#MuseumWeek challenge: How many can you visit?

“Next week marks the beginning of #MuseumWeek — an opportunity to celebrate and recognize museums and cultural institutions around the world — and I am asking you to celebrate with us.

“In honour of this year’s #MuseumWeek, I am challenging Albertans, and all visitors, to dig out their adventure caps and explore Alberta’s history. Between April 23 and April 29, I encourage everyone to visit our provincially owned historic sites and museums that are open year-round, and to share that experience with others by posting photos to social media using the hashtags #ABhistory and #MuseumWeek.

“What Albertans might not realize is how fortunate we are to have access to world-class heritage facilities right here in our own province. From ancient buffalo jumps and Canada’s deadliest rockslide site to active research and dinosaur bones, our museums and historic sites all have exciting stories to share.

“As the portals to our past, our heritage facilities are more than exhibits and artifacts. They are authentic experiences open for everyone to explore. Whether it is through hands-on learning, fun activities, a guided tour or trying delicious treats, there is something new to discover each time you visit.

“Visitors can enjoy our facilities that are open year-round, including:

  • Reynolds-Alberta Museum (Wetaskiwin)
  • Rutherford House (Edmonton)
  • Provincial Archives of Alberta (Edmonton)
  • Oil Sands Discovery Centre (Fort McMurray)
  • Frank Slide Interpretive Centre (Crowsnest Pass)
  • Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump (near Fort Macleod)
  • Remington Carriage Museum (Cardston)
  • Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (Drumheller)

“I hope you will join me in experiencing all that our facilities have to offer as they transport us back in time to learn more about our diverse province and the various stories it holds.

“Follow @AlbertaCulture on Twitter during #MuseumWeek to learn more about our facilities and the important work they do and share your own stories using the same hashtag.”

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Environmental charges in water-sampling case

Incident details

Darcy Dobrosky was charged with four counts under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The charges relate to events that occurred between April 1, 2009 and March 8, 2016.

The charges include:

  • Knowingly providing false or misleading information pursuant to a requirement to provide information, an offence contrary to section 227(a) of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
  • Failing to monitor potable water in a waterworks system at random locations within the water distribution system, an offence contrary to section 227(e) of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
  • Knowingly failing to monitor potable water in a waterworks system at random locations within the water distribution system, an offence contrary to section 227(d) of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

The first court appearance is set for April 25 in Hanna Provincial Court.

Alberta Environment and Parks focuses on education, prevention and enforcement to ensure all Albertans continue to enjoy a clean and healthy environment. When individuals or companies fail to comply with legislation, Environment and Parks has a range of options, depending on the offence, to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

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More protections for water, energy consumers

Minister McLean reviews a bill with homeowner Trina Okimaw-Scott, along with MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose, Bruce Hinkley

If passed, An Act to Empower Utility Consumers would expand the mandate of Alberta’s Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) to create a one-stop shop for Albertans to resolve disputes with their utility bills. Currently, the UCA mediates disputes between consumers and electricity and natural gas providers. This legislation would increase their role to include water, sewage and drainage.

“Many Albertans have recently shared stories of feeling powerless when they were hit with unusually high water bills, and had nowhere to turn for help. Today, we empower consumers by giving them a helping hand to resolve their water bill concerns.”

Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta

The UCA routinely receives calls from water customers looking for help with billing, customer service, disconnection and metering issues. Currently, most of these callers are sent back to the municipality or water utility provider.

Consumer Trina Okimaw-Scott experienced this first-hand when she received a water bill that was triple the usual amount, despite her being away from home for a month.

“When people get unexpected, unexplainably high water bills like I did, they shouldn’t face immediate disconnection of such an essential service. This new mediation service will help consumers like me who had nowhere to turn when my provider refused to accept that I may not have been at fault for the billing consumption information they got. We’ll now have someone neutral there to help us navigate our next steps.”

Trina Okimaw-Scott, Fort Saskatchewan resident

“Listening to customers and treating them fairly and equitably is important to EPCOR. We see the UCA as a partner in helping to resolve customer billing questions, and a beneficial addition to the process we have in place with our water customers today.” 

Guy Bridgeman, senior vice-president, EPCOR Water Canada.

“Since 2003, the Utilities Consumer Advocate has worked with thousands of residential, agriculture and business consumers of natural gas and electricity to advocate on their behalf. In the past, the RMA has represented consumer interests on the UCA board and we believe the expansion of mediation and education services to consumers of water utilities is an important step forward to ensure consumer concerns are addressed in a fair and timely manner.”

Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) 

More informed decisions

If passed, the act would also expand UCA’s ability to report how natural gas and electricity providers are performing, so consumers can make informed choices when buying power or heat for their home. The UCA would report on the following online, in a user-friendly web page:

  • customer service performance
  • history of consumer complaints
  • history of investigations and penalties
  • compliance with laws and standards, such as orders from regulators  

About the UCA

  • The Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate was established in October 2003 with a mandate to educate, advocate, and mediate for Alberta’s residential, farm, and small business electricity and natural gas consumers.
  • The UCA educates consumers through its website, its consumer contact centre available at 310-4822, and by meeting with Albertans in person at events and meetings to talk about their natural gas and electricity choices.
  • The UCA mediates disputes between consumers and electricity and natural gas utility providers.
  • In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the UCA received 24,435 calls and conducted 5,290 mediations.
  • These included mediating disputes between consumers and electricity and natural gas providers, helping customers with disconnections and metering issues, resolving billing disputes, comparing prices for gas or power and helping Albertans understand energy contracts.
  • The UCA intervened in 50 Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) proceedings during 2017-18. The AUC used evidence submitted by the UCA to save $223 million for Alberta consumers, up from $204 million the year prior.

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Edson company fined for unregistered gravel pit

Jade Oilfield Maintenance Company Ltd. was fined a total of $25,500, including a victim fine surcharge. Four charges under the Public Lands Act against the company were dismissed. Charges against Patrick Modeste Paul and Patricia Mary Anderson were also withdrawn.

The charges against the company were the result of an investigation into a gravel pit on property near Edson. The firm was convicted of operating a pit without approval or registration.

Alberta Environment and Parks focuses on education, prevention and enforcement to ensure all Albertans enjoy a clean and healthy environment. The ministry enforces environmental regulations when individuals or companies fail to comply with legislation.

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Green light for orphan black bear cub care

The new policy allows Alberta Fish and Wildlife staff to work with rehabilitation facilities to ensure orphan black bear cubs are safely returned to the wild whenever possible. Once approved, a facility will be able to accept black bears less than one year of age.

“Alberta’s orphaned black bear policy is based on the best available scientific research, modern rehabilitation practices, compassion for these animals and the safety of people. We want black bear cubs to grow up and thrive in the wilds of Alberta.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

The policy includes a draft protocol that sets the requirements surrounding bear feeding, the suitability of the physical space in which the bears are kept, appropriate veterinary care and what kinds of interactions the bears have with humans.

The draft protocol is the result of more than a year of consultation, research and engagement. Wildlife management biologists will continue to work with rehabilitation facilities to ensure bears can be returned to the wild without causing issues in populated areas.

This means the bears:

  • are able to forage on their own
  • are appropriately social with other bears
  • are less likely to become a part of human-bear conflict

After being assessed, the bears will be released on or before Oct. 15 of the year they arrived at the facility and will not be overwintered at a facility unless special approval is given.

Released bears will be fitted with monitoring devices such as ear tags and will be tracked by scientists to ensure successful reintegration into the wild.

If you encounter a bear cub in the wild

  • DO NOT approach. Mothers will often leave their young for periods of time to search for food. A mother may return and become aggressive in the defence of her cub.
  • Call Fish and Wildlife. If you have reason to believe that a bear cub you encounter is orphaned, it is best to contact Fish and Wildlife at 310-0000, and to allow them to monitor the situation before taking action. A complete list of local office contacts is available online.

Quick facts

  • There are more than 40,000 black bears in Alberta. In a given year, there are approximately 10,000 black bear cubs born.
  • In Alberta, it is illegal for hunters to kill a bear cub or to kill a female bear that has cubs with it.
  • Not all animals found in the wild are orphaned. There are times when mothers safely leave their young while they forage or find new habitats to survive.  
  • British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba allow the rehabilitation of black bear cubs younger than one year of age.
  • The review of Alberta’s bear rehabilitation protocol began after three black bear cubs were found in a washroom in Banff National Park on April 1, 2017.
  • There are 10 permitted wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Alberta. These facilities provide a service that many Albertans use and value.

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Helping Albertans navigate the justice system

Duty counsel is a free service that is available to all Albertans regardless of income levels. Under the new system, Legal Aid lawyers will provide basic information, guidance and advice to help accused persons at their first bail appearance. Currently, many people facing charges are self-represented during the bail process.

Having duty counsel at all first appearance bail hearings will create efficiencies in the legal process. In addition to providing advice, duty counsel may also attend the hearing and speak on behalf of the accused. By reducing the number of court appearances for an accused, it will free up time and resources in Alberta’s courts and remand centres.

“Our government is committed to an effective and efficient bail system. The comprehensive review of Alberta’s bail system in 2016 highlighted how important it is to put the most important information in front of decision makers so the best possible decisions can be made. Making Legal Aid duty counsel available at first appearance bail hearings is a key part of that. This initiative will help balance public safety with the need to protect the rights of individuals.”

Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

Providing duty counsel at bail hearing offices was one of the recommendations of the 2016 Alberta bail review final report, and introducing this program is a continuation of that work to reform Alberta’s bail system.

“Legal Aid Alberta services provide legal representation for Albertans while also enhancing the efficiency of Alberta’s justice system. Providing duty counsel at first appearance bail hearings will help all Albertans, regardless of their circumstances, understand and protect their rights under the law.”

Deanna Steblyk, chair, Legal Aid Alberta

Legal Aid Alberta will be recruiting the new duty counsel lawyers over the coming months and these positions will be phased in, with a full staffing complement expected by this fall. They will be available during bail hearing office hours of operation – 16 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

This initiative follows a successful three-month pilot project that saw Legal Aid Alberta provide duty counsel at first appearance bail hearings in late 2016.

We are fully supportive of the decision to bring back duty counsel at bail hearings and believe that this will create efficiencies in the justice system that will benefit all Albertans.”

Daniel Chivers, president, Criminal Trial Lawyers Association  

Quick facts about Legal Aid

  • The 2018-19 budget commits $89.3 million for Legal Aid, an increase of $7.9 million over the previous year’s published budget funding.
  • Since taking office in 2015, the government has increased funding to Legal Aid by almost 40 per cent.
  • In late 2015, the Government of Alberta increased access to Legal Aid by raising the minimum income level to access services.
  • The Government of Alberta is currently negotiating a renewed, long-term sustainable funding and governance agreement with Legal Aid Alberta and the Law Society of Alberta.
  • The new governance agreement will address the pressures on the program that threaten its long-term sustainability, such as the rising cost of providing legal aid services and the need to extend them to more people.

Link to source


Affordable homes, supports for Edmontonians in need

Affordable homes, supports for Edmontonians in need

Minister Sabir and Minister Sigurdson participate in the grand opening of Homeward Trust Edmonton’s Balwin Place.

The Alberta government provided $4 million in 2016-17 to help construct Balwin Place. The building includes 25 self-contained one-bedroom suites, with two common spaces for residents to gather. Three units are barrier-free for accessible use and a unique rooftop common area will house a garden and provide social space for residents.

The project is a partnership between the province, the City of Edmonton and Homeward Trust Edmonton. Homeward Trust is one of seven community-based organizations in Alberta’s major centres that works with communities to plan and administer provincial Housing First funding and helps coordinate local plans to end homelessness.

“All Albertans deserve a safe and affordable place to call home. We are proud to work with community partners like Homeward Trust to improve access to supports for people affected by homelessness. Our ongoing commitment to affordable housing and supports is a key way our government is making life better for all Albertans.”

Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services

The funding is part of the government’s ongoing $1.2-billion commitment to the provincial affordable housing strategy. In addition, government is committing more than $1 million annually to support the operation of Balwin Place.

 “Everyone should have a safe and affordable home. This much-needed project is providing accessible and supportive homes for Albertans who need it the most.  Our government will continue to make life better for Alberta families by building affordable housing across the province.”

Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Seniors & Housing

Balwin Place follows a Housing First model which provides individuals with housing and wraparound support services, such as rent supports, mental health services, addictions treatment and employment skills, so they can regain their independence. More than 15,000 Albertans have been helped by Housing First programming, including about 4,300 people in Edmonton.

“This much-needed Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is helping our community move forward to achieve our collective goal of ending homelessness in Edmonton. This project is an important contribution towards the 916 units of PSH that we urgently require as identified in A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”

Susan McGee, Homeward Trust Edmonton CEO

In 2018-19, the province is investing nearly $191 million into community-based programming that addresses the needs of those experiencing homelessness, and women and children leaving family violence.

Link to source


Sheriffs shut down Calgary drug house

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit of the Alberta Sheriffs Branch has obtained a court order giving them the authority to close a drug house at 5106 Erin Pl. SE in Calgary for 90 days.

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit obtained a court order giving investigators authority to close the home at 5106 Erin Pl. SE for 90 days.

The property has been boarded up, the locks changed and a fence has been up around the house. The owner and any occupants are required to leave the property for the 90-day period.

“Targeting properties that are associated with criminal activity keeps neighbourhoods safe and secure for all Albertans. I commend the hard-working SCAN Investigators for helping to protect Albertans.”

Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

The SCAN unit first began investigating this southeast Calgary property in April 2017, following complaints about drug activity, including a high number of vehicles visiting the property. During the investigation, SCAN members obtained evidence that confirmed drug activity.

On March 23, 2018, SCAN obtained a Community Safety Order (CSO) in Court of Queen’s Bench following negotiations with the property owner. The owner consented to the 90-day closure, which will remain in effect until July 12, 2018.

SCAN works with other law enforcement agencies to shut down properties being used for illegal activities. SCAN investigations are conducted by sheriffs with specialized training to enforce the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which gives them the option of targeting problem properties through civil enforcement.

Since its inception in 2008, SCAN has investigated more than 4,200 problem properties across Alberta and has issued 72 CSOs. The majority of complaints are resolved informally, with no need for legal action, by working with property owners to resolve issues.


SCAN Insp. Mike Letourneau will be available between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17 for on-camera interviews at 5106 Erin Pl. SE, Calgary.

Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley will be available to speak about SCAN’s work at 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17 in Edmonton on the third floor of the legislature. 

Link to source


Preserving Canada’s economic prosperity

Premier Notley and Minister McCuaig-Boyd announce new legislation giving Alberta the power to control the oil and gas resources that belong to all Albertans.

In the face of ongoing challenges threatening the construction of increased pipeline capacity, the Alberta government is acting to defend its energy industry.

“This is about protecting the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of Albertans and our ability to keep Canada working. It’s simple – when Alberta works, Canada works. We did not start this fight, but let there be no doubt we will do whatever it takes to build this pipeline and get top dollar in return for the oil and gas products that are owned by all Albertans.”

Rachel Notley, Premier

Roadblocks put in place by the British Columbia government have caused uncertainty and hurt investor confidence, resulting in pipeline delays that have caused the Canadian economy to lose out on millions of dollars in revenue every day. That revenue could have been used to build roads, schools and hospitals. These delays are also affecting the hundreds of thousands of jobs that help put food on the table and a roof over the heads of families across the country.

The government made it clear through its throne speech that it would not hesitate to take bold action similar to the action former Premier Peter Lougheed took when Alberta’s energy industry was threatened in the past.

Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act

If passed, the legislation would give the government authority to, if necessary, require any company exporting energy products from Alberta to obtain a licence. These products include natural gas, crude oil and refined fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Export restrictions could be imposed on pipelines, as well as transport via rail or truck.

This licence would be issued by the minister of energy if it is determined to be in the public interest, including whether adequate pipeline capacity exists to maximize the return on these resources produced in Alberta. Companies would not be automatically required to apply for an export licence and would only be directed to do so if the minister deemed it necessary.

“Every day, we’re leaving money on the table due to a lack of pipeline capacity, and that needs to stop. We’ve said all along there would be no surprises for our energy sector, and we’ve engaged with them throughout this process. The powers in this legislation are not powers Alberta wants to use, but we will do so if it means long-term benefit for the industry, for Alberta and for Canada.”

Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy

Consideration would also be given to ensuring enough supply is maintained for Alberta’s needs, now and into the future. A licence could be issued to a company but for a lower amount than it has previously been exporting.

Companies that do not comply with the terms of a licence issued could face fines of up to $10 million per day. Individuals could face fines of up to $1 million per day. Imports of products into Alberta are not currently subject to any restrictions.

Quick facts

  • Alberta/Western Canada currently exports:
    • 7.2 billion cubic feet per day in 2017 of natural gas (from Alberta)
    • 4.1 million  barrels a day of crude oil (from Western Canada)
    • 200,000 barrels a day of refined fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) *Alberta number based on internal government estimates, includes all methods of transportation

As of December 2017, the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline shipped on average:

  • 258,000 barrels daily of crude oil and blended bitumen   
  • 44,000 barrels daily  of refined fuels (gasoline and diesel)

Approximately 80,000 barrels a day of refined fuels goes to B.C. on all modes of transportation, based on internal government estimates.

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Castle parks to get a thrilling new adventure

Artist’s rendering of a backcountry hut in Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

This investment is part of the Government of Alberta’s ongoing commitment to diversify and modernize Alberta’s provincial parks system. Total funding for the project is $700,000 over two years.

“Albertans love parks. Camping allows us to spend quality time with our families while also reconnecting with nature. These backcountry huts will expand the recreation opportunities available in the Castle region, attract new visitors and meet the growing demand for backcountry experiences in Alberta. We’re so pleased to be able to partner with the Alpine Club of Canada to bring this thrilling backcountry experience to the Castle area.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) runs the largest network of backcountry huts in North America and has the required expertise to manage the hut system in Castle Wildland Provincial Park. The ACC will be responsible for the operations, maintenance and administration of the backcountry huts.

“The Alpine Club of Canada is excited to partner with the province of Alberta in bringing affordable backcountry accommodation to the public. This new recreational offering in Castle Wildland Provincial Park will be a draw for many Canadians who wish to experience the best of what Alberta’s natural landscape provides.”

Lawrence White, executive director, Alpine Club of Canada

The backcountry huts system will be comprised of three modern, sustainable huts in key locations – two in the south Castle area and one near Bovin Lake. Outhouse facilities will also be constructed at the sites.

One of the huts will be designed, constructed and located to be as fully accessible as possible for users with limited mobility, helping further break down barriers to parks access.

It will be the first accessible backcountry hut in Alberta’s provincial parks.

Construction and installation of the first backcountry hut will begin this spring, with a target opening date of fall 2018.

Quick facts

  • The 103,000-hectare Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park were established in January 2017.
  • More than $20 million in funding over four years has been designated for access routes, inclusion projects, camping, signage, picnic areas and hiking trails in the Castle parks.
    • Over 180 refurbished campsites opened in July 2017.
    • Amenities include improved and expanded campsites, an improved day-use area at Butcher’s Lake and four new comfort cabins at Beaver Mines Lake.
    • Other projects include new day-use shelters, an equestrian staging area, enlarged and improved staging areas at Syncline and Carbondale and improvements to Table Mountain Trail, Grizzly Trail and Barnaby Lakes Trail.

Listen to the news conference

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