Monthly Archives: March 2019

Hundreds of frustrated southern Albertans gathered at Galt Gardens in Lethbridge this weekend to protest the NDP’s new carbon tax.

“Your presence here proves that the often used quote, ‘most Albertans support the climate leadership plan,’ is ill-conceived at best and arrogant at worst,” rally organizer Davey Wiggers said to the crowd Saturday.

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    “I came to the rally out of total frustration with the NDP policies,” protester Jill Skriver said. “From the very start, they have brought in bill after bill and they have shoved it down our throat and they do not care that the majority of Albertans are against it.”

    READ MORE: Protesters call for referendum on Alberta NDP carbon tax

    On Jan. 1, a carbon levy will be imposed on all greenhouse gas emissions and will increase the price of gasoline, natural gas and propane.

    “If we have a particularly bad winter, it could mean the difference between choosing whether you pay for your groceries or whether you pay for your home heating bill,” Wiggers said.

    Many protesters at the event questioned the timing of Bill 20.

    “To tax it [carbon] is a draconian measure, especially when we’re suffering,” Paul Hinman, former Wildrose party leader, said. “This is equivalent to a cripple saying we need to put 10 pounds on your back – it is just wrong, she needs to postpone this tax.”

    The rally organizer said he isn’t opposed to reducing emissions but more public consultation is needed.

    “We’re not against renewable energy but we need to transition responsibly, smartly, slowly, carefully,” Wiggers said.

    Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the bill was developed through consultation with energy officials, local communities and environmental groups. The goal of the bill is to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint.

    READ MORE: Alberta fall legislature sitting to focus on climate change plan

    A province-wide petition is calling for the bill to be put to the people in the form of a referendum.

    “I’ve been beside Rachel (Notley) in the house many times and she brought petitions about concerned Albertans on what needed to be changed and spoke very adamantly that we need to be listening to these petitions,” Hinman said. “Well I hope Rachel that you’re paying attention premier.”

The chief of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said he supports bands that want to exile criminals.

Bobby Cameron, who represents 74 of the province’s First Nations, said he backs banishment if it means getting rid of drug dealers or protecting young people from drugs and alcohol.

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    “We’re talking about some communities here that have drug dealers that are selling to 10-year-old kids. What would you guys do? Honestly. You got a 10-year-old kid that’s doing crystal meth. The next day, they kill themselves. Are you going to let it continue or are you going to banish these drug dealers?” Cameron said Monday at the provincial legislature.

    “Something has to be done.”

    READ MORE: Police charge 55 in massive drug ring targeting Ontario First Nations communities

    Cameron said the RCMP has a big role to play, too, working with chiefs, band councils and First Nations people who know who the drug dealers are in their communities.

    “It’s about improving and combating these problems before they escalate to the point where there’s full-blown usage of drugs and then suicide happens.”

    Cameron spoke after reports that Chief Richard Ben and the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation banished six non-band members and gave warnings to more than a dozen members because of a crystal meth problem.

    Muskoday First Nation, Mistawasis First Nation and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band have also banished people to help control crime.

    Muskoday Chief Austin Bear said his community held a referendum at the end of October and just over 80 per cent of about 180 people who voted supported a banishment law.

    “I see that as our membership supporting their leadership, but more importantly … (they) are concerned about issues in our community with respect to the illicit and illegal trafficking of drugs and how that is impacting on our families, our children and our community,” Bear said.

    Five non-members suspected of dealing such drugs were kicked out, he said.

    The law could also apply to someone convicted of murder or a known pedophile, he suggested.

    “We’re not out on a witch hunt here; however, when the situation arises, we have ways and means of challenging our members who choose to be drug pushers,” Bear said.

    “The outcome for these people may be exclusion or banishment, but it’s not an automatic banishment. Every situation has to be considered … on its own.

    “But it’s not by any means an intention to have a blanket banishment or exclusion. There’s much more to it than that.”

    Other First Nations communities outside of Saskatchewan have also tried banishment.

    In 2012, the crime-troubled Samson Cree band in Maskwacis, Alta. – then known as Hobbema – voted to give community leaders the power to evict suspected gang members.

    Indian and Northern Affairs Canada said in 2009 that Manitoba’s Norway House First Nation didn’t have the power to enforce a bylaw banishing troublemakers. A government spokeswoman said at the time that the bylaw submitted to the department attempted to regulate activities that were outside the bylaw-making powers of the Indian Act.

    Bear said the law on Muskoday is stronger than a bylaw and falls under the First Nations Land Management Act.

OTTAWA – Two months into her second maternity leave, Karine Beauchamp would love to spend extra time at home with her son Maxime – but she can’t afford to.

Among her friends, the new mothers with financially well-to-do partners support the Liberal government’s proposal to extend maternity leave to 18 months from its current 12 months, allowing new parents to work periodically during that longer time frame – but without any increase in benefits.

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Then there is a handful of new mothers who are breadwinners in the house and need to get back to work.

“We are already tight on mat leave. I can’t imagine getting less and getting less for another half a year,” Beauchamp said.

“We would all take more time with our children … but it’s the financial aspect. It’s the No. 1 complaint I hear.”

It is one of several complaints the government has heard over the last month of consultations on the plan, with the Liberals under pressure from employers and labour groups to scrap the proposal amid concerns from both sides that it wouldn’t help many parents and would be problematic for small businesses.

READ MORE: Grieving parents urge Ottawa not to stop parental benefits after sudden infant death

Instead, 25 groups – child care, poverty advocates and labour organizations – in an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ask the Liberals to increase benefit payments to new parents over 12 months, add eight weeks of dedicated time off for non-birthing parents regardless of gender and lower the benchmark for new mothers to qualify for maternity leave to either $2,000 of earnings, or 300 hours of work to receive benefits, instead of the current 600-hour requirement.

Employers and labour groups worry the proposal as-is leaves out single and low-income parents the government says it wants to help.

“Moms work 20, 30, 40 years. There’s no reason why they can’t extend that (benefit) amount over six more months to give us better time with our kids to ease the burden of finding child care. It would make more sense,” Beauchamp said.

Morna Ballantyne, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association, said the proposal seems to want to address concerns about a lack of child-care spaces for children under 18 months, but falls short of the need to create more affordable spaces nationwide.

Employers and labour groups are also concerned the proposal to let new parents work periodically during the 18 months would put undo strain on small businesses to back fill a position.

“What we’ve always asked is that government gives some thought as to how these things are going to affect employers and to date I don’t think there has even been a notion of that factored in,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

READ MORE: Mothers denied benefits while on maternity leave say Liberals dragging heels on $450M lawsuit

Kelly said the proposal doesn’t help new parents, nor their employers.

Any increase in benefits would require an increase in employment insurance premiums, said Angella MacEwen, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress. The Liberals first budget forecast a drop in premiums, but that didn’t take into account new benefit spending like extended parental leave or compassionate care benefits, she said.

“There is probably going to be some resistance there because premiums will have to go up to pay for any expansion even though they have gone down,” MacEwen said.

“That’s one of our concerns in that there was no room left in the EI budget.”

The Lions Festival of Lights is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The Calgary winter favourite is located at the Confederation Park Golf Course and consists of over 300,000 lights and three kilometres of power cords.

The Festival of Lights is the largest free drive-by Christmas lights showcase in Calgary and requires hundreds of volunteers to make it happen.

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    “At 91 you mostly just stick to doing lunch,” chuckled Otto Strand, who was busy on Sunday feeding the dozens of volunteers setting up lights. “But I do come and check light bulbs. They all have to be checked. Every year they have to be checked and if there’s any burnt bulbs they have to be replaced.”

    Strand was recently honoured with a nomination for the Lions Hall of Fame in Alberta.

    The Calgary Lions Club took over the light display at Confederation Park three decades ago, according to the Lions member who got the ball rolling.

    “The lights used to be here and then they were gone for a number of years. So for the Olympics, I wanted to get them reinstated and so I did a lot of letter-writing and canvassing of the Olympic sponsors and they didn’t come through with any money,” said Otto Silzer, chair of the Lions Festival of Lights. “I eventually contacted Sunshine Village and they said yes. The Scurfield family just lives up here in Foothills Estates. They were quite familiar with the old lights that were here before and so we just continued on from there.”

    The light display relies on sponsors, funds raised by casinos and electricity supplied by Enmax.

    The display has doubled in size since the Lions started. Enmax volunteers with trucks now help to reach the huge scaffolding, which is a big change from the earlier days.

    “We are far more safety conscious now than we were 30 years ago,” Silzer said. “On Saturday, Enmax was out here with 14 bucket trucks. We used to do the same amount of work, but we used to do it with scissor lifts and it used to take us weeks to do what they could accomplish in about four hours. And they did it much more safely than we did it.

    “We once had a van and a half-ton van with a little bucket on the top of it and we were using that and one of the fellows knocked the whole truck and everything over on its side,” laughed Norman Weismose, a long-time volunteer.

    “But we’re not allowed to do that anymore.”

    The Festival is now nearly 100 per cent green, powered by LED light bulbs. But with the growth in the display, comes the need for a lot more volunteers.

    “We’re always looking for more.  We can use people of any age,” Silzer said.

    “We had a person out here who is totally blind helping us with the Christmas lights. We can find something for everyone to do. Even if they can’t stand very long, we can find something where they can sit so it’s really quite amazing.”

    Judy Vaillancourt was walking through Confederation Park on Sunday morning when she saw the Lions members hauling out the displays.

    “Every year it gets a little bigger and it gets a little bit better,” she said. “I love the fact that people will do this just on a volunteer basis and so many people drive by and it makes their Christmas a little bit better.”

    She was so impressed by the work the Lions have been doing, she decided to take a detour from her walk and volunteer with the group.

    “When people that are over 90 will help do this display, you know that it’s a good thing for the city and you know how much it means to everybody.”

    It’s been a lot of work for the Lions members who have done this for 30 years. Many recall setting up lights on -30 degree C days and sorting through hundreds of boxes of lights and stacks of displays. But they keeping doing it because of the happiness it brings to people in Calgary.

    “It’s great for the community; it’s great for the city. There’s so many children and families that walk through here every day. It’s unbelievable,” said Strand, who at 91 years old, says he has no plans to retire from his volunteer work.

    The big reward for everyone involved comes when the lights finally go on after months of hard work.

    “Satisfaction,” Silzer said. “It’s just so pleasing to have that happen. And everybody’s here and enjoying themselves and I know that it’s bringing hope and comfort to a lot of people because they really need that.”

    The light display begins on Nov. 26 and runs nightly until Jan. 8. This year, the Lions are adding an ambitious new 14-metre tall display for Canada’s 150th birthday.

    For information on how you can get involved, you can check out the Festival of Lights website here.

Lethbridge police have named two people charged in Friday’s ”high-risk warrant” executed on the city’s south end.

READ MORE: Lethbridge police charge 2 people after execution of ‘high-risk warrant’

The warrant was issued in the 1000 block of Elliot Road South.

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Shortly after 7:30 p.m., police asked people to avoid the area until further notice. After 10 p.m., they said three people had been arrested.

Police said three search warrants were conducted at three different locations in Lethbridge in relation to stolen property, which included four rifles with ammunition.

Officers said the people inside the home on Elliot Road refused to leave the house when police asked them to, so the Critical Incident Response Team was called in to assist. After “some time,” according to police, the people exited the home.

The four firearms had previously been stolen during a break and enter, police said.

Chance Bodan Nordean, 31, of Lethbridge, is charged with break and enter to a steal firearms, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to the public, unauthorized possession of a firearm, knowingly possessing an unauthorized firearm, knowingly possessing a prohibited/restricted firearm, possession of a firearm obtained by the commission of an offence and breach of a recognizance. He has been remanded in custody.

Jocko Slade Trotter, 28, of Lethbridge, is charged with possession of a firearm obtained by the commission of an offence, unauthorized possession of a firearm, knowingly possessing an unauthorized firearm and fraud with intent to avoid arrest.

He has been released on a recognizance and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 25.

Police say they continue to investigate this case and said further charges are anticipated.