Published Articles

New Redcliff mayor sworn in

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

There’s a new mayor in town.

Dwight Kilpatrick was sworn in as Redcliff’s chief magistrate at town council’s Monday night meeting.

Kilpatrick, who served as a town councillor for 28 years, defeated one-term mayor Ernie Reimer by 92 votes, or 8.4 percentage points, in the Oct. 16 municipal election.

“Hopefully we get some good progress going,” said Kilpatrick. “I look forward to the next four years.

“I’ve already started receiving phone calls from the public. I think the mayor does deal with that more than a councillor does.”

Although he has the ability to set priorities, he emphasized that he only has a single vote on council.

“Sitting here at the table, I’m one hand in the air and there’s seven of us. That’s the way I’m going to keep it. I don’t have any more say here than anyone else,” Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick also threw in a subtle jab at his predecessor, who after the results came in on election night said he feared Kilpatrick would impede the progress of the past four years.

“Hopefully I won’t go backwards,” said Kilpatrick.

Library funding

Catherine Richardson, a board member of the Redcliff Public Library, provided a presentation to council at Monday’s meeting, requesting increased funding in the 2018 budget, while also touting the library’s accomplishments of the past year.

She cited the province’s minimum wage increase to $13.60 an hour this year, with another increase to $15 coming in October 2018, as the primary reason that the library needs more money from the town.

Another factor is Cypress County creating its own library board, which could drain funds from Redcliff’s.

“We can’t count on that funding this year,” Richardson said. “We hope it will come to us but we’re not counting that in.”

She said she didn’t want to cast the county as a “villain,” as less than 100 people from the county have Redcliff library cards.

“It didn’t seem fair to bludgeon people over such a small number of library card users,” said Richardson.

The library has used a variety of mechanisms at its disposal to increase revenue, such as raising the cost of an adult library card to $8 from $6, as well as numerous fundraisers, including its annual book sale.

Despite its financial woes, the library has 944 cardholders, an increase of 23 from last year, as well as 31,063 visits.

A motion put forward by Coun. Jim Steinke to move the library’s request forward to the budget was passed unanimously.

A separate motion put forward by newly-elected Coun. Chris Czember to accept Richardson’s presentation as information was also passed without dissent.

Opinion, Published Articles

Calgary Flames lose political fight to Mayor Nenshi over new arena

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi won a third consecutive term on Monday, confounding pollsters who predicted his political demise was imminent.

Nenshi, who was voted world’s top mayor by the World Mayor Project in 2014, was reported to be down between nine and 17 percentage points to challenger Bill Smith in multiple polls by Mainstream Research, whose president Quito Maggi acknowledged major “polling failures” after Nenshi’s re-election.

No kidding. Nenshi ultimately won the race by seven percentage points.

This wouldn’t be the first time in the past couple years that polling agencies have miscalculated — on an even greater scale, few predicted that Donald Trump would become U.S. president or the United Kingdom would vote to leave the European Union.

What was unique for a municipal election was the array of powerful forces aligned against Nenshi returning to power, most prominently the Calgary Flames ownership, who didn’t appreciate the mayor’s hardball tactics during negotiations for a new arena in downtown Calgary.

The cost of replacing the Scotiabank Saddledome was pegged by the city at $555 million. It offered to pay $185 million, including the cost of demolishing the current arena. The Flames would then directly pay another $185 million and the other $185 million would be raised from a 35-year ticket tax financed by the franchise.

The team’s offer was for a $500-million project, which it said would cost the city $225 million and the Flames $275 million.

However, the club demanded the city offer free transit for those attending events at the new arena, which would cost the city $10 million in foregone revenue every year. They also wanted Calgary to fund the ticket tax, despite including it under the team’s costs.

The Flames ownership disingenuously claimed they weren’t playing politics with the new arena.

But the team’s vice president, Gordon Norrie, tweeted his support for Smith on the day of election from his official @CalgaryFlamesVP account.

He also repeatedly accused Nenshi of “arrogance” throughout the election campaign.

And Norrie wasn’t just acting as a rogue executive.

After Nenshi’s re-election, the Flames director of communications Sean Kelso tweeted that Nenshi is worse for Calgary than Trump is for the U.S. Echoing Norrie, he added “#arrogance” to his tweet.

Both men are, of course, entitled to their opinion, but to claim that they weren’t trying to put their thumbs on the scale for Smith is simply untrue.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman also joined the fracas, blaming Nenshi for the impasse in negotiations, suggesting that the Flames may have to leave town if they don’t get their way.

The negotiations will undoubtedly continue. The costs of moving a popular hockey franchise outweigh the benefits.

Just ask Winnipeggers.

The Winnipeg Jets were relocated to Arizona in 1996, rechristened as the Coyotes, and declared bankruptcy in 2009. The Coyotes remain a financially-troubled franchise, but the failure of the Atlanta Thrashers brought the Jets back to Winnipeg in 2011, no doubt a costly endeavour for all involved.

Back to politics, Nenshi now has a mandate to ensure taxpayers get the best deal from a large company that can afford to pony up significant sums of cash for a new arena.

As Jen Gerson wrote in Wednesday’s National Post, “the idea that taxpayer funds should prop up a new building so billionaire owners can make extra bank on luxury boxes just doesn’t bring a tear to my eye.”

Nor should it.

Published Articles

Roset by Reid will move to old fire hall

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Roset by Reid, the jewelry store that has been a staple of downtown Medicine Hat for nearly 40 years, is relocating to the old Fire Hall No. 2 on the city’s south side.

“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears down here,” said Chelsea Siggelkow, Roset by Reid’s president. “We’ve invested a lot into downtown and this space in particular.

“Downtown comes with a lot of character. There’s a lot of great locally-owned businesses down here.”

Siggelkow’s parents, Duane and Marilyn Roset, after whom the store is named, opened downtown in 1979.

Siggelkow said despite the family business’s strong attachment to the downtown core, the move to Dunmore Road is an effort to grow its customer base.

“In business, you try and make decisions that elevate your business to the next level. This allows us to go and expand.

“There’s two things that hinder us being downtown, as much as we love downtown,” said Siggelkow.

The first is parking, which she described as a “chronic problem” with the current location that will be remedied with the move.

The other issue is visibility, which she said will be enhanced with the new location on Dunmore Road. Plans are to open at the new location some time in November.

“It’s just the next step for our business,” Siggelkow said, adding she retains high hopes for the city’s downtown core.

“I hope the future of downtown is locally-owned boutiques and eclectic shops that people can walk around, get a coffee (and) shop — kind of the epicentre of the city,” she said.

Siggelkow says she and her husband, who works as a firefighter, plan to renovate the old fire hall while respecting its history.

“Travis and I saw a ton of potential and character in that space,” Siggelkow said.

“We really wanted to keep the heritage and the history of the space too … It would have been really sad for someone to just come in and demolish that building and start over.”

Although they have to get rid of the garage doors, as they don’t suit the purposes of a jewelry store, they’re going to frame the windows to resemble them.

They’re also maintaining the building’s hose tower, original fire alarms and “bits and pieces” they discovered through the demolition process.

“The bones are staying and the bones are awesome,” she said.

Since Travis is a firefighter, the family has a special connection to the building, but the city had to exert extra caution when selling it to them to avoid any perception of nepotism.

“If anything, they were more strict with us, because it couldn’t be seen as giving any special attention (or) favours,” Siggelkow said.

The downtown location will remain open into the new year after the big move.

“We are going to keep both locations open for Christmas,” said Siggelkow. “We’ll keep a huge sale running and run that all the way through the Christmas season.”

Siggelkow praised her loyal customer base that has returned year after year.

“We love our local clients and we have some amazing, faithful clients who come back every year,” she said. “Those are the relationships you build on. You know what they bought last year, you know what their wife does for a living, you know the details of their life.

“That’s what’s beautiful about a city this size.”

Published Articles

High winds blew in, then blew right out

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Tuesday night’s wind storm swept through southern Alberta, reaching a peak speed of 102 kilometres per hour in Medicine Hat, then quickly dissipated.

“What surprised a lot of our forecasters was the … travelling speed,” said David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada. “It was almost like it hit and ran.

“Not often do these wind storms die down as quickly as this one came. It really just hightailed it out of town.”

He called the storm a “big blow,” which originated in the Gulf of Alaska.

“We saw a number of weather systems already and later this week barelling in from that area,” said Phillips. “There’s almost a parade of them.”

It took only five hours for the storm to move from British Columbia and Alberta to Manitoba, which he said is highly unusual.

“That’s a really fast-moving weather system,” Phillips noted.

The peak wind reached Medicine Hat around 6 or 7 p.m., the result of a brief gust, rather than a sustained wind, he added.

“These gusts can cause stress on buildings, damage on trees (and) power outages,” Phillips said. “It’s not the sustained wind that necessarily creates the problems. It’s often the gusts.”

The storm caused some grassfires, which Phillips said is somewhat atypical.

“It was almost ironic,” he said. “I looked at the weather warnings this morning and I saw both wind and smoke from grassfires.

“You normally don’t see that. Sometimes the strong winds just blow the smoke away. The fact that the wind was short lived (meant) it helped to fan a few flames.”

By 8 p.m., the sustained wind was about 84 km/h, considerably less than the gust’s top speed of 102.

“It was pretty well over by midnight,” Phillips said.

He said southern Alberta is typically windier than the rest of the nation, particularly during the autumn months, although April and May tend to be the windiest overall.

“October is a windy time,” said Phillips. “Often what happens in that month is you get a change of season — summer to winter — and that’s what happens when you get that transition season.

“Getting strong winds at this time of the year is not rare. It’s just part of your normal climatology.”

Out of Environment Canada’s windiness rankings for the entire year in 91 locations throughout Canada, the Hat ranks 48th. By contrast, Lethbridge ranks fifth.

A wind storm identical to Tuesday’s occurred in southern Alberta on June 12, 2015.

“It was exactly the same,” he said, adding that its peak speed was also 102 km/h. “It was rip-roaring kind of day.”

Published Articles

Redcliff residents elect a new mayor

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

The Town of Redcliff has a new mayor.

Longtime councillor Dwight Kilpatrick defeated incumbent Ernie Reimer in Monday’s municipal election.

Kilpatrick received 591 votes, or 54.2 per cent, to Reimer’s 499 votes, or 45.8 per cent. Turnout was 1,095.

“I’m humbled and grateful for the people who voted for me,” said Kilpatrick. “Next Monday, when we’re sworn in, we start to work.”

He cited infrastructure and sanitation as his two main priorities as mayor.

“We’re all talking economic growth because that’s a wonderful thing to talk about, but when you can’t grow because you’ve reached a limit, you have to fix that limit,” Kilpatrick said.

“That sanitary hurdle is a big one … Even once we figure out a plan going forward, it’s still going to be a matter of how we pay for it. There’s no cheap fix, no matter what.

“I know administration has it on their priority list too, because council as a whole has put it on their priorities, but every day there’s always new things that arise,” he added. “My goal will be hopefully to try to slow the little things down and get some of the big things geared up and running.”

Kilpatrick said he also wants to make progress on collaborations with the City of Medicine Hat.

“That hasn’t even started, so that’s going to be one of the issues in the next four years,” he said.

A bittersweet defeat

Reimer said he’s proud of his accomplishments as mayor but fears they will be rolled back by his successor.

“We had a lot of good things happening for our town and we had some really inspiring initiatives going forward for the next four years,” he said.

“Now I don’t know what’s going to happen with those initiatives with the new mayor, but it doesn’t look good to me, from what I understand from this individual.

“It’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen. Are we going to go backwards now? Because I was a forward-thinking mayor all these years.”

Reimer called Kilpatrick an “obstructionist” based on his experience working with him on town council.

Reimer cited bringing a doctor and chiropractor to town, as well as the building of a water treatment plant as some of his major accomplishments in his single term as mayor.

He said he’s finished with politics but encouraged young people to get politically engaged.

“I would advise them to get involved, to find out what’s going on in the town,” said Reimer. “Get out and vote. Read the council minutes on the internet.

“We need some younger people on town council as well. A mixture is always good to have some new ideas from younger people and to make things happen for the town.”

He said he plans to focus more on his sharpening business that he runs out of his backyard now that he has more free time.

“It will probably be a bit more relaxing,” Reimer said.

Council results

With six candidates vying for seven seats on Redcliff town council, all but one will be sworn in next Monday.

Incumbents Cathy Crozier, Eric Solberg, Larry Leipert and Jim Steinke will be returning.

They will be joined by newcomers Chris Czember and Shawna Cockle.

The final results were:

— Eric Solberg (773)

— Chris Czember (721)

— Jim Steinke (703)

— Larry Leipert (668)

— Cathy Crozier (648)

— Shawna Cockle (643)

— JD Gaetan (389)

Published Articles

Local Lions Club will help celebrate milestone

Ninety-seven-year-old Roy Gale knew from a young age he wanted to involve himself in community service, which he’s done for 57 years as the longest-serving member of Medicine Hat’s Lions Club.

“When I was about 10 years old, there was a little crippled boy who lives down the street. Every Saturday morning, I would take him in my wagon and I’d pull him up and down the streets of Medicine Hat,” said Gale. “From then on, I knew I wanted to help people.”

The Medicine Hat club, which has been around since 1950, is hosting a regional convention in celebration of the International Lions 100th anniversary on Oct. 21 and 22 at the Medicine Hat Lodge, which will attract about 150 delegates from across southern Alberta.

In addition to hosting the convention, the local Lions Club will be doing a highway cleanup and offering free eyesight tests to students.

“Our motto is ‘we serve,’” said James Higgins, another Lions Club Hatter. “When there’s a need, we try and step up and look after it if we can.

“It’s humbling to be able to fulfil those needs.”

Another Lion, Alan Bergen, said the group’s fundraising is of the utmost importance to fulfil its duties.

“Without funds, we can’t do much else,” he said.

With those funds, the club engages in its charitable endeavours, like donating sports equipment, funding the local college’s food bank and numerous other initiatives.

There are Lion’s Clubs in just about every country in the world, and its membership includes two former U.S. presidents — Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

They have about 1.5 million members worldwide.

“The only service club that’s allowed in China is Lions International,” said Bergen.

Wayne Robinson, another member, said it’s because of the club’s apolitical nature.

“We’re not political, we have nothing to do with that, and they see that we’re a benefit to their citizens,” he said.

There are numerous other clubs in Medicine Hat dedicated to community service — the Kinsmen, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs — and each serves a unique function.

“Every club has its own little niche that it fills,” said Higgins. “I think it’s just being part of the community with these other clubs that also do great work.”

Robinson said the Lions are unique because they don’t depend on advertising.

“Every cent they make goes back into the community or their major programs,” said Robinson, adding that the Lions have been recognized by the United Nations for its work.

In 2007, the Financial Times ranked the Lions Club as the best non-governmental organization to partner with, which Higgins said is a testament to the club’s stellar reputation.

Since there are Lions Clubs in most countries, each chapter is able to co-ordinate in case of emergency and arrange relief, whether it’s the Haitian earthquake in 2010 or the southern Alberta floods of 2013.

“We had $10,000 within 24 hours,” said Robinson of the flood relief.

“If one of your club members has problems and needs help with something, more often than not there are people that will step up and help out,” said Higgins.

“It’s like a big family. We help ourselves and we help others too.”