NDPers fired up after party AGM; Athabasca MLA Colin Piquette highlights motions to expand rural broadband access and $25 a day daycare


The province is at a fork in the road; are we going to be taking care of those among us who need it? Are we going to educate our children properly? Are we going to have the infrastructure to be able to grow our economy and provide a good living for our people? Or are we going to turn back the clock?”– MLA Colin Piquette

Town and Country Nov 6, 2018. Used with permission.

New school’s first day; Dignitaries, students cut ribbon on Athabasca’s new Edwin Parr Composite School at grand opening ceremony Oct. 23

“Edwin Parr Composite School is a state-of-the-art school that will inspire students to excel and provide the opportunities to discover and explore their interests,” [Piquette]  said.

Athabasca Advocate, Tue Oct 30 2018
Byline: Allendria Brunjes
Source: Athabasca Advocate

After years of planning, scrapping, reworking and building, the new Edwin Parr Composite School is officially open for staff and students. On Oct. 23, staff, students and local dignitaries cut the ribbon for the new institution, celebrating with drumming, dancing, speeches and cake. Former Aspen View Public Schools superintendent Mark Francis was on hand for the celebrations, and he said the school was not only being built for the students there right now, but for generations. “In fact, what will happen is that some of the kids sitting here today, they will have kids that will attend here, and then they will have grandchildren that will attend here,” he said. “We build schools not for today, but for generations.”

Board chair Dennis MacNeil joked that his tie featured the pattern of a finish line. “It’s nice to be at the finish line,” he said. “We’re here. Finally, it’s here. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for, after all these years of planning, dreaming and building. Edwin Parr Composite School is now ours, and it belongs to you – the students of the town. It belongs to the staff; it belongs to the community.”

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette noted that EPC is the first new school in Alberta with solar panels. “Edwin Parr Composite School is a state-of-the-art school that will inspire students to excel and provide the opportunities to discover and explore their interests,” he said.

Former teacher and Athabasca County Reeve Larry Armfelt said he has had 46 first-days-of-school. He said he could not help but wish students the best in their educations.

“And I want to thank Mr. MacNeil and the board of education for, in my opinion – if I can make an analogy, and I said it to Mr. MacNeil this morning – thank you for having the tenacity of a Sherpa guide to make this happen.” Francis, who is now the deputy superintendent of the Parkland School Division based in Stony Plain, said he is building schools all over the place in his new job. “Let me tell you – none of the schools we are building or have opened come close to this building,” he said. “One of the previous speakers said this building is one-of-akind and there will never be another like it. I fully intend to steal from this building.”

Elder Elsie Paul has worked with Aspen View Public Schools for about 10 years. Introducing her, Grade 12 student Ethan Woodward said she has been working with the Land-Based Learning program. “I’m so inspired by these little Elders, the drummer and the jigger,” she said, referring to performers who opened the ceremony. “Because all you young people are our Elders.”

Marie Burrard is Edwin Parr’s niece, and she was at the grand opening ceremony. She said Parr believed all children should get the best education schools could offer. “Today marks a milestone in the history of education,” she said. “Why Edwin Parr? He was a school trustee starting in 1925. He was one of five in the formation of the Athabasca School Division. This was in time to be what is now Aspen View School Division.”

Piquette also noted during his speech that the new school was not without controversy as it was being built. After the ceremony, Piquette said there had been concerns that location was not a coincidence, but after going through records of the process available through Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure, as well as meeting with the Town of Athabasca, Athabasca County and school board, he believes due diligence was done. “The numbers did make sense, and the location makes a lot of sense, as well,” he said, noting that some of the issues have already been addressed, like upgrading the intersection at the bottom of University Drive. “I think it’s a great day for Athabasca.” He said it was indeed a complicated arrangement requiring land transfers, Orders in Council. He said going through that, he became convinced that the school project made a lot of sense for the community. “There’s going to be a segment of the community that either is still convinced that we didn’t need a new school or that it should have been built in a different location,” Piquette said. “But from what I can tell, it seems like the majority of the community has come around to the new school in its present location.”

Francis said the project did have its fair share of challenges, and it did take a long time. “Like MLA Piquette said, it was worth the debate,” Francis said. “It was worth the wait, and it was worth the challenges, because today we have a spectacular building.”



Member’s statement – Dig Safe Month – April 30, 2018

  Click before you dig!


Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Every year thousands of buried facilities are accidentally damaged by digging activities. Services are interrupted in nearly every case, and incidents put our workers, our communities, and our environment at risk. Recently a number of communities have been impacted by incidents involving severed underground lines. In my own constituency the town of Athabasca lost nearly all telecommunications services for a full day. This affects many communities across the province. In 2016 there were 4,305 of these incidents, of varying severity, across the province.
Societal cost research shows that over $350 million in damage is caused every year in Alberta due to damage to underground infrastructure. Average societal cost of a single incident is estimated at more than $80,000. These incidents put a strain on emergency services, require expensive repairs, and result in lost business during service outages.
April is national dig safe awareness month, and many hon. members are sporting the Dig Safe pin here today. The Alberta Common Ground Alliance is reminding all Albertans to visit clickbeforeyoudig.com before any digging project, no matter how big or how small, even when digging a garden or putting a fence in your backyard. Clicking before you dig is a free service. Not clicking before you dig could cost everything.
This year they have also partnered with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Grey Cup to raise awareness of these issues. Just as football teams have their own playbooks to guide them on the field, the Alberta Common Ground Alliance promotes a safe-digging playbook for excavating around buried utilities. Not to stretch the football analogy too much, Mr. Speaker, but whether we’re going deep on the football field or into the ground, safety should always come

Athabasca Advocate – October 31, 2017

Hannah Lawson

$3.1M EMS station complete in Wabasca; New four-bay station something the community “has been waiting a long time for”


Emergency Medical Services personnel in Wabasca/Desmarais are now operating out of a brand new $3.1-million station, completed this fall.

Dignitaries and community members gathered at the new four-bay station Oct. 12 for the centre’s grand opening.

“It’s going to have a positive impact,” said Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette in an interview. “What’s happened is previous to this, they had the one ambulance stationed out of the (healthcare centre) and the other one was stationed in another part of town.”

The new EMS station is right next to the Wabasca/Desmarais Healthcare Centre, and features “modern, comfortable lodgings” for EMS crews and a conference room.

Alberta Health minister Sarah Hoffman said in an AHS press release the facility’s completion “shows our commitment to providing high quality healthcare” in the province.

“The new station is something we know the community has been waiting a long time for. We are listening to their concerns as we work to make life better for families in Wabasca-Desmarais,” she said.

Marian Wolitski, who served on the Lesser Slake Lake Health Advisory Council until about three months ago, said members have “harped on” getting the new facility for years.

“I brought it up that it was required because they didn’t really have any place for the ambulance, and the staff really didn’t have any place to stay,” he said. “They stayed right in the hospital, in the rooms there.”

The former government did approve the project, but Wolitski said it was delayed for three years.

“When the new government came in they promised they would get it done, and they started construction last fall,” he said.

“It actually was a need, it wasn’t one of our wants. They had one ambulance staying outside. Of course in the winter that’s not the best, because you have to have the vehicle running 24 hours and seven days a week,” Wolitski said. “That created a few extra problems, if it stalled or anything like that, you’d have frozen drugs which they’d have to remove or replace them.”

Freed up space in the healthcare centre formerly used by EMS personnel is now being used to create a permanent area for occupational therapy and physiotherapy services, along with staff training, according to the EMS press release.

The project was funded through the Government of Alberta‘s Infrastructure Maintenance program. Local EMS staff have been operating out of the centre since the beginning of October.

Athabasca Advocate – October 31, 2017

Hannah Lawson

Health minister visits Athabasca; Alberta Health minister tours Athabasca Auxiliary Association’s nearly complete $7,157 family room project



Alberta Deputy Premier and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman visited Athabasca Oct. 26 to speak with local councils and tour the Athabasca Healthcare Centre.

“One of the things I’m really excited about is seeing in northern communities, outside of Edmonton and Calgary particularly, you have a real opportunity to see the commitment that community members have for their facilities,” Hoffman said in an interview.

Hoffman visited the Athabasca Healthcare Centre Auxiliary Association’s latest almost-complete project, a former smoke room transformed into a family room.

Heather Wallach, past auxiliary president, said the family room has been a “catch-all” room until the auxiliary decided to make it into a family room any folks with terminally ill family members checked in at the healthcare centre.

“AHS (Alberta Health Services) probably would not have funded that, and you know, you feel that these things are important,” she said. “If family is living away and have to spend time with a loved one there, and want to be at their side, kind of thing, that’s why we did that.”

Renovations to the family room included installing up-to-code furniture, including a love seat that pulls out for overnight visits, appliances, and the last step is blinds for privacy.

In total, the family room project will cost $7,157.

This year the Alberta Healthcare Auxiliaries Association celebrates 70 years of volunteer efforts to the Alberta Healthcare System. According to a 2016 auxiliary fact sheet, there are 1,110 volunteers across the province that have fundraised $1,441,375, and have contributed 158,442 recorded volunteer hours donated in work to healthcare facilities.

Hoffman said she was also glad to see the wall of remembrance of projects completed by the local auxiliary association, and seeing every person who has lived and passed on named on the centre’s walls.

“It’s great to see these kinds of projects, and the auxiliary definitely has a long list of accomplishments. It’s nice to be able to see some of them first hand.”

Hoffman added the Alberta Government recently invested in $1.5 million into the Athabasca Healthcare Centre for maintenance and upkeep.

“While it isn’t necessarily the sexy projects we cut ribbons for, getting two new hot water boilers and a new chiller, and doing work on the roof, making sure it’s a safe place for patients to be, families to visit and staff to work… that’s an important investment in local community, and the skilled tradespeople that do those installs as well,” Hoffman said.

Members of the media were not invited to Hoffman’s meeting with Athabasca County and Town of Athabasca councils.