2015 – Year Review in Wood Buffalo

By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly




Snow removal receives frosty reception from some local residents – Vol. 11. Issue 2 – The January 16 edition

2015 RECAP: “I came home and found an awful pile of snow in my yard,” McAmmond said of the massive pile of dirty brown snow dumped in her front yard on December 21. “It’s a big muddy disaster.” The RMWB says that the recent snow plowing, which saw a big accumulation of snow built up since the season’s first snowfall, is not indicative of the enhanced snow removal service which will begin next year. Under the city’s current snow removal program, residential streets do not receive any snow plowing unless the area receives a very heavy dump of snow, upwards of 20 centimeters in a single snowfall.

2016 UPDATE: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has improved winter maintenance by enforcing snow removal zoning areas. Learn more at www.rmwb.ca and search ‘Winter Maintenance Zones’.


Upshall inspires as #7 raised to the rafters – Vol. 11. Issue 2 – The January 16 edition

2015 RECAP: Fort McMurray’s own Scottie Upshall showed exactly why he perfectly deserved to be the third Oil Baron in franchise history to have his number retired by the organization. On January 10, in front of a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,700 at the Casman Centre, Upshall was gracious and emotional in crediting nearly every-one – but himself – for the success that his spectacular 1999-2000 season with the MOB allowed. At game ti me, the ceremony opened with a lengthy video tribute show-casing the various stages of Upshall’s career.

2016 UPDATE: Upshall is currently playing his first season with the NHL’s St. Lou-is Blues, as a right winger. He previously spent four years with the Florida Panthers and served as an assistant captain for the team in his last season before being traded.


Willow Square likely to be designed as an inclusive “community campus” – Vol. 11. Issue 3 – The January 23 edition

2015 RECAP: The long fight for an aging in place facility downtown is likely changing face: no longer exclusive to seniors, but likely designed as an inclusive “community campus.” That was a key point coming out of a public consultation session hosted by Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corp. (WBHDC) on the long-term care facility on the estimated six-acre site formerly known as Willow Square. “What we’re hearing is that people have been promised things. We’re trying to help them understand they haven’t been promised by us and we can’t necessarily achieve what they’ve been promised,” said Bryan Lutes, WBHDC president. “The seniors’ component on the site only works with the associated other uses on the site that help fund the seniors’ portion. Without the others, the site doesn’t work and we can’t make it work.”

2016 UPDATE: In November 2015, the Alberta government cancelled a contract to build the facility in Parsons Creek to the much-wanted downtown location. Local seniors thanked Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean and MLA Tany Yao for helping voice their concerns at Jean and Yao’s community Christmas reception on December 19, 2015.




Boy, 7, saves mother from slipping into coma – Vol. 11. Issue 5 – The February 6 edition

2015 RECAP: He may be only seven, but to Cindy-Lee Bath, her son Cruz Gray is most definitely a hero. He’s a hero because he saved her life. Bath is a Type 1 diabetic and uses a self-programmable insulin pump. On Jan 16, it injected too much insulin, putting her into diabetic shock on her way into a coma if she didn’t get help. “I had no clue what was going on around me or who was around me. When I finally came to, he had my family there helping me. He’s a very brave boy. He did the right thing because if he didn’t, I would have been in a coma. He’s my hero for sure.”

2016 UPDATE: One year later, Cruz is still his mom’s biggest hero and she shared he “continues to watch over” her.


Death of puppy found in dumpster high-lights need for stronger animal abuse laws – Vol. 11. Issue 6 – The February 11 edition

2015 RECAP: The short life of Tiny Tim, the badly-abused golden retriever puppy found shivering in a Fort McMurray dumpster on Christmas Eve, has ended in heartbreak for the staff of the Fort McMurray SPCA, as well as, the many concerned community members who rallied to the pup’s cause. Aft er fighting to save the puppy with every tool in their arsenal, the SPCA announced the death of Tiny Tim on Saturday, February 7. “It’s heartbreaking,” says executive director of the Fort McMurray SPCA Tara Clarke. “It was unexpected, because he had been doing well. He just didn’t have the strength any more to fight.”

2016 UPDATE: The Fort McMurray SPCA continues to be a strong voice for the voice-less animals and host numerous events throughout the year to raise awareness and donations for the cause. To learn more, visit www.fmspca.ca.



RMWB commits in-house transit services will be better after terminating contract – Vol. 11. Issue 8 – The February 27 edition

2015 RECAP: Robert Kirby, director of Public Works, says the audit identified some major concerns from riders with the way transit was being provided. “Some seniors weren’t even being walked to their door if they required help, if they were carrying groceries or something,” Kirby says. “There were a lot of complaints about the way people were being treated.” TOK Transportation has only been providing transit services in the RMWB since 2013. In that ti me, according to the RMWB audit, in the latter half of 2013, buses were late 774 ti mes and five trips were missed due to mechanical issues and operator delays. Within the first six months of 2014, those numbers had skyrocketed, with 1,853 delays and 59 missed trips reported.

2016 UPDATE: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is working on a Transit Master Plan and hosted public engagement sessions through the region in the fall of 2015. An online survey is available on-line for residents at www.rmwb.ca. Search ‘Transit Master Plan’.



“Our Little Superman”: Baby Zack proves he’s a little fighter – Vol. 11. Issue 9, The March 6 edition

2015 RECAP: Baby Zack’s happy-go-lucky nature is all the more amazing considering the tough path the baby has gone down. Since his birth on August 22, he’s under-gone a huge array of tests and medical procedures, blood draws and surgery. But the little boy’s sweet temperament shines through. The Zacharias’ family’s journey began when his mother’s water broke four weeks early. The pregnancy, the first for the young couple who moved from Campbell River, British Columbia to Fort McMurray just two years ago, was uneventful up to that point.

2016 UPDATE: In November 2015, the Zacharias visited with local artist Russell Thomas at his studio to pick up a portrait of Helio Gracie. Baby Zack currently made a trip with his parents to Campbell River, B.C. to celebrate Christmas with family.




Tatum takes Ward 1 – Vol. 11. Issue 13, The April 3 edition

2015 RECAP: A mere five point six per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots at the polls for their choice of seven candidates. That translates to just fewer than 3,200 out of a possible 57,000. “I feel great. I feel thankful,” said Tatum during a celebration thankful,” said Tatum during a celebration thankful,” said Tatum during a celebration party later that night. She acknowledges she did face criticism during her campaign with some questioning why she deserved a second chance on council. “They want a positive campaign. They want a positive vision going forward and they want to work with me, together, to create a community that is both strong and ours.”

2016 UPDATE: Tatum has been keeping residents informed on her decisions in council meetings through social media and emails. She has further stuck to her fly-in/fly-out platform, and vocally criticized Suncor for not first seeking locals for employment in the Fort Hills mine project. She was not alone on her concerns, as Councillor Keith McGrath and Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean also encouraged Suncor to hire locals. Shortly after, Suncor announced a statement from Executive Vice-president Mark Little welcoming residents to apply.




Wildrose Leader wins seat in Fort McMurray – Vol. 11. Issue 18, The May 8 edition

2015 RECAP: In a historical election, the NDP has won its first majority government in Alberta over the Progressive Conservative party that has dominated the province for more than four decades. The Wildrose Party will form the official Opposition, under the leadership of Brian Jean who won his seat in Fort McMurray against PC incumbent Don Scott . The Wildrose swept both ridings, with Tany Yao winning over PC incumbent Mike Allen in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.

2016 UPDATE: In a recent exclusive interview with Connect, Jean said: “My job, and the job of the Wildrose is to push and fight for Albertans and bring forth their priorities. And when we go back in the spring, we will continue to fight for everyday Albertans, who continue to lose their jobs and struggle in this economy.


Markaz-ul-Islam celebrates ground-breaking ceremony on new Islamic Centre – Vol. 11. Issue 18, The May 8 edition

2015 RECAP: Eight years of hard work. Eight years of prayers. And, eight years of anticipati on culminated in a  historic, and emotional day for Fort McMurray’s Muslims. Markaz-ul-Islam, Fort McMurray’s Muslim congregation, and thousands from the community converged on May 2, 2015 for the ground-breaking ceremony of a new Islamic Centre. The $10 million construction contract for the Islamic Centre was awarded to The Casman Group. Ben Dutt on, CEO, The Casman Group of Companies was on hand to sign the contract. Following the event, the ever gracious Dutt on said, “We were pleased to see such broad support at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Islamic Centre. And, Casman is extremely proud to be a part of the project team for such a significant facility for our community.

2016 UPDATE: The progress for the Centre has been running smoothly. To-date, majority of the structural steel has been erected; the basement is being heated erected; the basement is being heated with natural gas; and the decking for the main floor and running tracks will commence this month. In the most recent newsletter from Markaz-ul-Islam, the mosque was requesting a ‘Good Loan’ from community members to lend interest-free loans for the construction for the project and stated the loan would be returned to them as soon as they get funding from Kuwait, OR. To learn more about granting a loan or providing a donation, visit the mosque’s website at www.markazulislam.com.



Rebuilding Heritage Park – Vol. 11. Issue 20, The May 22 edition

2015 RECAP: Part of the continuing rebuild saw three buildings moved from low lying spots to high ground towards the end of April. Roseann Davidson, the park’s executive director, said that the Agnes Graham build in 1941 and the Goodwin and Fossen Cabins, which date back to the early 1930s have been relocated.

2016 UPDATE: Since the 2013 Flood, the Society has had to cancel numerous community events and programs. Asthe planning of the reconstruction to Fort McMurray’s Heritage Park continues into 2016, the Fort McMurray Historical Society is still seeking donations. Visit www.fortmcmurrayhistory.com to learn more and donate.



One of Fort McMurray’s unsung heroes battles cancer – Vol. 11. Issue 22, The June 5 edition

2015 RECAP: For 34 years, Sheryl Emerson has been a familiar face on the streets of Fort McMurray, offering food, shelter house and kind words to the city’s homeless. The hardworking single mom raised two daughters and worked tirelessly as a cleaner, but sti ll found ti me to pursue her passion for helping those in need. “She was always there for the people on the street,” says Emerson’s close friend Elizabeth Lee. Early in 2015, when she was working as a flag person in Fort St. John, she began feeling unwell. “She was working so many hours and she just didn’t feel good, so she left her job,” explains Lee. When Emerson returned to Mulhurst Bay, she made a terrible discovery. A lump in her breast turned out to be stage 2 breast cancer.

2016 UPDATE: Emerson has been unemployed since she began treatment for breast cancer in May 2015. The GoFundMe page: Chasing Life – Sheryl Emerson has helped her raise $7,825 of the $20,000 goal in the past nine months. She completed treatment in December 2015.



Local filmmaker brings Fort Chipewyan to the big screen with Gods Acre – Vol. 11. Issue 22, The June 5 edition

2015 RECAP: This summer, the tiny community of Fort Chipewyan will turn from quiet northern town to a bustling film set as local award-winning fi lm maker Kelton Stepanowich prepares to film Gods Acre, a short fiim featuring Corner Gas actor Lorne Cardinal and actor Greg Lawson, who has appeared in Fargo, Heartland and Hell on Wheels. “Everything I’ve done has been leading up to this point,” says Stepanowich. “This is my quintessential piece.” Stepanowich is intimately familiar with Wood Buffalo and the unique environs which make it an ideal location for film. Raised in Janvier, Stepanowich went to high school in Fort McMurray, where he says he was bitten by the film bug. His resume is impressive – he’s worked on the TV series Blackstone, done production management for the National Film Board and has won Best Director and Best Film awards for his features and short films.

2016 UPDATE: The anticipated “Gods Acre” short film starring Lorne Cardinal is to be released this year and the specific date is yet to be announced. In the meantime, Stepanowich continues working through his videography and photography company: Half Breed Films and is currently conducting a variety of projects throughout the Wood Buffalo region. Keep updated at www.halfbreedfilms.net.



Local HERO medevac helicopter secures funding for another year – Vol. 11. Issue 26, The July 3 edition

2015 RECAP: It’s a dream that Paul Spring, long time Fort McMurray resident and owner of Phoenix Heli Flight, which operates the Local HERO – which stands for Helicopter Emergency Response Organization — medevac service, has been fighting for nearly 25 years. Cenovus was the first company to jump in. “They made a com-
mitment of $300,000 that year with no strings attached, because they knew it was the right thing to do for their employees in the area,” Spring says. Spring says Suncor quickly followed suit, as did Husky. The RMWB put in money, and other donations began coming in from smaller companies across the region. With the support of Allen and Scott, a helipad was approved for construction on the roof of the hospital to allow the medevac helicopter to land there directly. In 2015, the Local HERO Foundation saw more funding, including a $650,000 donation from the Sunrise Energy Project and an injection of $1.5 million from the RMWB, to be distributed in two semi-annual disbursements.

2016 UPDATE: The Local HERO Foundation is a dedicated helicopter program with a helicopter and crew standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The HERO team are continuously looking for the community support to keep the program alive in the region. Learn more at www.phoenixheliflight.com/hero.



Raise the roof – Vol. 11. Issue 30, The July 30 edition

2015 RECAP: Take a bow – everyone involved. Keyano College received a $10-million grant from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Council for its Theatre expansion. The grant was a result of Councillor Jane Stroud’s motion at the July 14, 2015 regular Council meeting. The Theatre will undergo a massive $40-million expansion with nearly double the seats – from 594 to 1,200. Projected design features balcony level, including two premium box seating areas, while the third floor will have a community accessible, studio and gathering space, according to the presentation made to Council by Theatre Director, Alan Roberts, and Paul Taylor, Keyano College Foundation Chair. A professional art gallery is also on the roster. The Theatre opened 35 years ago in September 1980. Roberts, who has been with the College for 27 years, which means he has been part of 121 of the total 164 productions to date, says it was time to get it a face-lift.

2016 UPDATE: The planning for the $40-million Keyano Theatre expansion continues. Another major project on the College’s list is for the $20-million Clearwater Student Residence. To keep updated with the status of each project (as well as, all private and public sector projects in Fort McMurray), visit the Alberta Government’s quick-look webpage at www.majorprojects.alberta.ca.



Summer Games’ torch reaches destination – Vol. 11. Issue 30, The August 6 edition

2015 RECAP: On Monday afternoon, the countdown clock in front of the Municipal Building on Franklin Avenue showed four days, five hours and twenty three minutes; as the torch bearers from the Carry the Spirit Official Torch Relay gathered in front of it for pictures. After years of preparation, the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games are here. Suncor Energy presented the relay, and the torch bearers were community members who had been nominated for the honour. Elder Elsie Yanik kicked the relay off at Keyano College with Mayor Melissa Blake, and then made her way to Jubilee Plaza to give a blessing to all the participants. Yanik said that she hoped the upcoming games were a success and that the athletes had great fun and participated in honest competition.

2016 UPDATE: Wood Buffalo set a high bar for future Western Canada Summer Games hosts after the 2015 Games wrapped up on August 16, 2015. In November 2015, The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Council has approved to bid on hosting the 2017 Alberta 55 Plus Games and the 2018 Alberta Winter Games. Learn more about upcoming Games on the Alberta Sport Connection website at www.albertasport.ca.


Syncrude takes steps to deter wildlife from Mildred Lake site – Vol. 11. Issue 32, The August 20 edition

2015 RECAP: The death of approximately 30 blue herons at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site has gained national attention and sparked renewed concern over wildlife safety within the oil sands. Syncrude has been placed under an environmental protection order from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) stemming from the incident. Under the order, Syncrude must collect daily water and soil samples for analysis, as well as work to develop a wildlife mitigation plan. For its part, Syncrude is taking the incident seriously. The company has been abiding by all of the orders from the regulator, which also includes posting daily updates on their website. “We are saddened by the death of these birds on our site. We are now focused on investigating how it occurred to prevent similar incidents in the future,” explained Leithan Slade, Syncrude public affairs specialist.

2016 UPDATE: Syncrude has been complying with an Environmental Protection Order issued by the Alberta Energy Regulator and regular updates on the progress can be found at www.syncrude.ca/our-news/blue-heron-update. The December 31 Update stated the following deterrents continue to be in place: six effigies, as well as, Mylar flagging and deterrent fishing line. In the next month, the continuation of wildlife for deterrent measures will continue.


September 3, 2015 - Issue 34


Waterpark opened in memory of Wong – Vol. 11. Issue 34, The September 3 edition

2015 RECAP: Almost every woman in Fort McMurray has a Dr. Wong story. And, many of those stories include affectionate reminders from him on not getting “too fat.” The well-known obstetrician/gynecologist, who passed away on June 4, 2014, and has been credited with delivering an estimated 20,000 babies in 35 years – now has a waterpark to his name. The K.P. Wong Waterpark was dedicated on August 29, 2015 in the Syncrude Athletic Park in Timberlea. Mayor Blake, whose both sons were delivered by Dr. Wong said naming the waterpark for him was a fitting tribute. “He reminded me often to not get ‘too fat.’ Dr. Wong made a lasting impact on the people of Wood Buffalo, and for that we are profoundly grateful. It is easy to say why there’s an outpouring from our community today.”

2016 UPDATE: The Dr. K. P. Wong Waterpark continued to see visitors throughout the summer season and is now closed. For a full list of updates on this park and all of the spray parks available throughout Fort McMurray, visit www.rmwb.ca and search: “Parks & Outdoor Recreation Areas.



MLA Yao settles into new role – Vol. 11. Issue 36, The September 17 edition

2015 RECAP: It’s been over four months since Tany Yao became the new Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, and during a recent conversation Yao says that he feels that he is sett ling into the political role after getting to know many more people in the community in recent months. With a reception on the weekend, Yao hopes to meet even more people from the constituency. The very first issue that Yao went to the new NDP government with questions about was Highway 63. “I found that my concern about 63 is being taken seriously, and the twinning of the highway is moving along and will not be delayed any further, which is so important for the safety of our residents. It was a long overdue project and I wanted to make sure that it was on track, so that hopefully the number of deaths will be reduced on that road,” said Yao, who was happy that it was not delayed over even worse, cancelled altogether.

2016 UPDATE: In his latest interview with Connect, Yao shared how the last few weeks of the Legislature for 2015 were long, as he met with many farmers from across the province with Brian Jean, and the Wildrose party. “We were inundated with emails and messages from people who were worried about issues, but in particular over Bill 6. Many people were not even contacti ng their local MLAs, they were contacting us to ask for support.” As of January 1, Bill 6 is now in effect for farmers and ranchers in Alberta.


Five years for YMMiFF – Vol. 11. Issue 36, The September 17 edition

2015 RECAP: Bringing internati onal film shorts and longer-length features to Fort McMurray once again, the Fort McMurray International Film Festival (YMMiFF) celebrated its fifth anniversary on the Labour Day weekend. From September 4 to 6 the Keyano Recital Theatre was filled with film fans and festival attendees taking in the three-day event. The YMMiFF was created to bring quality fi lm from around the world to the Wood Buffalo region, while also providing an opportunity for local filmmakers to both showcase and develop their skills. “The fifth year is a magic number for film festivals. I’ve heard the advice, ‘Don’t apply for fi lm festi vals that are younger than five years’ given, even at one of our own workshops on the weekend, and it’s a good piece of advice,” said Ashley Laurenson, once an attendee at the YMMiFF and now an event organizer.

2016 UPDATE: YMMiFF’s Tito Guillen shared with Connect: “The YMMiFF is excited to expand further along with the YMMFMA to offer more educational workshops, screenings and events in 2016. Showcasing more local films in Wood Buffalo, and beyond, by bringing national and Fort McMurray.”



Pilot project to get student help at polls – Vol. 11. Issue 38, The October 1 edition

2015 RECAP: The local Elections Canada office will be trying something that has never been done before, and some lucky students in Fort McMurray will be part of history on October 19, 2015. Marlene Garand, the Returning Officer for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake had often struggled to hire enough people for all the polls in the riding. And over the years, when her own children were in school, she would have liked to see students more involved in the political process. So, last year, she took the idea to Elections Canada, and to Michael Ayers, who is the Field Liaison Officer for Northern Alberta. The idea being that students who were 16 years of age or older could – for the first time ever – be part of the process, and would work polls in Fort McMurray on Election Day.

2016 UPDATE: Marlene Garland is a returning officer for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake and maintained the office during the election period. Election offices are closed after Election Day. The 2015 Alberta provincial election was originally scheduled to be held between March 1 and May 31, 2016. The Premier of Alberta decides on the specific date and asks the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta to dissolve the Legislative Assembly. The 30th general election of Alberta will take place on or before May 31, 2019.


Timberlea residents wait for flood support – Vol. 11. Issue 38, The October 1 edition

2015 RECAP: Aft er hearing from many residents in Timberlea last week who were affected by the flooding in that area, Councillor Tyran Ault had made a motion that administration work on how some financial aid could be provided to the residents affected. Administration presented a report to council, asking them to defer the decision until a historical study is complete and they also said that it was far too early to discuss liability. Council agreed to defer the decision.

2016 UPDATE: Until officials can determine the fault of Timberlea flooding, residents will wait for a further response. A study is currently being conducted.


Connect Weekly - Issue 39, October 8 2015

Mayor Blake says SEC’s not a “done deal” – Vol. 11. Issue 39, The October 8 edition

2015 RECAP: The proposed Sports and Entertainment Centre (SEC) for the downtown core has been a big topic of conversation around Fort McMurray. Last week, the Municipality held engagement sessions, and the online survey will conti nue until October 13, 2015 to allow residents the ability to have their say about what they would like to see, or even if they want the proposed building at all. Over the course of the last few weeks, many locals have taken to social media to speak out about how the downtown arena is already a “done deal” and that the Mayor and council will push it through no matter what residents say. The Connect went to the Mayor and the councillors to ask if what others have been stati ng was true, and is it “a waste of time for residents to fill out the survey?” Mayor Melissa Blake wanted to assure everyone the SEC is not a “done deal” and, “Council has been clear about the necessity to hold public engagements and disclose as much detail about any possible deal as possible.”

2016 UPDATE: The majority of city council voted to eliminate the downtown arena plan on October 13, 2015. The results of the SEC public engagement survey were provided to Council and the public on the same date and the municipality received 3,205 surveys. With focus shift ed to alternatives, the Land Planning and Development Advisory Committee will prepare recommendations for the downtown area that is currently a parking lot.


Fifty years of thanks – Vol. 11. Issue 39, The October 8 edition

2015 RECAP: Wood Buffalo Regional Library (WBRL) marked fifty years in the region on October 1, 2015. The anniversary event was celebrated with local community leaders, including a special guest. Fern Brooks, the first local librarian was in attendance. Brooks joined the Library – then known as Fort McMurray Public Library in 1965. She moved to town in 1958 to teach at various schools including Keyano College. “There were 1,200 people here in 1958,” recalled Brooks, who lived in town for 44 years before moving to St. Albert 13 years ago. At that ti me, the Library was home to 30,000 books.

2016 UPDATE: The Wood Buffalo Public Library located at MacDonald Island continues to provide programs and resources to the residents of the region. For up-to-date information on upcoming events, go online and view the library’s printable monthly e-newsletter.


Yurdiga to voice concerns in Ottawa – Vol. 11. Issue 41, The October 22 edition

2015 RECAP: While most of Canada was painted red on October 19, Fort McMurray-Cold Lake re-elected incumbent Conservative David Yurdiga. After holding the seat for just over 18 months, Yurdiga will be off to Ottawa for his first full term. “I am disappointed about the Nati onal results, but moving forward I am going to work hard to represent the residents here to ensure we get our fair share. The oilsands are very important to everyone in Canada, and we want to ensure that they continue to be successful,” said Yurdiga at his campaign office on Franklin Avenue, as the results rolled in on the television. At the time of press, challenger Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha claimed about 28 per cent of the over 47,000 votes cast, while Yurdiga had about 60 per cent of the vote, with the NDP candidate Melody Lepine capturing over 3,600 votes.

2016 UPDATE: Search through Conservative MP of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake David Yurdiga’s recent activity, votes and speeches on the Open Parliament website (an independent, non-governmental site aiming to make information easily accessible) at www.openparliament.ca/politicians/davidyurdig. If you wish to reach the office of Yurdiga, email Yurdiga@parl.gc.ca


Connect Weekly - Issue 41

Coalition continues to advocate safety – Vol. 11. Issue 41, The October 22 edition

2015 RECAP: While the Coalition for a Safer 63 & 881 applauds the 99 per cent completion of the Highway 63 twinning, infrastructure is just one piece of a needed three-prong approach to driving safety. The other two components are enforcement and education. “We need all three working in concert to affect change. We can have the best infrastructure in the world, but if drivers continue to make dangerous choices behind the wheel we will not see the change we hoped for,” said Debbie Hammond, Executive Director of Coalition for a Safer 63 & 881.

2016 UPDATE: According to Alberta Transportation, the Government of Alberta remains committed to upgrading Highway 63 for the safety of motorists, and to improve traffic flow. The twinning of the highway is projected to be complete in 2016, and government will have invested $1.2 billion on the twinning project. Three kilometres of twinning for South of Horse Creek is currently under construction and projected to be completed by the summer of 2016.




Locals arrive safely home from Paris – Vol. 11. Issue 45, The November 19 edition

2015 RECAP: After a tense and chaotic couple of days, three Fort McMurray men have made it home safe and sound after being in Paris on Friday, November 13, during the terror attacks that killed over 120 people. Cliff Dimm, Narry Ramnath and Rod Black (who is from Fort McMurray and now resides in Calgary) arrived to Paris late afternoon on Friday. The three Albertans were in Europe for leisure to watch rock bands: Foo Fighters in Vienna and U2 in Paris. At the time of the Paris terror attacks, they were out for dinner at Café La Favorite – a restaurant close to their rented apartment in the 4th arrondissement of Paris (also known as, addordissement de l’Hôtel-de-Ville), which is situated on the Right Bank of the River Seine. “Myself and two close friends had come to Europe for a couple of concerts, seeing Foo Fighters in Vienna on Wednesday (November 11), then traveled to Paris on Friday to see U2 on Sunday (November 15),” Cliff Dimm shared with the Connect through Facebook messenger on Saturday, November 14, close to 24 hours aft er the attacks first took place.

2016 UPDATE: Local resident Cliff Dimm happily celebrated the holiday season at his Fort McMurray home with family and friends. He recently shared with Connect that he has upcoming travel desti nations to Hawaii and will be heading to their 7th Olympics trip in Rio this August. “Every Olympics is a target, the media always plays it up…. We are experienced travelers and we do a lot of research. I want my daughters experiencing the world, not fearing it. I’d go back to Paris in a heartbeat. And unless there’s an active travel warning, I’d go pretty much anywhere else. There’s too much good in the world left to see.”



RMWB lower flags to honour Councillor Chadi – Vol. 11. Issue 45, The November 19 edition

2015 RECAP: At press ti me for this edition, the Connect learned Councillor John Chadi had passed away at the age of 62, aft er his long battle with cancer. Chadi was a Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) Councillor for Ward 2, Fort Chipewyan from 1998-2008, and then re-elected in 2013. The day after he was sworn in as a councillor in October of 2013, Chadi found out that he had a rare bile duct cancer and that it was incurable. In a press release issued from the municipality on November 16, Mayor Melissa Blake shared, “Our thoughts and prayers are firmly with Cr. Chadi’s family as they mourn his passing following an incredible life lived in the service of his community,” said Mayor Blake. “John will be deeply missed by all of us and we can only hope his family finds peace at this sad and difficult time. On behalf of Council, I wish to express our sincerest condolences to Cr. Chadi’s family, friends and the entire community.”

2016 UPDATE: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo held a Candidate Information Session for the Ward 2 by-election on December 10, 2015 in the boardroom of the Fort Chipewyan Municipal Office. At the November 24 meeting, council established the by-election for Ward 2 will take place on Monday, February 8, 2016.




Connect Weekly - Issue 47

Cooper continues to fight for his life – Vol. 11. Issue 47, The December 3 edition

2015 RECAP: Currently undergoing treatment with an experimental drug called Blinatumomab, doctors have now suggested that 26 year-old Bo Cooper travel to the United States to undergo treatment with an experimental Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. The cost for this will be an estimated and staggering $500,000 in US funds. “This is the only option available,” said his mother Carla Campbell Cooper. ”I never thought it would come back again. But three times… it is horrific. Bo is in a fair bit of pain, but he is young and strong and that is why we have reached out and contacted the United States for treatment and the doctor in Calgary is on board with us to do this.

2016 UPDATE: The GoFundMe account for Bo Cooper currently showed a total of $272,535 of the target goal of $500,000 at Connect’s press time. Local firefighter and organizer of the account Rob Van Hecke told Connect that the grand total from fundraising efforts throughout Northern Alberta have brought the complete total of $550,000 – not including the $70,000 raised at the recent charity hockey game in Fort Saskatchewan on January 2. He shared: “We need to get to $900,000 CAD to full fund his procedure. We are hopeful to hear if Bo can receive treatment by January 8.” To make a donation, visit www.go-fundme.com/bocooper.