New names excited to take over downtown businesses

By TIM O’ROURKE, Publisher of Connect Weekly

I recently met Ray and Brenda McDonald, the new owners of Canadian Tire.

The McDonalds have moved to Fort McMurray from Sarnia, ON, where they were active partners in a Canadian Tire location there.

Both have long and extensive business careers and professional backgrounds – in both corporate and retail. This is their fourth Canadian Tire dealership, taking over locally from previous owner Frank Saraka, who retired in August.

Ray and Brenda are now busy with a major refresh at their #1 Hospital Street location, so look for some exciting upgrades. Ray and Brenda are also preparing to open a new Outdoor Store in the Clearwater Mall, which will feature an expanded assortment of camping, fishing, hunting and marine products. The Outdoor Store is expected to open in late spring.


Congratulations to Kari-Lyn Bolen, who was announced as General Manager at the Boomtown Casino in mid-December. Bolen came to Fort McMurray in mid-April as Assistant General Manager (AGM), after 10 years as a Casino Shift Manager (same thing as an AGM in Alberta) in Penticton, B.C.

Bowen has worked in casinos for more than 16 years in B.C., including the Casino of the Rockies in Cranbrook and the Vernon Lake City Casino, where she started as a dealer.

Now, she is the boss of: “Our Town, Your Town; Boomtown, Downtown”.


Kudos to Craig Picton, who has been named General Manager for Harvard Broadcasting radio stations – Mix 103.7 and 100.5 Cruz FM – effective on February 8.

Picton helped launch the station: Mix 103.7, as Program Director. He then moved to Woodstock, ON, as a sales representative in 2010, before accepting his current position as Program Director for 101.7, The One radio station located in Wingham, ON and serving mid-western Ontario in Lake Huron shore area.

Picton replaces Don Grose and plans to get involved in many projects in Fort McMurray.


kraftAnother big announcement from Smitty’s Canada Limited as they been approved by the National Hockey League (NHL) to be a partner of Kraft Heinz in Hockeyville 2016.

Kraft Hockeyville is an annual competition, in which communities compete to demonstrate their commitment to the sport of ice hockey. The winning community gets a cash prize dedicated to upgrading their local home arena, as well as the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game. Runner-ups also get smaller cash prizes to upgrade their ice rinks.

Smitty’s Fort McMurray owner/operator Ramona Morrison tells me the competition runs from February 22 to April 3 and this is the first year that Smitty’s restaurants have been invited to participate.

The Smitty’s restaurant located downtown on Hardin Street will be promoting three gourmet burgers; Brake Away, Hat Trick and Power Play.

Kraft Hockeyville is providing three grand prizes to be drawn from all of the entries that they receive on their Hockeyville website (

The grand prizes include three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, which will include: tickets, accommodation, airfare and spending money for two people with an approximate retail value of $6,000 per prize.


Some people fly to Fort McMurray for work, but a hometown McMurrayrite has to leave town and our country to find work lately.

Ian Allen, formerly Manager of Sports & Facilities at the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, was recently in Basel, Switzerland as Manager of Fitout at the Longines & Equestrian FEI World Cup Jumping Cup. Lots of horse jumping for Seabiscuits with carrots and oats.

In two weeks, the former graduate of Peter Pond Junior and Composite High School and classmate of Wild Rose leader and MLA Brian Jean, will be heading to Palm Springs, California working at the Longines Norh American tour.

Hopefully he will get a watch for his work, as he is a Hall of Fame member of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and he loves golf, which would be good if he ever decided to apply as a general manager for a golf course.


Get your dabbers lined up, bingo is returning to Fort McMurray. Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165 in Waterways announced at last week’s General Membership Meeting that it now has a bingo licence and expects to hold its inaugural bingo game in mid-February.

It will be held every Sunday at 3 p.m. in the upstairs banquet room. Refreshments will be available. Last bingo game called was at the downtown California Club Bingo Hall which is now a parking lot.

If you hear of a good tip, contact me at

– Connect Weekly –