clip, illustrating the infraction.

This clip can also help in the case that a resident wishes to make a challenge or request a fine reduction in court.  

CAO Emily Olsen stated in the spring that there were a lot of unpaid fines that had to be written off. Martens explained that outstanding fines first go against a person’s vehicle, and if that goes unpaid, registries won’t issue a renewal.

If for some reason it doesn’t happen through registries, then the unpaid tickets are submitted to fine collections by the Government of Alberta at the five year mark, including Revenue Canada, Martens explained.

“Eventually they end up getting paid. We have spoken to the person who is in charge of this department on several occasions. Although it takes some time eventually collections are made,” he added.

More people are not paying fines, and Martens has heard from the Crown that more people are seeking extensions to pay their fines right now, or a reduction, which affects revenue.

CGF committee members yet to be appointed

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council will be appointing members to the Hinton Grant Funding Advisory Committee for a one-year term inclusive of both 2021 grant funding intakes and the 2020 Fall grant intake.

A list of candidates for the Hinton Grant Funding Advisory Committee will be brought forward to the organizational meeting on Oct. 20.

Council appoints interested members of the public to Boards and Committees during each annual organizational meeting.

The last appointment of the Hinton Grant Funding Advisory Committee occurred in 2018 when council appointed members for a one year term to cover two grant intakes in 2019.

Due to an administrative oversight, Council did not appoint members for the committee at the 2019 organizational meeting.

Since no intake was conducted in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding Town funds, administration did not notice the lack of committee members.

Instead of appointing a second set of members for a one year term to advise on the awarding of the 2021 Community Grant, council decided the newly appointed members would cover three grant intakes.

“I think that it’s reasonable, as long as the group is able to commit. I also know they usually have other people potentially available from the Community Engagement Advisory Committee (CEAC), just in case,” said Coun. Trevor Haas.

To conduct the 2020 fall community grant intake, administration placed a call for applications to the committee, with a submission deadline of Oct. 16.

The 2020 organizational meeting will be held on Oct. 20, followed by training at the end of October and starting November.

Delegations of the committee will begin in mid November, and the grant funds will be awarded in mid to late November.

Town hall in-person and via zoom this fall

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council is moving forward with a hybrid online and in-person Town Hall event this fall in order to engage with the public on budget discussions.

“The intention is to hold this event within the first two weeks of November, prior to budget deliberation meetings planned for later in the month,” said CAO Emily Olsen.

The Town Hall would be held in the Performing Arts Theatre of Hinton (PATH), with limited attendance to comply with the Art Society Hinton (ASH) and Government of Alberta COVID-19 measures.

At the same time, the event would be livestreamed, and users can submit questions in advance via email or during the session via the Youtube Live Chat.

“Last year, we did a great town hall, it was really well received. Obviously, this year is going to be modified and different and I’m excited to take part in it and curious to see how it goes and what the uptake is,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson.

Any time council has a chance to interact with the public and get some feedback on what’s happening with the Town budget or what some of the high level issues are, is beneficial for council, added Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

A second direction was postponed directing administration to prepare a report detailing recommendations on other town hall options in preparation for a future Town Hall and other organizational engagement events.

“I’m really curious to hear what the community has to say about the zoom [meeting], what the participation level is, what the interaction is,” said Nelson.

He added that the results of the upcoming town hall will bring some clarity to future conversations with citizens about this decision and potentially change the scope of any future report from administration.

In 2019, Council held an in-person Town Hall event at the PATH, which several councilors mentioned was a successful event.

COVID-19 forced Council Meetings to no longer be held in-person and required new technologies to be activated to enable open governance. 

Administration rapidly configured a Zoom Live Stream and Meeting solutions, and has successfully continued this practice through the pandemic. This capacity has also been built into the Council Chambers now.

There are options to deliver a higher quality product by upgrading to a higher-level software package with better meeting management tools, wider audience and participant numbers, and enable organization wide access to the Zoom Web Conference or Seminar tools.

Administration has also done preliminary investigations into other solutions outside of the currently used platform for Councils consideration. 

Town and CEAC ready to engage community in climate protection

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Administration is ready to work with the Community Engagement Advisory Committee (CEAC) on emission reduction targets as part of the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) Program.

“I’m excited that CEAC has the opportunity to actually be tasked with something specific. I think that’s a lot of what has been lacking and I hope this is something they can kind of latch onto and actually feel purposeful,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson.

Coun. Tyler Waugh added that CEAC is open to learning more about what their role is in this project as well as what the timeline of this project looks like.

Hinton is part of the PCP Program, a network for Canadian municipal governments that have committed to reducing greenhouse gases and acting on climate change. 

The program promotes five milestones that tackle climate change, including creating a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and forecast, setting an emissions reductions target, developing a local action plan, implementing the local action plan or a set of activities, and monitoring progress and report results.

Hinton completed the first milestone of creating a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and forecast, and completed the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Maturity Scale report under the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) program requirements.

Peter Vana, Hinton’s director of development services, stated that the real community engagement piece will come into play during work of milestone 3.

“As you’re kind of going through that planning process to create your new community sustainability plan, and complete milestone three, there will be full engagement in the community and we sort of see CEAC helping to spearhead that initiative and certainly involving all members of the community,” said Vana.

The Delphi Group, an environmental consultant, assisted the Town in both completing the Maturity Scale report and the milestone 1 reporting. 

They also established corporate and community GHG emission inventories, GHG projections, and options for reducing corporate and community GHG emissions.

According to their report, the Town’s greatest corporate source, 80.5 per cent, of GHG emissions is from the landfill, followed by buildings. 

The Town’s greatest source of energy use, 59.7 per cent, is from natural gas followed by 25.8 per cent from electricity use. 

In the overall community, the highest levels of GHG emissions, 38.2 per cent, are from on-road transportation use, followed by an equal distribution among commercial and institutional, manufacturing, and residential uses. 

Over 61 per cent of the energy source at the community level comes from natural gas and 38.4 per cent from electricity. 

The Delphi Group prepared a list of potential corporate and community inventory reduction opportunities, and ranked these by priority, identifying them to prepare a potential emissions reduction target for the year 2030. 

The projections produced indicate that the Town has the potential to reduce its 2018 corporate GHG emission levels by 20 per cent, and the community GHG emissions by 6 per cent by 2030. 

To complete milestone 2, Administration will work with the CEAC committee to recommend reduction targets for the Town and the community.

Administration will present the final recommendations for emission and energy reduction targets to Council for approval. 

“The plan for completion of the milestone work is proposed to take six years. At this time, no budget has been requested but as work progresses, the milestone work itself, particularly milestone four, where implementation of the action plan begins, may require investment,” said CAO Emily Olsen.

Milestone 2 is proposed to be completed in 2021, while milestone 3 is proposed to be started in 2022 and completed in 2023. 

Milestone 4 and milestone 5 will be carried out over the following three years, subject to the recommendations from the action plan, and approval of future capital and operating budgets.

During 2018 and 2019, Hinton participated in the Energy Futures Lab (EFL) Roadshow sponsored by The Natural Step Canada and funded by FCM. 

The results from the Roadshow contributed to Hinton’s understanding of where the Town is relative to the “maturity scale” to initiate the first milestone step in the PCP program.

Nelson brought up that the Hinton Community Sustainability Plan (CSP) update was postponed in order to know what was happening with the PCP framework.

Olsen explained administration is working to complete the PCP milestone one and two prior to revisiting the CSP and that without further direction, council will see an update on the CSP once milestone 2 is complete.

Vana added this could take between two to three months.

Fatality at Hinton pulp mill confirmed

West Fraser Photo

Masha Scheele

RCMP and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) are investigating a sudden death at the Hinton pulp mill that occurred on Oct. 5, 2020.

“We understand there are questions about this tragic incident and are fully cooperating with the authorities to find answers. We are extremely saddened about this loss of life, and our thoughts are with the individual’s family at this time,” stated Tara Knight, communications for West Fraser.

Other reports stated that a stop work order was put in place for a scaffolding contractor involved in the incident.

AlumaSafway, the scaffolding company that was a contractor at the site, confirmed the death of Norman Hatami during the tragic accident on Oct. 5.

“Norman was a highly respected member of the AlumaSafway team, and his passing represents an enormous personal loss to us, his family, and his loved ones,” said Karla Cuculi, AlumaSafway VP communications

AlumaSafway is providing counseling and support to the workers at the West Fraser site, and assisting occupational health and safety officers in the course of their investigation into the cause of this tragedy.

“Out of respect for Norman, his family, and the investigative process, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further until that process is complete. Our most heartfelt condolences, thoughts, and prayers are with his family, friends, and all those that knew him,” stated Cuculi.

A GoFundMe page was set up for Hatami’s family.  It has raised more than $17,000.

The page stated, “For anyone that knew him, he truly was the most genuine, caring and loving man. His big smile would light up a room when he walked in and there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his family and friends.”

RCMP Staff Sergeant, Chris Murphy, said no further details would be released by RCMP unless this death is deemed as criminal in nature. OHS confirmed that a worker fatality at the West Fraser Mills site was reported on the evening of Oct. 5 and that an investigation is ongoing.