Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Jan. 23, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Not counting the 15-minute get-together on Jan. 9, this was the first substantial regular meeting of councillors since before Christmas, and they were in a debating mood.
But first things first….

Community Futures

Josh Friesen, the Executive Director of Community Futures Lesser Slave Lake, gave council the same spiel as he did to M.D. of LSR council before Christmas (as reported in the Jan. 4 Leader). It’s an ambitious project of applying for grants for various programs. If successful, it would see an influx of millions of dollars, require hiring more people, and stir up all sorts of activity.

Briefly:

Hyperdrive – this would be the second annual conference on women in business. We’re looking for sponsors and delegates, Friesen told council.

Youth Opportunities Unencumbered – workforce planning, training and placements for 15 – 30-year-olds.

Future Leadership Youth (FLY) – to fund volunteer initiatives by young people. One-hundred-sixty grants of $5,000 each have been applied for. If we get approved, “could the town open the doors?” Friesen asked.

Councillor Andrew Achoba asked about selection criteria. All applicants have to go through training, Friesen said. After that, their proposals would be assessed, on various criteria, including inclusiveness, community engagement and others.

How will you reach under – served people, was Achoba’s next question. What are your strategies?

We’ll start with delegations to Indigenous and other groups, Friesen said. Schools too.

Regional Growth Team – This is envisioned as a team of people in the Community Futures office that would “support economic development in the region,” Friesen said. It would start with the hiring of an economic development office and a grant writer.

Possibility and Opportunity Program (POP) – This would enhance work CF already does. Friesen described as “bolstering entrepreneurial capacity, and workforce skills,” by means of courses and other initiatives.

All of the above depend on grants being awarded.

Survey on child care

Council heard the results of an online survey on child care needs in the community. This was done “to inform decision-making around the development of child care in our community.”

Fifty-four per cent of the (83) respondents ‘strongly support’ the town operating its own regulated child care facility. About the same number see lack of child care as a ‘significant’ barrier to labour attraction and retention.

Thirty-four per cent said they had lost employees due to lack of child care in Slave Lake.

If the purpose of the survey was to strengthen council’s case for buying a building to house a new daycare, it didn’t work. Council voted down the bylaw that would have authorized borrowing money to buy the building (see story on Page 1).

Flags, banners, etc.

Council had a lively debate on the subject of who gets to put up flags, banners and such to commemorate one thing or another, under what conditions and so on.

It was the second all-out debate on the matter, with strongly opposing views.

The subject came up late last year when an organization requested permission to put up banners (or maybe ‘a’ banner) recognizing Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, in May. It turned out there was no provision for banners in the existing bylaw, so administration was asked to bring back a report and recommendation.

Councillor Brice Ferguson picked up where he’d left off the last time, saying he thinks the town’s policy on what should be permitted should be strictly limited, to “groups we have a flag protocol with and national holidays,” period.

Councillor Steve Adams didn’t like the sound of that, as being unnecessarily restrictive. Leave it more open, he said. There’s no indication we would be overwhelmed with requests. If the town needs to work a little harder, so be it.

Speaking of which, the policy as proposed sets out the conditions of displaying flags and banners, including the responsibilities of approved applicants, while of course leaving the judgment about who to approve up to council.

Ferguson added to his argument by saying if council does approve an application, “we somewhat tie ourselves to that organization,” for better or worse.

Beside the point, said Adams. “I approve of this,” he said, and made a motion accordingly.

It passed by a 5 – 2 vote, with Ferguson and Achoba opposed.

Sexual violence awareness and prevention request squeaks through

Next, council moved on to the specific request that had sparked the preceding item. It was from the Dragonfly Centre, and had to do with raising public awareness of sexual violence and how to prevent it. To do this, the applicant requested permission from the town to put up flags and a banner in downtown Slave Lake during the month of May.

More or less the same arguments were put forward as in the debate on the Flag & Commemorative Lighting Policy. Not that any councillor said anything against raising awareness about sexual violence. But Councillor Kim Hughes, for example, seemed to be swayed by Ferguson’s earlier argument that there are (or could be) too many such requests.

“Too many things are being celebrated,” she said. “Are we going to keep having these conversations?”

How many requests did we have last year, said Adams, responding. “Two? You feel that is overwhelming?”

Adams went further than that, calling it “crazy,” to consider shutting the door to such requests, based on hypothetical possibilities.

“I don’t want to go down that road,” he said.

Three of his colleagues seemed quite willing to go down that road, but the motion to approve the Dragonfly Centre request passed, 4 – 3.

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