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.”

Canadian Politics (Provincial), Opinion, Published Articles

UCP leadership race has some Seinfeldian overtones

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

The United Conservative Party leadership race is shaping up to be the Seinfeld of Alberta electoral politics. That is, a race about nothing.

Instead of concrete policy proposals, the contest thus far has been more about broader themes than specific policies.

It doesn’t help that one frontrunner, former PC party leader Jason Kenney, is openly refusing to release specific planks unless he wins.

His competitors — former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, Calgary-based attorney Doug Schweitzer and former Wildrose president Jeff Callaway — have each released a smattering of policy proposals here and there, but are mostly sticking to UCP talking points.

They all want to cut taxes and balance the budget (though how they plan to do both concurrently remains a mystery), tame a purportedly out of control public sector and punish British Columbia for opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

Each candidate agrees on these themes, but has different means of addressing them, with the exception of Kenney.

Like George Costanza in the series of Seinfeld episodes when he and Jerry are pitching a sitcom to NBC, Kenney insists that the leadership show must be about nothing.

As the most recent Leader of Opposition, Brian Jean would be the show’s titular character. He’s also the most popular of the four candidates amongst Albertans, with 51 per cent saying he’s the most suitable to be leader, according to a ThinkHQ poll reported by Global News.

He and Kenney initiated the merger of their two conservative parties that sparked this race, just as Seinfeld and Larry David, on whom George is based, conceived of the sitcom.

Jean vows $2.6 billion in budget cuts, referendums on photo radar and equalization payments, and a full repeal of Notley’s carbon tax.

His wacky neighbour, the Kramer of the leadership race, is Callaway, whose signature proposal is to purchase Manitoba’s Port of Hope to get Alberta’s oil to foreign markets, given the B.C. NDP’s reluctance to allow more pipelines through its territory.

This harebrained scheme to purchase another province’s port is one the likes of which only Kramer could conceive.

Given his outspoken social progressivism, Doug Schweitzer is the Elaine of the race.

Elaine, portrayed by the now-legendary Julia Louis-Dreyfus, won’t date someone who’s anti-abortion and Schweitzer doesn’t want to lead a party that rejects a woman’s right to choose.

But Schweitzer is no Dipper. He wants to kick B.C. out of the New West Partnership if they don’t accept Kinder Morgan and radically alter the province’s income taxation to create two flat brackets — nine per cent for those who make less than $100,000 per year and 10 per cent for those who make more than $100,000 annually.

After the first leadership debate, Jean, Kenney and Callaway rushed to social media to declare themselves the winner, as if it were a boxing match.

Schweitzer was the only one not to unilaterally declare victory, which shows good character.

In a race about nothing, that goes a long way.

Published Articles

Rattlers volleyball team steps up to help recent amputee move

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

When Fred Tesky and Brenda Morrey asked for help moving online, they didn’t expect to receive the assistance of the entire Rattlers men’s volleyball team.

Tesky had to have the bottom half of his right leg amputated this year, due to a rare bone marrow infection called osteomyelitis he contracted in Vancouver.

“I was at a barbecue in Stanley Park. I walked across the lawn in a pair of sandals with no socks and I had a cut on my foot and I caught osteomyelitis,” said Tesky.

His doctor told him that if he kept climbing the stairs in their house, he may lose his left leg, so he opted to move to the first floor of an apartment building.

“If you think osteomyelitis is a disease you can’t catch, think again,” Tesky said.

He normally would have his sons help him move but they were both out of town, so his ex-wife suggested he ask for assistance online at All or Nothing.

“Medicine Hat’s still got good people,” Tesky said.

With the assistance of 13 young men in peak physical shape, it was a relatively quick move.

“It took us an hour and a half to empty the house and an hour and a half to move in here,” Morrey said.

Tyler Olson, the team member who originally saw Tesky and Morrey’s ad online, said helping the couple was simply the right thing to do.

“That’s just the way I was raised,” he said. “It’s not even that it has to be reciprocated in some way. I just feel like that’s what you should do. I figured I’d get 12 other guys that might feel the same.”

“They were all on board, no questions asked,” said Olson of his teammates.

“I’m not a saint by any means. I’m not a hero. I just feel like that’s the way it should be,” he said.

Marc Porter, the team’s coach, said he tries to instill in the players the value of community service.

“We spend an awful lot of time talking about personal brand and image, and how important it is that you represent yourself well, you represent our program well and you represent Medicine Hat College well,” said Porter.

“It’s the right thing to do, but it also will help them in the long term,” he added.

Morrey said he’ll be hosting the team at his apartment for a barbecue on Sunday to show his gratitude.

Canadian Politics (Provincial), Opinion, Published Articles

‘School choice’ unfair to public purse

Originally published in the Whitecourt Star

Charter schools, which are essentially publicly-funded private schools that parents receive vouchers to enrol their children in, are socially destructive institutions.

Alberta is the only province that makes charter schools a publicly-funded alternative to public schools by law. This has got to stop.

My main objection to charter schools is twofold — for students and parents, they drain taxpayer dollars from the public school system, preventing it from achieving its full potential. From teachers’ perspective, they weaken collective bargaining rights, as charter teachers are prohibited from joining the Alberta Teachers’ Association, which limits the union’s ability to fight for increased benefits for all teachers in the province.

UCP leadership frontrunners Brian Jean and Jason Kenney are both staunch supporters of what they call “school choice,” giving parents the opportunity to send their children to private schools on the public dime, an odd position for people who pride themselves on their fiscal prudence to take.

NDP Education Minister David Eggen is often accused by his political opponents of harbouring a hidden agenda against charter schools, but he’s done nothing thus far to prevent their proliferation.

When they were brought to Alberta as a U.S. import in 1994 by the hard-right government of then-premier Ralph Klein, there was a cap on the number of charter schools permitted in the province.

Interestingly, the previous PC government of the generally more moderate Jim Prentice vowed to remove Klein’s cap, but the NDP won the 2015 election with no such intention.

The theory behind charter schools is that they would encourage competition, forcing public schools to compete with them and adopt their stronger suites, like smaller class sizes. It’s hard for public schools to do this while they’re competing for funding with schools that have lesser obligations to their students and educators than they do.

For example, charter schools are under no obligation to accommodate students with special needs, as public schools are.

Charter schools also lack democratic accountability. Unlike Alberta’s Catholic and public schools, they don’t have a school board with elected trustees.

There’s the notion amongst charter school proponents that alternative teaching methods practised in charter schools will “trickle down” to the public school system. This assumes that charter schools are above public schools, which is itself problematic

If there are two school systems competing for the same pool of tax dollars, why is one of them considered to be superior to the other?

The answer isn’t more public funding of what should be private educational institutions, but disposing with the concept that certain types of private schools are entitled to public dollars.

The government ought to be funding the public school system solely. If parents want to provide their children with an alternative education, they can pay tuition.

The question of whether parents should be permitted to segregate their children through private education is a different story.

In an ideal world, everyone would send their kids to a strong public school system that is well-funded and respects everyone’s differences. One step towards that would be to cut off funding for charter education and use those funds to make Alberta’s public system as great as it can be.

If the NDP government is serious about increasing funding for public schools and supporting organized labour, they should start by cutting charter schools loose.