Monday, December 28, 2015

Mayor's Christmas Message

While I was attending the International Council of Air Shows convention in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, the Rocky View Weekly emailed me asking for a copy of my Mayor's Christmas Message.

Somehow, I didn't get the memo!  I had prepared a message before I left.  Here it is;

"As this 2015 holiday season draws near, our thoughts usually turn to family and friends.  This year those thoughts are being distracted by the events in the Middle East, where all semblance of human compassion and peace appears to have vanished.  I'm afraid the Syrian refugee crisis and the recent events in Paris will overshadow much of the celebration this Christmas.

I think we need to remember the message preached by the man whose birthday we celebrate every December 25, now more than ever!

On behalf of myself and my fellow Councilors I wish all of you a very safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dave Fegan Retires

Today was Dave Fegan's last day as pharmacist at the Beiseker Pharmacy.  After 36 years as Beiseker's pharmacist, Dave has sold the drug store business and is planning to take life a little easier.  The pharmacy will remain to serve us Beisekerites.  The new owners will take over its operation next week.

Dave has been an integral part of Beiseker since he and his family arrived here almost four decades ago.  His pharmacy is part of the centre of our town.  I and many others remember having a sick kid and Dave getting up to open the drugstore to fill a prescription in the middle of the night!  Dave is active in the Beiseker Lions' Club and he takes part in many activities of that wonderful organization.  He has already retired from politics, having been a Councilor and Mayor of this great little village for more than two decades.

In the political arena Dave and I have not always seen eye-to-eye.  In fact, we've been involved in some pretty serious verbal debates over the years.  The trouble is both of us know we are always right!  Dave and I don't fight as much these days.  Dave says it's because I'm seeing it more his way.  I say it's more vice-versa.   Despite our battles, I've always respected Dave's dedication and sincerity to his adopted village!  I will continue to do so.

Dave's not going anywhere!   He and his family are staying in Beiseker, except for their annual pilgrimage to the warmer south!  I dropped I today to congratulate Dave on a fantastic career as Beiseker's pharmacist and to wish him a great retirement. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Excellent ICAS Convention this Year!

ICAS is the International Council of Air Shows, and their convention is held every year at the beginning of December in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I've just returned from this year's convention with a renewed sense of excitement and optimism for the 2016 air show season!

The American military is back in a big way, flying at shows on both sides of the border!  They were back in a limited capacity in 2015 but they are planning to go all out in 2016.    Canada's magnificent Snowbirds have a full 2016 schedule planned. 

One of the most exciting bits of news comes from right here in Alberta!  Team Rocket, a two plane aerobatic team from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, announced that they are planning a most ambitious air show tour in 2017!

As you all know, Canada is celebrating its 150th Birthday in 2017.  Air shows are huge spectator draws.  They rate right up there with auto racing, soccer, football, and baseball in the numbers of fans attracted to air shows each year.  But the folks in Canada's far north rarely, if ever, see an air show!  Team Rocket is planning to remedy that in 2017!   They're planning an air show blitz across Canada's North to celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday!  They want to organize full air shows in the bigger centres and almost 40 fly-pasts over the smaller communities!

What a fantastic plan!  I volunteered to help out wherever I can. Stay tuned for more details coming up.

Overall I found this year's convention full of optimism and excitement.  Now we need to get ready for the spring!  Clear skies!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

My 'Stache Outlasts Movember!

Every year, the month of November has become Movember as men grow moustaches then shave them off on December first in support of research into men's health issues across the country.

Some folks have asked me if I would shave off my 45 year old 'stash as part of the celebration.  My answer is "no," my moustache stays!

One newscaster on television shaved off his moustache live in TV, then re-grew it, then shaved it off again at the end of the month all in the name of men's health research.  While I support the program to specifically support men's health issues, I like my cookie duster right where it is.

Thank you to all those who supported the Movember program - and a reminder to all men over the age of forty to get themselves checked out on a regular basis.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What's With Alberta's Bill 6?

I have yet to meet a farmer or rancher that is not concerned about the safety of their family, employees, visitors, and animals on their properties.  Therefore, I've been very surprised at the Notley Government's heavy handed reaction in creating a Bill, Bill 6, to legislate safety and labour  protocols on the farm.  The Bill will become law in the New Year.

Agriculturalists are concerned over the ramifications of the law which MAY legislate working hours, family jobs, children on the farm and liabilities when neighbours help neighbours.  Nobody is really sure what will be affected or how!  The Alberta Government says "Don't worry, if there's some glitches, we'll fix them, no problem!"  I think the farmers and ranchers are having trouble believing that. 

I married into a farm family.  My wife's family were grain farmers in Southern Alberta.  Every spring they would go almost 24 hours a day getting the crop in after the thaw and between rains  The goal was always to be finished by June 1.  In the fall the work hours skyrocketed again as harvest consumed everyone on the farm.  If someone got behind because of illness or a major breakdown, neighbours would come in and finish for them.  By the time the harvest was in the bins, everyone was very tired but very happy. 

Neighbours with livestock worked 365 days a year.  Dairy farmers have two milkings a day, everyday, which had to done, no choice.   I remember the kids cleaning out bins, running the loaders, driving trucks, hauling bales, doing yard chores while the dads and grandfathers were in the fields.  The kitchen was always busy getting food ready.

How will Bill 6 affect that whole way of life?  Who knows?  The government did little to get input from farmers and ranchers before hammering down this bill.   Now it appears that they are refusing to listen to the concerns of agriculturalists, saying "Trust us, we know what we're doing."

This NDP government seems to be intent on telling us what's good for us, again. 

I say put the whole thing on hold for a year, study the problem, get agriculturalists to give input!  After all, farmers and ranchers know their business and know how to keep it safe.  Premier Notley should trust them!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Misdirected Anger at Canadian Muslims

Across this country and across the world, a few misdirected people are attacking Muslim places of worship and indeed Muslims themselves, blaming them for the atrocities in Paris last Friday.  As I have mentioned before, only a very, very few people claiming to be Muslims are involved in these terrorist attacks.  Almost all Muslims are not a threat to anyone!

Someone scrawled "Muslims Go Home" on an apartment wall in Toronto.  I dare say the folks living in that apartment building WERE home!  Most were probably Canadian citizens.  There are even reports of attacks on Sikh and Hindu temples, the attackers mistaking them for Mosques.  One mosque in Peterborough was the target of arson.

You cannot say, "if one is, then all are."  I say don't punish Canadian Muslims for the atrocities of a few radicals.

During World Wars I and II, Japanese, Chinese, Ukrainian, Romanian, Austrian, Hungarian, and German Canadians were attacked without reason.  The Canadian Government even carried out some of these attacks against Canadians!  Ukrainian, German and Japanese Canadians found themselves persecuted and imprisoned at various times during those two conflicts. 

We now realise that these were loyal Canadians.  Canadians have spent the last sixty years apologizing to, and compensating victims of those events.  I thought we had learned the errors of the ways of our forefathers.  Apparently not!

Now, will we have to do that again?   If you do not study and understand history, you are doomed to repeat it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

What's Good For The Goose!

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander!"  That's an old adage basically saying all must be treated the same.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered his Ministers to make up a law banning oil tankers on the West Coast.

Oil producers and pipeline folks are claiming they will still build their Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast.  The Federal Government and the native communities have signed off on it! But what happens when they get the oil to the coast if the Prime Minister outlaws the ships to carry it to foreign markets?

Of course the Prime Minister's law must also apply to other oil tankers, too!  The American ships carrying Alaska oil will have to sail far out to sea to avoid the Canadian coastline.  (I assume the 200 mile limit will apply here.) That will cost them more money.  And what about all that tanker traffic on the East coast?  They will have to be banned too unless the Prime Minister decides the east coast is not as sensitive to oil tanker traffic as the west coast.

The Prime Minister's edict is very short sighted and it could well alienate Alberta from Ottawa again!  Maybe Justin really wasn't ready!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Paris Attacks (and - I'm Back!)

I'm back!  I've been unable to access my Blog and my Facebook this last while because of a major computer booboo.  Our main computer was toast.  We now have a new computer and we're gradually getting everything up and running again.

I am most distressed about the weekend terrorist attacks in Paris!  Cowards attempted to kill thousands of innocent Parisians along with many tourists out for a pleasant Friday evening in the "City of Lights".  We now find out they were only partially successful!

Security personnel stopped one terrorist as he tried to enter a soccer stadium with over 50,000 spectators present!  When discovered, the coward blew himself up at the entrance.

Others escaped through the back door of a theatre under siege, saving their lives.  Over 100 others in the theatre were not so fortunate! 

This kind of terrorism is abhorrent!  The world must unite to stop it!  Here's what I think we as Canadians need to do;
  • Convince Prime Minister Trudeau to slow down his plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada over the next six weeks.  Reports are saying that one of the terrorists in Paris arrived in France disguised as a Syrian refugee. Canada should send temporary relief to the refugee camps now, then bring in the refugees only after they have been thoroughly checked out by our security systems here. 
  • Convince Prime Minister Trudeau to leave our small RCAF contingent in Iraq to continue their fight with ISIS who have now claimed responsibility for the terrorism in Paris.  I think pulling them out now would be seen as a sign of cowardice.
  • Support groups trying to help refugees settle here in Canada.  After all, most of us are descendants of others looking for a better and peaceful life here in Canada.  Now it's time to pass it on!
  • Show our support for the people of France through this horrible time in their history in any way we can.
  • We must realise that these cowards who declared war on France Friday represent only a very, very small percentage of Muslims and/or Syrians.  We must always keep that in mind!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ken Taylor Passes

I was both shocked and saddened when I heard that former Ambassador Ken Taylor passed away the other day in New York City.  You'll remember that Ken was the Canadian Ambassador to Iran when the Country was taken over by religious extremists.

The terrorists took over the American Embassy and held hostage over 200 Americans.  Six embassy staff members escaped capture and sought refuge in the Canadian Embassy.   Ken and his staff housed the six Americans and with the help of the CIA managed a plan to get them out of Iran safely.

The plan worked!  The six Americans escaped Iran, safely disguised as Canadians.   Ken was awarded the American Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts.  A highly fictitious account of that escape was the plot of the movie Argo.

Ken was an alumnus of mine.  We both attended Crescent Heights High School in Calgary.  Ken graduated a little over a decade ahead of me.  We knew of Ken Taylor when I was in high school, and he came to speak to us once.  I was always impressed with his ease of conversation, his sense of humor and his genuine interest in those around him.

He spoke to us again last spring at Crescent's hundredth anniversary.  He spoke of his years growing up in Calgary and attending Crescent.  He said a few things which I have used when talking to young people.  Ken was indeed one of my personal heroes.

Rest in peace Ken.  You are one Canadian who did make a difference in the world!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Beiseker Fire Department Receives new (to us) Water Truck!

Yesterday. I had the privilege of visiting the Rocky View Fire Department fire hall in Balzac, where Fire Chief Ursu and I were presented with the keys to our new tanker/tender truck.

Actually, it's not new.  Rocky View County was able to upgrade some of its older fire fighting equipment and this truck was declared surplus.  It still has years of service left in it, so the County offered it to our incredible volunteer fire department here in Beiseker.

Beiseker itself is serviced by a network of fire hydrants, but when our firefighters tend to a fire outside the village, they'll now be able to haul more than 10 000 litres of water with them.  This will be particularly good for highway responses and grass fires.

Thank you so much Rocky View County! Good on ya!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Boil Water Notice Lifted in Beiseker

As of 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7 our Boil Water Notice for Beiseker has been lifted!  Alberta Health is asking us to flush our own lines before we drink the water.  That simply means we are supposed to run our taps for up to five minutes before we drink. 

We did good.  Our community pulled through and we survived this calamity with flying colours!  Well done Beiseker!  Thanks again for your help and patience.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Verbal Abuse of Village Staff

While keeping Beiseker residents informed about our water main break last week, I felt I had to include a statement on my blog that verbal abuse over the telephone would not be tolerated.  Some of you have asked me why I included that statement.

Unfortunately, it's because a few Beiseker citizens decided to take out their frustration on having no water out on our village staff!  Swearing and name calling directed at our office staff did not help fix the water line.   This was totally uncalled for and totally out of line!

Everyone on staff was working hard to make the impact of have no running water as little as possible.  Most got little or no sleep that night as they desperately tried to have water pressure in the village by Friday morning.  They succeeded!  But they did not need to hear a slurry of profanity from a few residents!  It wasn't their fault!

It is unlikely that those few verbal abusers will apologize for their behavior, so I'll do it for them!

To the Beiseker Village staff;  I do apologize for the behavior of a few Beiseker residents.  I realize the village staff was working as hard as they could to make better the situation.  It was out-of-line and I hope it does not happen again.  Sorry!

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Niqab 'Issue'

I'm wading into this one with eyes wide open.  Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi has gone eye to eye with Jason Kenney - Multiculturalism Minister in Stephen Harper's cabinet and Conservative candidate in Calgary-Mindapore - over the issue of a very, very few Muslim women refusing to remove their face veil (niqab) during their citizenship ceremony.

The feds are taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court; what a waste of time and bucks!

May I suggest a simple solution to this whole issue?  I firmly believe that no one should be allowed to cover their face while taking the oath of Canadian citizenship, whether it be ceremonial or not. 

The women have already agreed to remove their niqab in private to prove their identity.  My solution is have them take the ceremonial oath at that time, in private, where they've already agreed to uncover their faces.  They've already met every other condition to become a Canadian, why not allow them the right to have a private ceremony where they can remove their niqab comfortably? 

It would be a compromise, to be sure, but isn't that what Canada is all about?  We can come to a satisfactory agreement on these kind of things!

We compromised when the Sikh RCMP officers were finally allowed to wear their turbans.  I don't believe the sanctity of the RCMP was affected in any way and it helped those officers in the performance of their duties.   So; come on Mr. Kenney, sit down and talk to these two women who are involved and get a deal!

Water Main Break - Final Report

I have just returned from the site of our major water main break.  All repairs have been successfully accomplished and they are now filling in the hole.  I imagine that the barriers will remain up around the site over the weekend, to allow the fill material to settle.

Albert and our Public Works Team will finish the road repairs next week.  The water is ON!

The boil water advisory has been extended until Tuesday, October 6, 2015 by Alberta Environment and Alberta Health.  This is a precaution we are happy to abide by. 

You may notice a slight increase in the chlorine smell of your tap water over the next couple of days.  Again this is a precaution to make sure our water stays safe.

A few huge thank-yous need to be mentioned.  Thank you to:
  • Albert and his Public Works Team for working so hard over the past 18 hours.
  • The hydro vac truck and the track hoe operator for working there all night.
  • The residents in those homes around 9th Street and 4th Avenue who had to put up with all that noise all night long.
  • The Village Office staff who fielded all those calls from concerned residents.
  • The residents who handled this inconvenience in stride and with so much patience.
We'll be doing a de-brief over the next while to make sure we'll be able to handle the next incident like this (when and if it comes) even better.

Water Main Break - Good Morning!

Good Morning!  It's about 6:45 Friday morning, October 2,2015 and we still don't have water pressure in the village!

My predictions earlier this morning were overly optimistic.  Leaks were detected, so the water remains off.  The crews remain on site awaiting new parts to fix the leaks.  I'm not making new predictions about when we'll have water again.   I'll let you know if we'll have non-potable water available again this morning. 

Some folks are using their rain barrel water to pour into the toilets which is good.  Remember the Boil Water advisory if you are planning to drink or cook with non-potable water.

There is more information on the Village of Beiseker Facebook page.  Stay tuned!

Water Main Break - Update

Friday, October 2, 2015, 2:00 a.m.  I have just returned from the site of Beiseker's water main break.  Work is still proceeding.  The dedicated crews will stay on site until the problem is solved.  As I suspected parts had to be brought out from Calgary to do some of the repairs.

As I was leaving the site a few minutes ago, the main water line had been repaired and the water was being slowly turned back on to check for leaks.  If no leaks are detected, the surrounding lines will be also checked for leaks.

If all is OK the trench will be backfilled and the site tidied up.  If all goes well we should have water pressure in the morning.  Thank you all for your patience.  If you see a member of our Public Works Team around town over the next few days, make sure you thank them for a job well done.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Water Main Break in Beiseker

I am writing this at 4:45 pm Thursday, October 1, 2015.  We have experienced a major water main break outside our main pump house at Reservoir #2.  That is at the corner of 9th St. and 4th Ave .  It appears to be a major break so we've shut the water off throughout the village.  Attempts to isolate the break have failed so the water will remain off.

There is a supply of NON-POTABLE water available at the corner of 4th Ave and 8th Street for your convenience.  This water is from Reservoir #1 so it is untreated and unchlorinated.   If you plan to drink or cook with it, you must first bring it to a rolling boil for at least five minutes. 

The equipment is in place and repairs to the line are being made as I write this.  First the line must be uncovered and then the problem ascertained.  Once they determine what's wrong they will repair it.  Repair time depends on the availability of parts.  It could be as short as a couple of hours from now or all evening.  Our Public Works team and the various contractors are working as fast and as diligently as they can on the problem.  Please be patient.

Once repaired the water line will be pressured up again and flushed.  As an extra precaution, a mandatory BOIL WATER NOTICE will be in affect for twenty four hours after the water service has resumed.  

If you have any other questions, please phone the Village Office at 403-947-3774, or myself directly at 403-947-3759


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?

During the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention, this past week in Calgary, we were presented with a resolution from the City of Lethbridge during our 'Resolutions Session' which troubled me.  The resolution read:

"Be it resolved that the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association urge the federal government to move forward with a National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada that will improve and fill in the gaps that currently exist within our society and First Nations communities and facilitate better community and coordination within the justice system closing the cases on missing and murdered indigenous women."

Personally, I don't think a National Inquiry will accomplish anything. 

It is true that over 1100 indigenous women have gone missing or have been found murdered since 1980.  It is also true that Alberta has the second highest rate of missing indigenous women in Canada.  But I truly believe that these women have gone missing NOT because they are native, but because of something else!  I don't know what that "something else" is, but I don't think a National Inquiry will find out.

My experience over the past fifty years is that National Inquiries spend copious amounts of money, generate a mountain of general statements and platitudes, but do little else. 

I believe that money (or probably considerably less) would be better spent coordinating law enforcement groups, federal, provincial, reserve, and local to investigate each and every file again to collect data.  In collating this data, those combined police forces have a better chance of finding out what these women have in common besides being native!  Then we'll have a chance to put an end to this national tragedy by attacking the real reasons why these women have been victimized. 

This is a horrible tragedy affecting every Canadian and it requires more than lip service!

By the way, the resolution passed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

F-35 on the Block Again!

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's latest ploy to get headlines is telling everyone he will scrap the F-35 Lightning if he is elected Prime Minister. 

Canada has agreed to buy some of these very expensive planes to eventually replace its aging CF-18 Hornet fighters.  We have invested millions into the research and development of this very sophisticated plane.  Now Trudeau wants to scrap the deal.  He says it won't cost Canada anything.  I beg to differ.

When these planes are built for the RCAF, many components will be made here in Canada, giving many, many people jobs.  I would imagine some companies are already set to start making these parts. 

It's going to cost us money to get out of those deals, like it did when the Liberals bailed out of the EH-101 helicopter deal some years back. That was newly elected Jean Chr├ętien's election promise.  It cost the federal government millions of dollars to get out of that deal to build those helicopters here.  (After Canada paid out all those penalties, the Liberals decided to replace the aging Labrador helicopters with EH-101s, built in Europe!!)

Going back into history, Canada's Avro Arrow was also a victim of a Conservative election promise.  Then-newly elected  John Diefenbaker did the deed, that time!

Now I hear the new ships for our navy are also on the chopping block!

I think we need to stop putting new military equipment onto the election campaign platforms!  They don't belong there!  The men and women in Canada's armed forces need to be provided with the best equipment possible, without having to worry whether the next government will zap that equipment!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bassano Station Burns

In the early morning hours of Friday, September 18,  I awoke to a commotion on First Ave. behind my home.  The Beiseker Fire Department had quickly responded to a fire at the old Bassano Station building. 

They called in help from Rocky View County's Fire Services and successfully fought the fire.  Most of the south end of the vacant station building was destroyed, but the fire was stopped before it consumed the entire structure or spread to neighboring businesses or residents! 

I thought our volunteer fire department did an amazing job of extinguishing that fire in a tinder dry building with no fire suppression at all!  Once again I say, "Good on ya Beiseker Fire Department!  Well done!  We're proud of you."   The cause of the fire is now under investigation.

Once again I also reiterate that the Village of Beiseker has nothing to do with the Centennial Railway Museum nor the Bassano Station, except that it is located in our village - but many of us on Village Council have been urging the museum folks to get the project moving again. 

A significant amount of Federal tax dollars (I understand that it is more than $400,000)  has been spent on this project so far!  Now we on Village Council would like to meet in person with the executive of the museum to find out what their plans are from here.  I'll let you know what we find out, when we find out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Building a Better Beiseker

Over the past couple of weeks, Village Council has been involved in some strategic planning in regards to the provincial grant money we will receive over the next few months.

For Beiseker, that mostly means street upgrade planning.  We have begun to initiate some of the smaller projects but the larger ones, like street paving, will have to be researched to find out if we can afford them.

The new provincial government has cut back some of the grant money promised, but we still have a fairly large amount to spend on improving life here in Beiseker.  I understand we must commit our funding before the end of 2017.  Again, stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another Child Lost

Little Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, the two year old child abducted yesterday from her Blairmore home has been found dead.

 I was hoping they would find the child safe and sound but it never looked very good.  I think we all should give our kids one extra hug in memory of little Hailey.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Global Shame

I've been a long time writing this one.  It's been bothering me for a number of days now. 

I'm referring to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.  That news photo of the lifeless body of the little three year old Syrian boy really hit me.  The little guy, his Mom and older brother drowned while desperately trying to escape their homeland for a better life in Europe.

Had they survived, their troubles would have just begun.  Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees are stuck in a political limbo while the world spins around in little circles like everyone has one shoe nailed to the floor!

Here's how I see it.
  • The governing Syrian regime is desperately trying to hold onto power during what has become a bloody three year struggle, tearing Syria apart.
  • A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS (or ISIL), the Taliban, and others are each trying to carve out their own territory within Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
  • The Kurds also want some kind of recognition in that same area.
  • A bunch of Western nations, including Canada are bombing targets in an attempt to stop ISIS from expanding.
  • Millions of innocent people are stuck in the middle of all this mess and want out!
  • Most appear to want to go to Germany where they hope to find jobs and a safe place to live.
  • Hungary, which had its own refugee crisis in 1956, looks like they're treating these refugees like the plague and are just now dealing with this human tsunami.
  • The oil-rich Arab nations have not helped out in any way.
  • ISIS (or ISIL) stole millions of dollars from banks in the cities they've overrun, but they have not helped out at all either.
  • The Canadian Government is pretty much hamstrung by this Marathon election campaign and will have difficulty changing its immigration policies at this point.
  • The Canadian election candidates are trying to make the plight of these refugees into an election issue.
Something needs to be done here in Canada.  Let's put the election campaign on hold for a day and call representatives from all parties together to put together an emergency plan to help these refugees!  I understand many western countries have already done so (but they're probably not in the throws of a gong-show election campaign).

And something needs to be done in those countries I mentioned above.  There needs to be an emergency meeting of the United Nations to develop a plan to bring peace and stability back to that part of the world.  Then a portion of these refugees might actually want to return home!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Federal Election: Canada's Crumbling Infrastructure

This was the first of my "real issues" facing candidates and voters during this marathon federal election campaign of 2015.  Canada is quite literally falling apart!  Everything from public buildings to highways to the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia is crumbling before our eyes!

The last couple of federal governments have promised to fix the problems, but that's all we get are promises.

It's hard to drive on a promise!  Bridges in Eastern Canada are falling down.  It's hard to cross a river on a promise! It's hard to hold court or do government business in a promise!  And let's not forget Canada's most famous lighthouse at Peggy's Cove.  At one point recently, it was in serious danger of partially collapsing!  It's hard to photograph a promise.

I would like to know which federal parties and candidates are willing to support a coalition of Federal, Provincial, and local governments to help put Canada back together.  This has to happen with a long range committed plan so that projects aren't scrapped when a new government is elected.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Home Again!

I have just finished my last air show tour!  This time it was Abbotsford, then Chilliwack, and finally Villeneuve up near Edmonton.  All were super air shows with no accidents or injuries.  Now we have to go through the thousands of photos we took all the shows this summer! 

I'll be updating my website over the next while, with some of the highlights and photographs from a very exciting air show season here in Western Canada.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Federal Election: Focusing on the Ball

As the federal election campaign grinds on, I think many have lost sight of the real issues.

This whole thing surrounding the trial about Mike Duffy's Senate expenses appears to be taking up a huge amount of attention by the media, at the expense of everything else.

So let's focus on the real issues;
  1. Canada's public infrastructure is crumblingHow will our new federal government address this?
  2. The terror and upheaval in the Near East created by the Taliban, the Islamic State, and a few other extremist groups needs to be brought to an end!  Will Canada be taking a meaningful part in that process?
  3. Canada's economy continues to sputter along.  How will the new government address Canada's teetering on the edge of recession?
  4. In most provinces in Canada, including ours, the health services program is totally screwed up.  How will our new government take steps to remedy this health care shortfall?
  5. Many of Canada's aboriginal people are in crisis.  What will our new government do about it?  What past federal governments have done is obviously not working at all!
  6. The pipeline/oil exploration/oil sands debate continues.  The world needs Canada's oil!  Right now, oil prices are way down but supply-demand calculations show that can't last for ever.  How will our new government make sure Canada can move it's petroleum products quickly, safely and environmentally friendly to markets?  
There are other issues, but those are the six which I think should be addressed by all candidates in practically every speech they make.  Let Mike Duffy stew in the mess he seems to have created for himself, and lets focus on the real issues!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sidewalk Work in Beiseker

Most Beisekerites have noticed that our sidewalk replacement program is underway.

This phase of the project is replacement only.  There will be no new sidewalks constructed during this phase, just older ones replaced.

Our soil conditions and the amount of salts in our well water severely shortened the life of sidewalks within the village.  With Beiseker now using river water, and better concrete mixes, it is hoped that the newly constructed sidewalks will last considerably longer.

Some of you have asked when the new construction phase will start.  Village council is working on a strategic plan which will assign a priority to all new sidewalk construction.  First we need to get accurate estimates on the cost of the new construction.  This quite possibly could mean the new sidewalk construction phase may not start until 2016.

Thank you for you patience while these old sidewalks are dug up and removed and forms are set for the new sidewalks.  We're hoping to have this phase of sidewalk replacement finished in a few weeks, weather permitting.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

No Help for Calgary's Snowtember!

Although Beiseker was spared the big snow hit last September which damaged or killed over a million trees in the City of Calgary, I share Mayor Nenshi's frustration with the provincial decision to deny any help for the city.  This could be setting a dangerous precedent! 

Calgary applied for just over $28 million dollars to help with the costs of that terrible storm.  The trees were still in leaf and the weight of that heavy wet snow broke them down by the thousands.  There were major power outages and traffic snarls.  Homes, vehicles and a few people were hit by falling trees and branches.  Many parts of the city's infrastructure was damaged.  Snow-tember adversely affected more of the city than did the floods of 2013!  It was the biggest storm event of its type in over 130 years!

Yet the province has decided that it did not qualify for any kind of disaster relief. 

I worry about this decision.  In my mind this could mean that if an environmental disaster should hit another municipality, that municipality maybe left on its own to solve (and pay for) the problem!  Beiseker is just now starting to rebuild its modest contingency fund after the huge snows of December 2013 and January 2014.  What if another similar incident happens this winter?  Will we be left out in cold to fend for ourselves?  I worry.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Springbank and Rocky Mountain House Airshows!

Airports cost money.  The larger the airport; the more money it costs.  But airports also provide services not otherwise available in the area, and they attract businesses with money!  In fact it has been shown in studies that airports, overall, are a huge economic boost for the city or town operating them.

Unfortunately airports must remain aloof to the community they serve.  Security measures have been getting ever tighter since September 11, 2001, and keep onlookers away - so the goings on at an airport remains a mystery to most.

In comes the air show!  Airshows provide a perfect venue for folks to visit an airport and get "up close and personal" with planes, pilots, aero mechanics, airport operators and security people.  It's a friendly, exciting, but safe chance to see things not usually visible to most visitors at an airport.

This week I had the privilege of attending air shows at two airports which have realized the importance of an air show to their very existence!  Springbank's show, called Wings Over Springbank, went ahead last weekend.  It was originally the Airdrie Air Show, but relocated back in March to the Springbank Airport west of Calgary.

The second show was the Rocky Mountain House Air Show, at the Rocky Mountain House Airport, on Wednesday evening.

I enjoyed both shows immensely!  Thousands of visitors came it to marvel at the amazing flying performances of both Canadian and American aerobats.

photo courtesy
Amanda Courtman
Canada's magnificent Snowbirds flew for everyone at Springbank, but hail damaged some of their planes so their Rocky Mountain performance was cancelled.  These young pilots are significantly younger than their Canadian built planes!  They fly the nine training jets with precision, professionalism, and dedication, characteristics of RCAF pilots. 

Next time you have the opportunity to visit an air show, take it.  You won't be disappointed.

Here's a shout out to all those dedicated volunteers at both of this week's shows.  They did an awesome job!

Monday, July 20, 2015

First Avenue Railway Crossing

photo by Mathieu Tremblay, via Flickr
Many of you have expressed concern over the condition of the railway crossing on First Ave.,past the Public Works Compound.

The crossing itself was upgraded a while back but the pavement leading up to it on both sides had to be removed.  The railway has informed us that they will soon have a crew in the area to repair and repave those small sections of road at all of those crossing upgrades.  They haven't given us a timeline for that to happen, but right now it's pretty bad there!

The Village Office will contact CN Rail today and tell them of our concerns.

As for the rest of that road from the Public Works Compound to that CNR crossing, council is examining our options.  Totally rebuilding that road would be cost prohibitive.  It has been suggested that we simply close that road and rely on our other entrances and exits into town.

I think both of those options are out of the question.  There must be a way to resurface that road without it costing the village much of its street repairs budget.  The pipeline company has agreed to help out where their crossing is.

If you have an opinion or a suggestion, contact the Beiseker Village Office at 403-947-3774.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What's Killing our Trees?

Many have noticed that several of the beautiful big poplar trees between Beacon Heights and North Road are sick and/or dying. The problem started a couple of years ago at the east end  and has proceeded West at an alarming rate.

The Village of Beiseker has recently taken steps to find out why these trees are dying.  I was totally shocked when preliminary soil tests revealed a high concentration of chemicals in the ground killing the trees!  How the chemicals got there is a mystery. More testing will be done to pinpoint the concentrations and hopefully track down their source.

I'm having trouble believing that anyone would purposefully poison these poplar trees but I must consider all possibilities.  I'm hoping it was some kind of an innocent accident.  If you can shed any light on this mystery please contact the Beiseker Village Office at 403-947-3774.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Watch for Cyclists!

I applaud the City of Calgary for initiating the new bike lane pilot project in the city core.  They are obviously well used and very effective, during the summer months anyway.

I have had issues with a couple of cyclists using those lanes, however.

This past week I have been driving to Stampede Park to do a bit of volunteering there during the Calgary Stampede.  On two instances, I have been making a left turn from westbound 9th Avenue onto southbound 4th street with the green arrow turn light in my favor.  On both occasions I have had to suddenly stop mid-intersection to avoid an eastbound cyclist in the bike lane proceed through on what would be a red light for him.

Neither cyclist seemed concerned that he had proceeded through the intersection on a red and came close to being a new hood ornament on my car..  Both appeared to consider themselves invincible.

My word to drivers; watch for cyclists in these cycle lanes who have yet to learn traffic safety rules!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Animal Safety at the Calgary Stampede

Last Saturday evening at the Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Races, a horse was injured and had to be put down.

The event has brought out those folks who are demanding that the "Chucks" - and even the rodeo events themselves - be banned from the Stampede.  I totally disagree with them!

I regard all animals involved with humans as working animals who need our respect and our protection.  That includes every critter - from police dogs to race horses to beef cattle to Fluffy, my neighbor's cat.  All of them deserve our respect!

Some animal jobs are more dangerous than others.  Animal safety groups have an important role in making sure all animals are working and living in an environment as safe as possible. 

Huge steps have been made over the years to make all manner of horse racing as safe as possible for the horses involved, but accidents do happen.  I believe the Calgary Stampede is a leader in animal safety.  Rules for all animal events are constantly being revised to make sure those events are as safe as possible.  I've been watching rodeo and chuckwagon racing for more than sixty years and I've seen dozens of changes designed to make the event safe for the animals!

Accidents will happen in any animal job.  Race horses are often injured on the track, sled dogs sometimes suffer from the cold, police horses are sometimes struck by rioters!  In 2003, two Calgary Police dogs died when the AC in their police car failed, and another police dog was shot by a fleeing culprit.  Accidents do happen.  But we need to make them as infrequent as we possibly can.

Most chuckwagon horses are former racehorses, which have not performed to the liking of their owners.  In many cases, their futures are limited to the chuckwagon world or the slaughter house!  In my experience, I've seen chuckwagon horses well cared for and living as part of that chuckwagon family.  Last evening one chuckwagon driver was really emotional while explaining to the media how he'd decided to retire an 18 year old horse in his team.  The horse had pulled his wagon for 14 years and was now going to live out his life retired to the driver's farm.  Not a bad life for a critter who might have ended up on someone's dinner plate (or, in dog food) years ago!

To those animal safety groups, I say please continue your work making all our working animals as safe as possible, but be realistic at the same time.  I think rodeo and chuckwagon racing will always be a part of the Canadian West and The Calgary Stampede, but the events will constantly be changing to make them as safe as possible.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Where to Go, When You Have to Go!

If you've been following the Village of Beiseker's Facebook page, you might have seen that Beiseker is taking heat for one business refusing to allow visitors to use their washroom facilities.  One business is again being singled out repeatedly, as being rude and obnoxious to visitors wanting to use the washrooms. 

I've addressed this problem once before in this blog, but obviously it still persists.  Every summer, we get numerous complaints from folks who ultimately vow never to visit Beiseker again.  This latest complaint will probably be the first of many this year.

I don't have the answer for this problem.  Business owners have the right to dictate how their property is operated.  They have the right to limit washroom use to customers only.  But I believe that all of Beiseker suffers, as more and more comments about our "Unfriendly Village" pop up on social media and by word of mouth. 

We already have a public washroom at the Beiseker Campground.  A solution may be to build a another public washroom facility in Legacy Park, next to the Village Office.  That would be expensive and it would have to be cleaned and maintained by the Village throughout the year.  During the summer, we place a portable latrine behind the Information Booth in Legacy Park for "emergencies". 

Visitors may also use the washrooms at the Village Office during office hours.

But I wonder - is that all we can do?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

'Ya Hoo!' for the 2015 Calgary Stampede!

"Ya Hoo!" is the call (actually the paddle signs) of Harry the Horse!  Calgary is famous for its Stampede, and the 2015 edition of that event started on Friday and is now in full swing! 

I watched the Stampede Parade on TV.  I got a chuckle over the CBC narrators who were brought in from Eastern Canada to describe the parade.  I hope they get to spend more time here, to get a real feeling of who Western Canadians are.

I'm less involved with the Stampede this year.  I usually volunteer down at Stampede Park almost every day of the ten day festival.  This year, projects here at home in Beiseker are limiting my time in the city.  I plan to volunteer a couple of days this coming week but that's about it!  

This is the second year of the agricultural exhibitors using the new Agrium Western Events Centre at Stampede Park.  I hope you get a chance to check it out.  I'm anxious to see it in operation this year too because Aggie Days is moving in there for its 2016 show!  I'm excited about the move.

I enjoy the Stampede Rodeo and the "Chucks," and I hope to take in at least one running of those events. Otherwise I will be watching the excellent coverage on CBC.  Overall, it's shaping up to be a great Stampede.  I hope you get a chance to take part in the annual festival!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Irricana-Beiseker Trail Development

Today, Beiseker CAO Jo Lambert and I met with Alberta TrailNet officials and representatives from the Town of Irricana to discuss the development of a trail between Irricana and Beiseker, along the abandoned CPR trackway.

I was very impressed with the preparation and design work which has gone into the project so far.  It calls for the building of two foot bridges, a culvert and the surfacing of the pathway between the two municipalities.  The Irricana Lions Club is improving the section of the trail which passes through that town, and they have some great plans for the future of the trail as it passes through that town.

Here in Beiseker, I know there are some folks here trying to re-establish our Trail Creation Group.  Councilor Dave Mackenzie has been keeping council informed of their progress to date.  I understand that at present, they are re-applying for society status. 

All of the Alberta TrailNet land here in Beiseker has been leased to the Centennial Railway Museum Society.  That society appears to have 'disappeared!'  I indicated to those present at the meeting today that Beiseker Council could not support a trail connection between the two communities as long as the Bassano Station and the train yard sits abandoned without a plan of action and a solution! 

I think everyone around the table this morning understood Beiseker's frustration and disillusionment over the TrailNet land here in our village.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Making Bassano Station 'Lemonade'

You've heard the old adage; When things come up lemons, make lemonade!

Well Beiseker has been given a whole pile of lemons!  It's called the Bassano Station.  I'm sure you know the history of this building and its relocation to Beiseker, but now it sits basically abandoned.

It's not going anywhere.  It's here to stay!  Over a half a million dollars has been spent on the project so far.  The Railway Museum folks appear to have disappeared into the mist!  So we're left holding the bag, or in this case a station building and a bunch of railway memorabilia. 

The Village of Beiseker cannot support the project in any way at this moment.  We just can't afford it!

So where do we go from here?  Museums of this sort can flourish and they draw tourists into the community.  We already have tourists stopping to look at the rail cars and locomotive.   There is huge potential there to build a great railway display.  But how do we do it?

My question; How do we make Bassano Lemonade?

Friday, June 19, 2015

To "Pho Chu Yeung"

I am answering "Pho Chu Yeung," who criticized the Village of Beiseker quite severely through the Village's Facebook page.

I was hurt by the accusations made by this (supposed) Beiseker resident, whom I have yet to meet.
  • "[Beiseker] has no full time fire department."  I think we've addressed this first concern in my blog post a few days ago.   One anonymous commenter and I have discussed that a little further on that blog post, too - please scroll down to get those comments.
  • "[Beiseker] has no ambulance service."  Beiseker is in the same situation here as every other Alberta municipality.  The ambulance services right across Alberta have been taken over by the province!  The service which we joined (The Kneehill Ambulance Service in Three Hills) was disbanded and is now part of the huge mega system run by Alberta Health ServicesWe have little or no say on how this new entity operates.  Please refer this concern to the provincial government.
  • "We haven't fixed a "hole" in the middle of town for a year."  Over the past few days I have driven every street and laneway in Beiseker, and I have yet to find the hole to which you refer.  Please give us an address of the nearest property so we may check out your concern.
  • "The Town should be audited."  Actually, the Village of Beiseker is audited every spring by an independent auditor.  Those findings are published in a report presented to council usually in April.  The provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs is also informed of the results of that audit.  More information about the annual audit is available to all rate payers at the Village Office.
I hope this clarifies a few of the issues brought forward by Mr. or Ms. "Yeung."   Remember, every council meeting is open to the public.  They are held every second and fourth Mondays of each month in Council Chambers.  The meetings begin at 7:15 p.m.  If you wish to address council at one of those meetings, you must register as a delegation a few business days before the meeting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Q&A: Taxes and Services (and Community Schools)

I've received some questions over the last few days - most of them involved property taxes and what we get for our money in the Village.  Here's the questions and my answers.

Q:  How come the mill rate went down, but my taxes went up? 
A:  Beiseker's mill rate did actually drop by a small amount, however our overall assessment rose.  That means that some of the properties in the village actually went up in value from last year.

If your property was one of those, your taxes increased.  Most increases were small (less than $10/month), but a few of us took a bigger hit.  Tax payers can contest their assessment but they cannot contest their taxes.  Contact the Village Office (403-947-3774) for more information.

Q:  What do we get for our tax dollars, anyway?  
A: A small municipality must provide the same basic services as a large one.  Beiseker must provide its citizens with most of what Calgary provides. Your tax dollars pay for streets, roads, sidewalks, street lighting, road maintenance, water and sewer services, a fire hall, garbage pick-up and disposal, parks and recreation, public buildings, and parks along with a host of other things to keep this village running smoothly.

Q: We don't even have a fire department, do we?
A: On the contrary, our volunteer fire department is, in my opinion, one of the best in Canada!  That opinion is shared by others who know more about fire departments than I do! Our fire hall is open and manned twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for more than 340 days a year! I am very proud of our Beiseker Fire Department!

Q: You said Beiseker Community School was the only community school in Rocky View. What about Springbank Community High School?
A: To my knowledge, Beiseker and Springbank both were declared community schools.  That means they could go ahead with the process of becoming a community school.  But Beiseker was the only one to complete that process, so it became the only Rocky View School to be designated a Community School by the province.

Q: Is the village going to do anything about repairing or repaving the rest of the streets and sidewalks  in Beacon Heights?
A:  After we replaced the pavement on Chinook Crescent, the other streets in the subdivision showed their ages too.  We have a fair bit of grant money, but we have many improvement projects ready to go, too.

Council will have to crunch the numbers and see how much they can do with the funds we have and our priority list.  Those who are very concerned about the street of sidewalk in front of their home should.  If you're one of them, please, write a letter to council detailing your concerns.  It can be addressed to council via the Village of Beiseker (Box 349) or delivered directly to the Village Office.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fabulous Weekend at the Beiseker Country Fair!

What an absolutely fabulous weekend in Beautiful Downtown Beiseker!  That has got to be one of the very best Beiseker Country Fair (formerly Sports Day) weekends I have attended in my forty-plus years living in this community!  What an amazing job done by a small army of volunteers!

One again the Beiseker Lions Club needs to step up and take a bow.  They are a relatively small club but they are able to accomplish giant things!  They had help from other clubs in the area, but the success of the Beiseker Country Fair 2015 is clearly theirs!  Lions, be proud!

Beiseker Car Show, photo via Facebook
The weather held off for the parade and car show along Main Street!  There was a mix-up in communication so the Mayor's car didn't arrive.  No worries, I had the pleasure of riding with Parade Marshalls Mary Litke and Norman Schmaltz.  Chris Heighton's Beiseker Car Show was awesome again this year with a huge turnout of cars and motorcycles from all over! 

Shelly Schneider and Harry Reding, co-chairpersons of the Beiseker School Centennial Reunion Committee with all of their volunteers, accomplished the impossible!  Beiseker's population more than doubled as hundreds of former Beiseker Community School students, parents, and staff flooded into town.  The huge tent set up in the Community Centre & Arena parking lot was a Godsend!  It became a focal point for the thousands of mini reunions which took place over the weekend. 

photo courtesy Elvis Chow, via Facebook
How many times did we hear:
  • Oh my God, it is you! 
  • I haven't seen you since we graduated!
  • You didn't have grey hair last time I saw you.
  • What ever happened to ..........?
  • I've got to tell my (wife, mom, sister, brother, etc.) that I saw you!
  • No, that wasn't me, that was my younger brother (or sister)!
  • I was a real rotten kid school, wasn't I?
  • Jeez, we were young back then!
  • When did they change the school colors?
  • You know, Mr. or Mrs. (fill in a teacher's name here) really hated me!
I know many of you were taking photos. I hope to see those shots come up on social media in the next few days.  Good memories of a great weekend.

After clean-up, all those hard working volunteers are going to collapse into a soft chair (if only for a few minutes) and be proud of the work they did to make this weekend such a memorable one!  Well done, all of you!  

I'll be mentioning more about the events and encounters of this past weekend in the coming days.  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 5, 2015

History of Education in Beiseker, Part III

I joined the staff of Beiseker School in the fall of 1969.  I had been teaching in the City of Calgary but I didn't like it.  I was greatly disillusioned.  I thought it was far too impersonal.  I was pretty much ready to quit teaching and do something else.  My move to Beiseker changed that.

Beiseker was a small school then, actually it had a population similar to today's; 383 students. It had one classroom for each grade.

I found the kids, their parents, and this community to be friendly and straight forward.  I worked in Beiseker School for 17 years, and I was saddened when I was transferred to Crossfield. 

The staff and students have done some amazing things over the years!  Here are just a few;

The Bi-Campus & Tri-Campus;  To offer a larger program of courses to high school students, Beiseker School paired up with Kathyrn School and offered high school courses in each school.  Later Beiseker and Kathyrn joined with Acme School to form a Tri-Campus, offering different high school courses and programs in all three buildings.  To my knowledge, this was the first and possibly the only Tri-Campus program to operate in Alberta.  What is even more amazing was that it also involved two school divisions (Rocky View and Golden Hills)!

The "E.O.F." Program;  The Elementary Opportunities Fund was set up by the provincial Department of Education and given to individual schools to offer different programs to their elementary students.  Beiseker School received such a grant.  Here the grant was used to give any student a short little boost in learning in one small area of either Math or Language Arts.  The Girls' Boot Room in the basement of the original school building was converted into a classroom and a teacher (Miss W. Abbott) was hired.  Our E.O.F. Room ran very successfully for three years until the government pulled the funding for the entire province-wide program.

The Sports Programs;  I think Beiseker had Rocky View's first (and perhaps only) cricket pitch!  Mr. S. Wallace was a champion Cricket bowler (pitcher) and played on the Canadian National Cricket Team.  While teaching in Beiseker, he taught cricket to his students! The Bi-Campus (and later just Beiseker School) has fielded many top sports teams over the last 50 years!   Many of those championship banners proudly hang in the Gym now.  Next time you're in there have a look at that impressive display!  Remember: Once a Beiseker Bandit, always a Beiseker Bandit!!

Industrial Education;  Beiseker School was the first school in this entire area to offer an Industrial Arts Program with a full shop!  The shop was constructed in a temporary prefab building immediately south of the original main building.  It offered welding, photography, graphics, woodworking, automotives, and metal working.  That shop was replaced by a more permanent structure more than 10 years ago.

The Community School Program; In the early 1980s, Beiseker School was one of over 100 schools from across Alberta to apply to become a Community School.  A Community School was one that worked much more closely with the community around it.  Programs and the curriculum were tailored to the needs of that community.  Instead of a school being open just 200 days a year, a Community School could be open more than 300 days a year!  Of course that costs money, so the provincial government set up a large fund to help offset those extra costs.   Beiseker was the only school in Rocky View to attain Community School status!  Unfortunately the provincial Community School project funding was terminated in the late 1980s but the Beiseker Community School moniker proudly remains.

These are just five programs which made Beiseker Community School just a bit more special.  Teachers, Administrators, and students, past and present have much to be proud of.  I hope you all get a chance to visit Beiseker Community School during the reunion set to begin on Friday, June 12 and continue over that weekend.  Check out those banners in the Gym, search for a familiar face or name on the grad photos in the hallway, leaf through the old yearbooks.  Be proud!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gladys Taylor Passes

I was saddened to read that Gladys Taylor passed away on May 31st.

Gladys and her family created and operated Tall Taylor Publishing in Irricana for many years.  She was a successful author, publisher, editor and businesswoman.  In the mid-1980s Gladys gave me the chance to first publish my views and opinions in the original "Write, Ray" in the Five Village Weekly (now the Rocky View Weekly).

My column ran in that weekly paper for over a decade.  We didn't always agree, because we knew we were both right all the time, but she was fair and was always willing to listen.  I respected her for that.  Gladys was a major player in the Canadian publishing industry.

With her passing comes the end of a publishing era dominated by mavericks and risk takers.  My condolences go to her many friends and family.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The History of Education in Beiseker, Part II

While the rural school districts were gearing up and flourishing around Beiseker, students who lived in the village had no school to attend.

Village students had to attend the Odessa School District school, located about 4 km. northeast of Beiseker.  In 1913 there were too many kids for Odessa to handle so a school district was set up in Beiseker. The first schoolroom was set up in part of F. A. Lount's farm machinery dealership warehouse.  A year later the schoolhouse was built.

That school provided the same rudimentary education as did the rural one-room schools.  In 1918, Odessa School District and Beiseker School District joined to form the Beiseker Consolidated School District #55 and the new Beiseker Consolidated School was constructed on a site now occupied by St. Mary's Catholic Church.  That district operated until 1950. 

In 1951, the new school building under the control of Calgary Rural School Division #41 was finished on its present site across Second Ave. from the Consolidated School.  The Consolidated School was demolished and construction of St. Mary's began in 1955.

The present building has served this community well ever since.  There have been many additions and renovations to the building starting with the Gymnasium, then the south east wing which has been added to at least twice.  Then came the East Wing beyond the Gym.  Meanwhile the basement of the original school building was renovated to serve as classrooms.

In 1967, a huge community and school project was undertaken to create the Centennial Mall, in front of the school.  The project director was then-Principal William Hansell.

Six hundred bags of cement, a mountain  of sand and gravel, and plenty of muscle power went into building the Centennial Mall!  The Mall featured a circular raised flower garden, and park benches.  It also had a large Canadian Centennial Symbol embedded in concrete.

We were told that every effort would be taken to preserve the Centennial Mall during renovations, but I see no evidence of it today.

Beiseker had a number of teacherages for staff members to live in while working here.  The first were actually teacherages brought in from the now-defunct rural school districts.

At least one was placed on the school grounds while three were placed along Fifth Ave., across from the fire hall.  The teacherage in the school yard was eventually sold, moved and renovated.  It is now a private residence on Ninth Street.

The second round of teacher homes were built in the late 1950s & early 1960s. Two were constructed on Fifth Street and two more were built on Seventh Street.  All have been sold by the school division to become private residences.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The History of Education in Beiseker

As you know, Beiseker Community School is celebrating 100 years of education in the village in a couple of weeks.  As a tribute to this milestone, I am doing a series of blogs on the history of education in this area.  This is the first.  I hope you enjoy looking back.

If you would like a more detailed history, go to the Beiseker Station Museum or the school itself.  Most of the information for my thumbnail history was taken from the Beiseker history book; Beiseker's Golden Heritage, published in 1977 and a few other books on Alberta's history.

Alberta became a province in 1905, and shortly thereafter settlers began pouring in to build new farming communities throughout the southern part of the new province.  In that first twenty years, Alberta's population grew and grew.  The Province started to urge the new communities to set up their own school districts, both in the new communities and in the rural areas.

Rural school districts were usually designed around a township or portions of one or more townships.  The school was built in the approximate center of the new school district on a corner of land a farmer donated or sold to the new district.  The position of the school was important.  It was supposed to be placed such that all the students could ride or walk to school easily, no more than three miles.  A barn was built on the school property to house the students' horses and a "teacherage" was constructed to house the teacher.

Some teachers lived in the basement of the school house itself;  that was more common in Northern Alberta.

School districts often got their names either from the farmer or colonization company who gave up the land, the first chairman of the new district, or the name of the area based on a geographical feature.

Around Beiseker we had many such districts.  Some of the names of the districts around here are; Greenfield, Paddy Springs, Beeman, Scotia, Brushy Lake, and Silbernagel, among others.  These tiny school districts paid their teachers a few hundred dollars a year to teach the formative grades in those little one room schools. Supplies were short, times were tough, but these little districts started what I consider one of the best educational systems in the world! 

Many famous Albertans got their start in such a school.