Major blow to Conklin Multiplex

Public letter from the Conklin Resource Development Committee

By Jeffrey O’Donnell, Conklin Resource Development Committee

Conklin_Multiplex

A design rendering by Architecture Tkalcic Bengert of the proposed new Conklin Community Recreation Centre. On July 19, RMWB’s city council postponed the project while several residents of the community were away celebrating the holiest day in the Métis calendar at the Lac St. Anne Pilgrimage. Photo by www.archatb.com

Conklin residents are shocked that Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) would choose the holiest day in the Métis calendar to vote to defer the Multiplex when, just days before, the project was on the resume list for capital projects and was lead to believe otherwise.

The people of the community of Conklin were dealt a major blow on July 19 when RMWB Council voted to defer the completion of the Conklin Multiplex. In a six-five decision, Council voted to shelve a project that they have promised the community for over six years – an integral service hub for the community and industry. The hamlet of Conklin had high hopes as this project was finally going to provide a safe place for kids to play, a promising location to house nursing station and policing services, and essential programming for our youth and Elders.

The Council’s decision to cancel/delay this particular project is not only a great disappointment, but also a breach of faith to the community of Conklin, Janvier and its surrounding rural communities.

The cancelation/delay of this project after the official ground breaking on October 27, 2014 over which prayers were made by our Elders, and for which Council voted unanimously multiple times and not to mention attending a Council Engagement Session immediately afterwards and over 15 public engagements throughout the years, is a complete and utter breach of faith.

The project has already incurred millions. And millions more are at risk if Council doesn’t reverse their decision. Furthermore, this decision leaves our community in a state of disarray as land has already been cleared, roads torn up and construction material and equipment strewn around the area. While this Multiplex was supposed to give our children a safe place to play, instead they are leaving behind a dangerous eyesore with a dreadful legacy.

The down turn in the price of oil did not spare Conklin as many residents lost their jobs. In addition to all the needs this project was to meet, it was also going to provide a vital boost to the local economy. The construction company had already committed to hiring local workers. This will have a devastating effect on the people and their families who are looking for work during these trying times. This region as a whole has endured a lot economically and to take away promising jobs at the expense of a hasty decision is incredibly shocking.

On another note, a contract was already in place and yet, we have a decision that was made with no discussion on how much exactly this is going to cost economically and socially to defer this vital project. The deferral of this project could mean a detrimental loss to the progress that has already been made and could cost millions more in penalties. Placing hurdles or any attempts to delay the project further is only costing us more money, time, energy and creating more losses to the community and region that we cannot afford socially and economically.

What we need to understand is that we have made a contract with the construction company and the equipment that you see scattered on that particular lot is costing this region a significant amount of money every single day. What is more disturbing is that each time there is an attempt to defer this project, we are using up the funds that was intended for the construction of the facility, for Conklin and its people. Instead these funds are now being eaten up for no reason except for the procrastination of Council. The deferral of this project, or any project that has commenced to the point that the Multiplex has, has a very serious consequence where millions of dollars are being wasted. Every single day that passes while this project sits is like watching money going down the drain that was intended for the residents of Conklin to improve quality life, provide essential services and community programming. The deferral of this project couldn’t have happened at the worst time – when not only a community is hurting but the entire region. The residents of Conklin, as the rest of the people of Wood Buffalo – do not want this project to go over budget.

However, with Council’s decision this poses as a serious threat and consequence as we are not saving money; on the contrary, we are now spending the same amount of money doing nothing and sadly will have nothing to show for it in the end. Unfortunately, the accountability will fall under the Council members who have made that vote earlier this week. The truth of the matter is that we cannot afford to do this every three to four months and keep this community on edge.

Another upsetting fact is that this vote took place on a date when many Conklin residents were out of the community attending the Lac St. Anne Pilgrimage – one of the most important weeks of the year for Aboriginal people. It should be of no surprise to anyone that the residents of Conklin feel blindsided and are shocked that RMWB would choose the holiest day in the Métis calendar to vote to defer the Multiplex when, just days before, the project was on the resume list for capital projects and was lead to believe otherwise.

A broken trust, loss of hope and respect, will not be easily repaired.

Unfortunately, there is an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” social stigma that is only experienced by those living in remote areas such as Conklin. Often, the voice of remote communities is small and goes unnoticed and this has once again proven to be the case for the community of Conklin. It is also unfortunate that the Councillors who voted against this vital project have not attended a single public engagement session pertaining to the Multiplex that would otherwise provide an adequate understanding of social and economic issues at hand. It is a hard reality to process that Councillors with the lack of understanding their constituents’ concerns will make decisions on such an important project.

To the Council who voted against this vital project:
Your sudden rejection that has gone against your public voting record, came to us as a big, unwelcomed surprise. You have baited people’s trust and vote but when the time came to honour that promise, you have chosen to switch on a community that needed you the most. It is unfortunate because nothing good can come out of stopping the construction of the Multiplex – only more cost, distrust and dishonour. What we are doing is essentially teaching our kids ‘it is okay to not stand behind your word’ and ‘it is okay to mislead your community’. We urge Council to reverse the decision that was made earlier this week and not further waste the funds that was allocated to Conklin. There will be an opportunity for Council members to reverse their decision on August 16, 2016. We are hopeful that Council will take the time to consider these significant points and make a decision for the betterment of Conklin and this region.

To the people of Conklin, our industry partners, our neighbours, and fellow commuters who pass through:
Although we are saddened by the result of Council’s decision, we would like to thank you all for your continuous support, energy and effort. Do not give up because this is not the end. If there was ever a need and time for unity, now is the time. We will continue to fight for what is right, our families – for the betterment of your life and your children, our future in the community of Conklin.

– Connect Weekly –