By Jamie Rieger
2015 was a year marked with political change, major weather events, and a downward spiral of the economy. The Commentator takes a look back at some of the news that filled our paper through the past 12 months.
The first editorial in the Commentator/Courier for 2015 addressed the negative impacts that plummeting oil prices were having in Alberta and across the country. Talk about a reduction in equalization payments resonated across Canada, which would impact social programs, education, and child care. While many Albertans were tightening their belts, others were relishing in the lower prices to fill up their vehicles.
Jan. 6 and Jan. 10 brought heavy snowfalls, strong winds, and cold winter temperatures, with many motorists avoiding some of the rural roads due to high snowdrifts.
Bow Island town council gave approval to their economic development strategic plan at their regular council meeting on Jan 12.
Local volunteer firefighters and EMS completed two training components when an Alberta Health Services simulation truck came to town to provide training for the first-responders.
Bow Island/Foremost RCMP officer, Jarom Leafloor announced he was working on establishing a Rural Crime Watch Association for the County of Forty Mile.
St. Mary’s River Irrigation District applied for funding through the Agricultural Watershed Enhancement program for monitoring stations in the Yellow Lake basin area. The total cost of the project was estimated to be just over $115,000, with $100,000 being sought through funding.
Tyler Mitchell stole the show at the Bow Island/Burdett Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting when he gave a talk about his experience attending Entre-Corp’s Entrepreneurial camp the previous summer.
The first case of mad cow disease in Alberta since 2011 was discovered in February, with Rick Smith, from Alberta Beef Producers saying what while it was not good news, it did indicate that Canada’s monitoring system was working.
Charges were dropped against a Veinerville man, accused of poaching short-horned lizards in the Manyberries area.
Representatives from the National Film Board visited Foremost on Feb. 18 to talk to local people about story ideas for their Grasslands project, a series of short documentaries focused on the people and issues of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A motorist was very fortunate to have escaped injury when his vehicle hit the fuel tank of a passing locomotive on Feb. 21. The 23-year old driver was served with a violation under the Traffic Safety Act.
Cypress/Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes announced he would be running for the leadership of the Wildrose Party. After five years in provincial politics, Barnes thought it was time to seek the leadership, stating he made the decision the previous December when a number of WR colleagues crossed over to join the PC party.
The Medicine Hat College became a voting member of Palliser Economic Partnership, it was announced in March. Both entities believed the move would be beneficial across the board, with the college helping PEP with their expertise as the college moves to become more involved with regional development.
The Bow Island Atom C Rebels beat out the Marwayne Sled Dogs to clinch the provincial title at the provincial tournament held in Bow Island in mid-March.
Terry Raymond, a southern Alberta landowner, visited a number of municipalities, including the County of Forty Mile to voice his concerns about hunting along undeveloped road allowances. Raymond wanted the current legislation amended to disallow the practice of hunters from shooting from the undeveloped road allowances onto private property.
Prairie Rose School Division held a special committee meeting in Foremost to discuss the Low German Mennonite program at Foremost School. The meeting, by invitation only, had many concerned when the parent council was not invited to contribute to the discussion.
St. Mike’s principal, Chris Sumner said the transition from the Medicine Hat Catholic School Board to Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate School Division was a smooth one, with many positive changes for staff and students.
Drew Barnes lost the Wildrose leadership race to Brian Jean, it was announced in Calgary on March 28.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that all Albertans would have to tighten their belts when the province released their budget, that included a $7-billion revenue shortfall.
Bow Island town council gave final approval to their 2015 budget, which included $2.118 million in taxation revenue and $160,500 in general revenues.
The County of Forty Mile, Village of Foremost, and Town of Bow island embarked on a joint training exercise to help the municipalities prepare should a widespread emergency strike the region. Representatives from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency were in attendance to assist with the training.
Candidates for the Cypress-Medicine Hat riding were busy pounding the pavement trying to garner support in April in advance of the May 5 provincial election.
The North Forty Mile Regional Waste Management Commission posted signage reminding people hauling debris to the landfill that their loads must be tarped down and secured to avoid material landing in the ditches and fields enroute to the dump.
Jim Prentice, PC candidate for the provincial leadership, visited TruCo Structures in Bow Island as he toured rural communities on his campaign trail.
Winnifred resident and Alberta Farmworkers Union president, Eric Musekamp announced his intent to run as a Liberal in the Cypress-Medicine Hat riding.
Cypress-Medicine Hat candidates squared off in a forum held at the Medicine Hat Public Library . The debate was described as a polite exchange of opinions from the candidates.
Playwright/performer Julia Mackey gave an outstanding performance of her play Jake’s Gift at the Bow Island Royal Canadian Legion.
The situation could have turned out a lot worse when a stack of pellets were lit afire when the winds were howling at 60 km/hr at Alberta Granulation south of Bow Island.
The NDP victory in the May provincial election took most Albertans by surprise. Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes said that while he was surprised with the NDP majority, he was not surprised the Progressive Conservatives were elected out of office.
Also in May, the Village of Foremost announced it had acquired the brand and assets for the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicles (CCUVS).
A siren was installed on the water tower in Bow Island as a way of notifying the public in the event of an immediate major emergency situation in the community, such as a severe storm.
Bow Island/Foremost RCMP cruisers had AEDs installed, thanks to a generous donation from the local Victim Services Association.
With little precipitation falling during the spring of 2015, it was too early by the middle of May for the weather and water experts to talk about drought.
Weather events led the news in the month of June. The June 2 edition of the Forty Mile County Commentator led with a story about an early bloom of blue-green algae causing some serious problems for local irrigators. The warm, sunny weather was the cause of the early algae bloom that forced irrigators to clean the screens in their canals every few hours.
Sustainable Canada Association, a non-profit organization formed after the Emergency Protection Order for the Greater Sage grouse, was held in Manyberries.
Four inches of rain in less than an hour caused damage to roads and fields north of Bow Island in early June.
A severe windstorm, with gusts up to 140 km/hr. being recorded in some areas, ripped through southeast Alberta, causing extensive damage, primarily to fallen branches and uprooted trees.
It was months in the planning, and at the end of June, Etzikom held its C’mon Home Centennial. The little hamlet was filled with visitors who took in events such as a Show n Shine, musical entertainment, and socializing with old friends. The Etzikom Museum held its 25th anniversary the same weekend.
Alan Hyland, chair of Palliser Economic Development announced in June that he would be stepping down from the position.
LaVar Payne, Member of Parliament for the Medicine Hat constituency, thanked all of his supporters in the July 7 Commentator, after announcing that he would be retiring from politics.
By mid-July, there was no doubt that southern Alberta was in the midst of a drought, with poor crop production being reported and ranchers paying premium prices for hay for their cattle. Provincial rangeland agrologist, Brian Olson said later in the month that the southeast Alberta prairie was becoming stressed due to the extreme dry conditions.
Etzikom’s Skyler Stromsmoe was a major player for Team Canada at the PanAm Games in July, helping his team beat the U.S. 7-6 in extra innings in the gold medal game.
A farewell gathering was held at the Commentator office to say good-bye to long-time advertising manager, Tom Conquergood, who had spent 40 years working in the newspaper industry.
A tornado touched down in the Foremost area on Aug. 6, forcing brothers, Andrew and Steven Hougen to make a quick exit from the field where they were working.
The community welcomed physicians Carolyn Fletcher and Ben Wasserman, who would be replacing Dr. Edwards who was preparing for retirement.
Local cattle producers were encouraged to sign onto MacDonald’s sustainability pilot project when representatives held meeting in Bow Island in August.
The front-page news story in the Sept. 1 issue of the Forty Mile County Commentator reported on a number of grassfires, fueled by strong winds, that had erupted the previous weekend.
Burdett’s Jalen Lane represented the area on Team Alberta at Roberto Alomar’s Tournament 12 in Toronto Sept. 14-18.
A number of leaseholders at Forty Mile Park accused the County of not providing enough water to the park’s trees during the hot, dry summer.
A major infrastructure project to replace water and sewer lines on 5th Ave. in Bow Island began in September. The $868,545 project is being funded by MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funds, Federal Gas Tax fund, and Town reserves.
The community came out in droves when author and former Bow Island resident, Brett Loney held launching at the Susan Andersen Library for his book “Rebel With a Cause: The Doc Nikaido Story”.
Chris Terry, a peace officer of enforcement services for Parkland County gave a presentation in Bow Island about Freeman on the Land, who have a presence in Alberta.
The Alberta government announced near the end of September that it would be providing a $10-million increase for Family and Community Support Services in the province.
Organizations such as the Canola Council of Canada were quick to voice their concerns when it was announced that trade ministers from 12 Pacific countries tentatively came to an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Much of Canada turned red on Oct. 19 when the Liberal Party won a sweeping victory in the federal election. The Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding stayed true blue with the win of Conservative Jim Hillyer.
Calgary-based BluEarth Renewables Inc. announced in November that it was proposing two solar energy projects for the County of Forty Mile that if approved, could supply more than 6,000 households annually with green electrical energy.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks department released its environmental assessment for public comment on the plan to move up to 120 Greater Sage grouse from Montana to southern Alberta over a two-year period.
The Alberta NDP government announced in November that a number of town hall meetings had been scheduled throughout the province to discuss Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. Almost immediately, there was an outcry from the public for further consultation and to not ram the Bill through in haste.
The concern over Bill 6 carried over into December, with people in the agriculture business unclear about what all would be included in the Bill that would impact the livelihoods of family farmers.
The Village of Foremost was the recipient of the Ministers award for municipal achievement in the small communities category, it was announced at the recent AUMA conference in Calgary and the AAMD&C conference in Edmonton. Foremost received the award for its innovative practices, specifically the Foremost Unmanned Air Systems range.
The second well of a possible six was drilled northwest of Foremost, setting in motion Phase One of a major water project for the Village of Foremost and the County of Forty Mile, who have partnered to have an engineering study done prior to the upgrading of their existing water systems.
Prairie Rose School Division announced at a special board of trustees meeting that their deficit budget would be greater than first anticipated, citing increased transportation costs, operation costs, and maintenance costs as the primary reasons for the $623,685 deficit.
The North Forty Mile regional landfill commission unveiled the designs for a large-scale expansion that would be able to accommodate the community for the next 50 years.
A Medicine Hat-based officer with the Alberta Sheriffs department was one of two people killed in a head-on collision on Highway Three, approximately five miles east of Grassy Lake. Cst. Kirk Fisler of the Bow Island RCMP said speed was a factor, and cell phones found at the scene were being sent away for investigation to determine if distracted driving was also a factor.
A town hall meeting, hosted by the Wildrose Party, was held at the Multiplex in Bow Island in mid-December, just days after Bill 6 passed through Legislature, against the advisement of thousands of Albertans. As a result, petitions objecting Bill 6, as well as the Carbon Tax, were being distributed throughout the province, including the Bow Island area in the hopes that 250,000 signatures would be collected and lead to an election that could oust Premier Rachel Notley.