On the ‘good news’ side of things, the M.D. of Lesser Slave River heard from its property value assessor that some new industrial property was helping make up for the loss of other taxable property during the previous year. ‘Compared to a lot of municipalities, you are in good shape,’ said Troy Birtles of Accurate Assessment. New oil wells in the M.D. were at 99 in 2019, the highest since 2015.
A couple of crime stories were prominent in the April 1 Leader. One was about yet another ATM theft – this one at the Fas Gas. It used the conventional method of smashing the front doors and towing the machine out, doing considerable damage. A week later, RCMP said they had found their man, or men, arresting four in the case. The other story was about a person who had been shot and wounded in the course of a break-in.
Northern Alberta’s first death attributed to the COVID-19 virus was a 30-year-old man from Grouard. Shawn Auger was being remembered as a loving husband and father of five.
Bigstone Cree Nation and the M.D. of Opportunity teamed up on tough measures to keep COVID out of their communities, clamping down on who got in an out of the Wabasca area.
The COVID pandemic hit harder in April, with deadly outbreaks in continuing care facilities in both McLennan and High Prairie. Slave Lake continued to have better luck, with few cases and no deaths.
Two local high school students told The Leader they expected to finish off their Grade 12 year on time and in good standing. This in spite of the fact they were being forced to study from home due to COVID-induced restrictions.
In April we had several stories about organizations trying out different ways of doing business. For example, St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church in Slave Lake was trying out online Sunday services using ‘Zoom’ technology and finding – somewhat surprisingly – that they were quite popular! Auto dealers were coping with a new business model that limited personal interaction with customers. Fitness classes were going online, and of course restaurants were down to takeout and delivery.
‘Nobody wants the oil.’ That was Roger Tang of Deltastream Energy, speaking to The Leader about the company’s new oilfield development in the Marten Hills. With the price of a barrel of oil down very, very low, continuing with production just didn’t make sense. “It won’t last forever,” was Tang’s prediction. And things had improved considerably by the end of the year.
RCMP reported a ‘suspicious’ fire destroyed Strawberry Service, located on Hwy. 2 about halfway between Slave Lake and High Prairie. It had been in continuous operation since the 1950s.
‘Breakthrough!’ said a Page 1 headline in the May 13 Leader. The big news was an announcement by Lesser Slave MLA Pat Rehn that Hwy. 2 near Slave Lake would be getting some new pavement. “Hopefully this is a sign of many improvements to come,” said M.D. of Lesser Slave River Reeve Murray Kerik.
Canada Day, Riverboat Daze, the North Country Fair – all were victims of the COVID-19 situation and their cancelations were announced in May. With nothing much in the way of community events going on, parks and walking trails became noticeably busier than usual as the weather warmed up. A helicopter lifting equipment onto the roof of the downtown mall turned into an impromptu community event, with people lined up in their vehicles for the show.
Speaking of the mall, we learned in May that two new stores were coming there. Renovation work got into full swing for what would end up being Dollarama and Pet Valu.
Happy news in May from Gilwood Golf Club, when the province relented in its restrictions to allow golf courses to open, with some modifications. “Terrific!” was manager Tony Griffi’s answer to a question about how it was going.
Big news in the third week of May was the Stage 1 Re-launch, which allowed some businesses to get back to something like normal operations following the COVID shutdown. Some local businesses, however, said they weren’t going to rush into anything.
Not a great spring for farming was the impression given by a couple of Flatbush area farmers in a story in the May 27 Leader. For one thing, COVID outbreaks in meat-packing plants in southern Alberta were hurting the demand for beef cattle. For another, wet fields were hampering seeding. Retired grain farmer and M.D. councillor Robert Esau called it ‘the spring from hell.’
Former Slave Lake RCMP officer Licio Soares was found guilty of assault in an incident that happened in Slave Lake in September of 2017. Soares contended he was trying to subdue an unruly prisoner. The court disagreed.
Three fast food restaurants in Slave Lake teamed up with the provincial government to distribute masks to their customers. The masks would be handed out at the drive-through windows.
If events and activities weren’t canceled altogether due to COVID, they survived by ‘going virtual.’ An example that appeared in the June 10 Leader was the second annual Métis Fest in Slave Lake. Held in June to coincide with National Indigenous History Month, the first annual event had featured stew and bannock, jigging and more at a local hotel. This time around, it would consist of a series of videos provided by the Métis Nation of Alberta head office in Edmonton.
A local privately owned care facility got into hot water in June, after allegations of neglect surfaced in the media. Apparently somebody had complained to CBC News that a resident of Points West Living had been “physically, emotionally and culturally neglected.” The Leader was not successful in getting Points West to comment on the allegations, but did speak to a couple of local people who have family members in the facility. They told a different story. Meanwhile, the Health Minister said it was being looked into.
The Leader’s popular (at least we hope it’s popular) Beautiful Gardens series for 2020 kicked off in June with a feature on Stan Isadore and Neena Zacharia’s lovely flower show in their yard on 5th St. SE.
Racism was a hot topic in June, largely due to things that were happening in places far away from here. But it sparked conversations about the topic right here at home, drawing a response from the local RCMP. At a town hall meeting, Staff Sgt. John Spaans encouraged citizens to report any behaviour by police officers deemed to be unacceptable, and it will be investigated. In another story, Friendship Centre executive director Barb Courtorielle said she thinks the RCMP do a good job, but confirmed racism certainly does exist in the community and is experienced by Indigenous people “on a daily basis.”