Saturday, November 7, 2020

In The News

 By Marianne Cole

New Reeve/Deputy Reeve 

Special congratulations to our new Reeve Cammie Laird and Deputy Reeve John Vandermeer. They were chosen by their Council colleagues at their re-organizational meeting on Tuesday, October 27th. We look forward to working with them in the year to come.

Meeting with County Administration 

 On Friday, October 30th six members of the CCTA Board met with CAO Rick Emmons; Murray Hagan, Director of Corporate Services; and Keith McRae, Director of Planning and Development. The almost three hour long meeting provided excellent information and great open discussion on 3 main issues:

MDP Review 

 This has been a major concern for the CCTA as it has seemed that many people are not only unaware the review is taking place, but also don’t know what some of the major suggested changes might be (i.e. allowing 3-4 subdivision parcels out of a quarter with options for sizes greater than 5 acres per parcel).

Administration presented written information reviewing all their efforts to publicize this issue through a special edition newsletter, local newspapers, radio, and social media. Throughout August and September people were encouraged to submit written comments, with a total of 55 received. The results of those are being compiled and will be presented to Council later in November. To alleviate our concerns that open public meetings are necessary we were reassured that staff is investigating both virtual open houses and traditional in person meetings.

Broadband Project 

 As reported in our last Beacon, the County is proceeding with a pilot project to put fibre optic cable into the Ferrier area in an attempt to improve broadband connectivity. Our concerns had focussed on the lack of a business plan with projected costs and potential revenues, as well as questions related to the involvement of local internet service providers (ISP’s). In response to those concerns we were told it is difficult to do a business plan before doing a pilot project. Also we were told that local ISP’s have attended public meetings as well as made presentations to Council. Upon completion of the pilot project ISP’s will have the opportunity to access the County’s fibre optic network.

 Regional Governance 

This is a very concerning issue that could see the joining of the town of Rocky, the Village of Caroline and Clearwater County into one governing body. In order to assess the benefits/disadvantages of such a move, a consultant will be hired and there will be a financial audit and service review conducted. In addition, a committee of representatives from each of the town, county, and village has been struck. The representatives from the County on that committee are Reeve Laird and Deputy Reeve Vandermeer.

County residents have expressed concerns over the fact that our reserves could go to fund the town’s debt and that some of the linear tax we collect from the oil industry (established to cover additional road maintenance costs due to heavy equipment usage) may go to fund the Town’s budget. We will continue to watch these developments and we were assured that public open houses will be held to gather public opinion. WE WILL KEEP YOU IN THE LOOP!!


Our CCTA Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday, November 9th at 7:30PM at the Arbutus Community Hall. We will be electing our Executive and Board Members and we really encourage/welcome new member to not only join our organization but also run for office. We could certainly use some younger faces to join the gray-haired “oldies”!!!

Smiles for November: 

What do you call a pig that does karate??? Pork chop.

What has four wheels and flies??? A garbage truck.

What do you call a sleeping bull??? A bulldozer.

Coming Events: 

Monday, November 9, 2020, 7:30 PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Our AGM

January meeting date to be determined at AGM

Note: We do not have a meeting in December.

Monday, September 28, 2020



By Marianne Cole

Municipal Development Review Process 

 As mentioned in our September Beacon, the Municipal Development Plan is under review. This is a very important document that will affect resident lives for the next 10-20 years. A number of issues have been raised related to public engagement.

There is a serious need for public meetings so everyone (residents, councillors, county staff, and the consultants) can openly hear the same information related to the concerns and comments on the proposed document. Allowing for only online or printed information restricts open dialogue. Furthermore, those avenues are not only very time consuming but also limit responses by those not technologically adept or well-served.

Timing for the gathering of information and providing responses has been extremely poorly planned. Public consultation (scheduled for August/ September) is occurring at a time when people are on holidays or very busy with haying and harvesting.

There was absolutely nothing in the special newsletter sent out in August showing the struck out clauses in the current plan. The removed clauses represent a drastic change in protecting agricultural land.

There is questionable validation for some of the proposed changes. In the special newsletter, the heading, “What we have heard so far…” is frequently used. This raises the questions, “Who have you heard from?”; “When?”; and “By how many?” At the County Council meeting on Tuesday, September 22, Reeve Tim Hoven noted that the Planning Department had received only 16 submissions to date regarding the MDP review. Were these received before the publication of the newsletter or after??? That is also only 1/10 of a per cent of our approximately 10,000 residents.

Comparing Clearwater’s opportunity with other local jurisdictions for public engagement during their MDP reviews, the following information shows we are seriously lacking. County of Wetaskiwin: Almost a 2 year process, 2008-2010. 3 sets of public meetings before, during, and after draft of document was done. County of Lacombe: 2016-2017 Total of 13 open meetings during 3 rounds of public engagement; total of 440 people in attendance; 469 surveys completed at meetings and online. County of Red Deer: MDP review just completed. Late 2019: 5, 145 surveys mailed out to residents; 1530 valid ones returned. 6 open house meetings held in early 2020. 4 more public input sessions held in August/September following draft completion. People could attend in person or via zoom.

Following a motion passed at our September 14th CCTA meeting a letter was written to our Clearwater County Council requesting that the MDP review process be halted until open public discussion could be held. Unfortunately, though submitted before agenda deadline, a copy of the letter was not included in the agenda package. It was discussed briefly during the CAO report but no motion was made to change the current process.

Broadband Improvement  

In a September 15th 2020 Clearwater County news release, it was reported that “Clearwater County Council was on hand to mark the ground-breaking of the Ferrier Acres Broadband Pilot Project, an approximately $1million initiative that involves the installation of over 15 kilometres of fibre optic cable from Rocky Mountain House to Ferrier Acres. The investment represents a major step for the Core Backbone Broadband Internet Project which aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity to a majority of residents and businesses in the County.”

The Ferrier Acres project is one of 6 that are proposed by the County to be completed within the next five years. Others include: 1. Rocky Mtn. House to Caroline, Sundre, and Olds (2020/21); 2. Rocky Mtn. House to Condor and Leslieville (2022); 3. Hwy. 22/12 to Brazeau & Wetaskiwin Counties (2023); 4. Ferrier to Nordegg (2024); and 5. Hwy. 22/12 to Lacombe County (2025).

The total cost of equipment/infrastructure is $19, 631,000 with an additional operational cost of $1, 030,000 for a total of $20, 661,000. While this is a significant cost there is a serious need for improved broadband service in the County and we commend Council and Administration for their forward thinking. There are, however, some issues of concern with the County’s plans and this will be brought forward at our up-coming CCTA meeting on October 5, 2020, at 7:30PM at Arbutus Community Hall.

Rocky Regional Airport  

Word has just been received about the very unfortunate, untimely death of Ken Fowler and Hannelie Rosdal on Saturday, September 26th. Ken was the long-serving manager of the Rocky Regional Airport. He was a well-known and highly respected member of the aviation community, doing much to encourage tourism and economic development in our area. Our deepest sympathies go out to all.


 With the current County Council and their dedication to cooperation and making responsible decisions for the benefit of County residents, it’s been several months since I’ve felt the need to rant. The current MDP review process, however, has changed that. I strongly feel that a document with the potential to seriously impact ALL residents must be developed through a process allowing for the greatest opportunity for OPEN dialogue with ALL parties involved. Sending out information via mail and computer, and allowing for only one way response via letters, emails and phone calls DOES NOT BEGIN TO EQUAL THE VALUE OF OPEN DISCUSSION. Questions cannot be publicly answered and all parties are not aware of the concerns people may have. Ultimately, the support for or against the proposal cannot be adequately evaluated.

I realize that Covid19 has thrown a “monkey wrench” into the process but open meetings can still be held either in person, via zoom, or both. Holding meetings in each division would likely reduce the numbers gathered in one place while increasing the opportunity for public engagement. OR the process could be postponed until such time as public meetings become more accessible. Ultimately, Clearwater County residents must be “awarded” the same privileges for input and response as those in other more accommodating jurisdictions.

Up-coming Events: 

Next monthly meeting, October 5, 2020, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall

Friday, September 18, 2020


Marianne Cole, President Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association 

 RR #1 Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 2A1 September 15, 2020

Clearwater County Council Box 550 Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 1A4 

Dear Councillors:

Following a motion passed at our Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association meeting last night, Monday, September 14, 2020, I am writing this letter to ask that the Clearwater County Council immediately stop the current review process on the Municipal Development Plan and re-start with open public meetings.

Significant discussion took place and concerns focussed on the following issues:

Public meetings are much more productive and necessary in order for all parties involved (taxpayers, Councillors, County staff, and consultants) to hear/validate the actual concerns, questions, and support/lack of regarding the current policies as well as those proposed.

The short timing of the process does not allow for adequate public engagement. It was noted that the County of Wetaskiwin took 2 years for their MDP review process and allowed for 3 open public meetings strategically held throughout the course of action.

There was real concern for the perceived lack of protection for agricultural land, farming operations, and the rural way of life.

The need for increased sub-division opportunities was questioned when several unused locations are currently available.

The increased cost for services, road maintenance, and rural/”urban” type conflicts with increased subdivisions could off-set any potential benefit from supposed residential tax revenue.

While the following were not mentioned during the meeting they have subsequently been brought to my attention:

Relying so strongly on written submissions for public engagement really impedes the opportunity for ALL taxpayer input. First of all it is VERY TIME CONSUMING, not only to read/gather the information, but then to write a response and submit it. All this at a time when people, especially the farming community, are very busy with haying and harvesting.

Written submissions provide lesser opportunity for open discussion and questions to be addressed.

There are a significant number of taxpayers (predominantly the older generation, but also those with poor internet connection) whose opportunity for gathering information and responding with comments is seriously limited without open public meetings.

Because of all the above concerns I reiterate our request to stop any further action on the MDP review until open public meetings are held. This would allow the most beneficial opportunity for all taxpayers to have adequate input into a document that impacts everyone.

In conclusion, we ask that this letter be added to the up-coming agenda for September 22, 2020 and that the request for public meetings be openly discussed by Council at that time.

We sincerely trust that the voice of the people will be of utmost importance and that Council will respond favorably to our request.

We thank you for your consideration on this matter and look forward to your reply.

Yours truly,

Marianne Cole

Tuesday, September 1, 2020



By Marianne Cole

CCTA Back at Work 

With things hopefully easing up and/or people adjusting to special safety measures, the CCTA Board has made a decision to resume our monthly meetings. Our first meeting will be held on Monday, September 14, 2020 at 7:30PM at the Arbutus Hall. Social distancing will be in effect and we welcome everyone back to discuss issues facing our County.

Proposed Tax Revisions  

Of greatest concern is the recently suggested reassessment of the taxation model for taxes to be paid by oil/gas companies to rural municipalities on pipelines, oil/gas leases, and various associated installations. Clearwater County could stand to lose between $300M and $1.6B in revenue depending on the format chosen by the UCP government. In return, residents here could face an increase of between 50% and 257% in residential taxes… AND/OR lose significant services.

The proposed changes would present a HUGE problem for Clearwater County along with all other rural municipalities in Alberta. Letters of concern have been sent to our MLA, Premier, Finance Minister, Opposition Leader, and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). A reply has only been received from our MLA Jason Nixon.

The initiative for this change came from Alberta’s “Top 5” oil/gas industry companies with support from CAPP. Some interesting (???) information on these companies is included here.


1. Suncor Steve Williams (now retired) Salary: $1.466 Million; Total compensation: $14.5M

2. Cenovus Alexander Pourbaix Salary: $1M; Total compensation: $6.6M

3. CNRL Norm Edwards Salary: $1M; Total compensation: $10.6M

4. Imperial Oil Richard Kruger (An American citizen) Salary: $1.2M; Total Compensation: $7.8M

5. Husky Robert J. Peabody Salary: $1.5M; Total Compensation: $7.9M

2019 CEO TOTAL COMPENSATION (The Calgary Herald, Amanda Stephensen, June 26, 2020)

1. Suncor Mark Little $11.72M

2. Cenovus Alexander Pourbaix $9.06M (increase of 38% over 2018)

3. CNRL Tim S. McKay $8.17M

4. Imperial Oil Richard Kruger $8.09M

5. Husky Oil (Collective compensation for top 5 executives) Just over $15M

Foreign ownership figures from report: The big five oil and gas producers are all majority foreign owned:

NON CANADIAN SHARES: Husky - 97% Imperial - 94% Cenovus - 72% Suncor - 66% CNRL - 55% So, NO, the TOP 5 are NOT CANADIAN OWNED

We recognize that the oil/gas industry is facing difficult times but so is everyone else. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” is not a beneficial solution. There is absolutely not guarantee that the financial benefits these companies might enjoy with the proposed changes will, in turn, benefit rural Albertans. In fact with 69 rural municipalities, at an average of 10,000 residents each, 690,000 Albertans could be negatively affected for the benefit of a few. We sincerely hope that these suggested tax changes DO NOT come into effect. 

 Review of the MDP  

The County just sent out a special newsletter with information about the review of the Municipal Development Plan. This is a very important document that governs the use of land in Clearwater County and development guidelines. It is absolutely crucial that people have a say in the rules that will control land use in our county. We encourage everyone to read the newsletter very carefully and voice their opinion on this matter. At this stage the county is taking opinions that they will include in developing the document. Then there will be public meetings to evaluate the guidelines before the final draft is completed. We really need to have our voices heard.

County Happenings  

Site work is progressing at the new Leslieville Fire Hall/Public Works location. Facility completion is hoped for by late fall 2020. Work is also progressing on the installation of services in the proposed “Commercial Core” In Nordegg. This development is to the south, up the hill from the Visitors’ Center and in the area of the church and old CIBC bank. 

September Smiles:

1. What will happen if you continue “stress eating” as a result of Covid19?? The buttons on your shirt will start social distancing from each other.

2. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was trying to social distance.

Coming events: 

Monday, September 14, 2020, 7:30PM, Arbutus Hall, Regular Meeting

October meeting date to be determined at September meeting as the regularly scheduled meeting would fall on Thanksgiving Monday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Extravagant 6,000 sq. ft. Staff Space Approved

By Marianne Cole

With a motion that passed 5 – 2 at their June 9th meeting, Clearwater County Council approved plans for 6,000 sq. ft. of staff space for the proposed new fire hall in Leslieville. Voting for the motion, moved by Councillor Duncan, were Councillors Duncan, Laird, Lougheed, Swanson, and Reeve Hoven. Voting in opposition were Councillors Vandermeer and Laing.


The over-sized two story staff space includes meeting rooms, training room, laundry facilities, over-night accommodation, washrooms, showers, 2 saunas, 2 kitchens, and storage space. The “rationale” used to justify the build included the need to support the 11 volunteer fire fighters, preparation for a potential large emergency, and the provision of training space for a third party supposedly interested in operating a training facility. These very same excuses were used to justify the exact same amount of space contained in the recently built Condor Public Services building completed in the fall of 2019. Upon completion of the Leslieville facility there would be 12,000 sq. ft. of staff space within 11 km. of each other.


Aside from the unnecessary cost of building the facility there are concerns about the future cost of maintenance, regular cleaning, utility costs, and the absolute lack of concrete information about the phantom training provider. For over a year now it has been mentioned by county staff that a third party is interesting in developing a training operation but there has NEVER been any name mentioned, plans given about their intentions, or facts provided of potential income to be realized from the extra space built, now in two places, to accommodate these ideas. It is noteworthy to mention that at Council’s January Strategic Planning Meeting Councillor Swanson made a motion that Council postpone RFP’s until, among other things, the receipt of a report on the estimated training revenues. No information has been received to date but the motion to proceed with RFP’s was still passed yesterday.


Prior to the motion on staff spacing, a motion by Councillor Swanson passed 6 – 1 that Council approve plans for a 3 bay apparatus area. There had been significant discussion re a 5 bay facility vs. a 3 bay one. In the discussion, staff, and certain council members, continued to promote the larger facility, noting the economy of building for the future. In contrast, after questioning the size of equipment to be stored and the size of the bays, Councillor Laing pointed out that in reality only 2 bays are actually needed.


There has been significant concern expressed by county taxpayers over the unnecessary over-build and extra costs, especially in light of the current economic situations. In support of their concerns, the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association promoted a public engagement meeting in March, made a presentation to Council at their March 24th meeting, and most recently wrote a letter that was sent to Council just prior to this last council meeting. Unfortunately it seems their concerns were largely ignored as indicated by the comments and decisions made yesterday.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Marianne Cole,

President Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association 

RR #1 Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 2A1 June 7, 2020.


Clearwater County Council

Box 550 Rocky Mtn. House,

AB T4T 1A4 



Dear Councillors:

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association, as well as other county residents, with continuing distinct concerns related to plans for, and cost of, the proposed Leslieville Public Service Building. 



First of all, we were certainly pleased to note in the Agenda Package that information was provided for both a 5 bay and a 3 bay facility. We trust that perhaps this is indicative that there may be consideration of a smaller building. There are, however, still some definite concerns.



1. At the top of page 3 of this agenda item (or page 18 of the agenda package) it refers to Ledcor’s figures and states, “Their proposal consists of a 16,000 sq. ft. pre-engineered steel building…” In addition, on page 1 of the agenda item report, county staff have written, “The scope of the building consists of 3 apparatus bays and 2 optional storage bays (10,000 square feet). The two story administrative area includes… 6,000 square feet.” Together this matches the 16,000 total building space on page 3.


In the chart provided, the revised estimate suggests that the building cost would be $2,900,000. For 16,000 square feet that would calculate to $181.25 per square foot. 


 2. Further down in the chart where it states, “Delete 2 bays” there is a deduction total of $351,750. There is a question about that amount.

5 bays of storage in 10,000 square feet would suggest an average of 2,000 sq. ft. per bay. At a cost of $181.25 per sq. ft., deleting 2 bays, or 4,000 sq. ft., would calculate a saving of $725,000 not $351, 750. One might wonder how that smaller total was calculated. 


3. Nowhere has there EVER been any suggestion of, or calculation provided, for reducing the staff/administration space. I draw your attention to the attached charts from a British Columbia government site and which I used to provide the information in our Beacon. Reviewing the starred figures, and then adding on space for a laundry room (120 sq.ft.), overnight accommodation (120 sq. ft.) and storage space (200 sq. ft.) the total amount of space for 20 staff would be 1,487sq. ft.. What is currently planned is FOUR TIMES THAT TOTAL…. For 11 volunteer fire fighters not 20. (Note: The research figures would also have been for full time staff, not periodic users.)


If the staff area were reduced by 4500 sq. ft. to the suggested 1500 sq. ft. there would be an additional savings of $815,625. (4500 x $181.25). Together, reducing to 3 bays and 1500sq. ft. of staff space would save $1,540,625 or 33% of the revised total of $4,671,250. Who would ignore a saving of 33% at any time, let alone in today’s economy???? Moreover, county taxpayers should not be paying for unnecessary, over-built, under-utilized space.


These figures deal just with the construction costs. It is noteworthy to anticipate that finishing, furnishing, and future maintenance costs could also be lower in a smaller facility…further justification for reconsidering current plans.


We can appreciate that pausing to re-evaluate the plans will delay construction, but feel the cost saving benefits out-weigh the delay concerns. One would hope that redoing the estimates could be accomplished within a month. Delaying construction for a short time now would certainly be advantageous in consideration of the financial gains. Who among you would not wait a month in order to save 33% on a purchase?? 


Furthermore, in light of the Covid19 situation and the very, very uncertain economic impact it may have on everyone, it is even more crucial that Council be extremely cautious with their decisions. Future financial burdens brought on by various unknown tax increases federally or provincially must not be augmented by unnecessary municipal spending. While we are aware that a certain amount of the funding for this project is coming from reserves, we are also aware that money may be moved from one reserve category if needed elsewhere. Who knows what the need may be in the future?? We need to use our reserves wisely.


Finally, on behalf of all Clearwater County taxpayers, we strongly urge Council to pause, re-evaluate, and proceed with the ultimate of fiscal responsibility.


Yours truly,

Marianne Cole


According to the Agenda Package released on the County website on Wednesday, County Council will make a decision on the scope & cost of the proposed new Leslieville Fire Hall on Tuesday, June 9.


Current plans suggest either a 5 bay (10,000 sq. ft.) or 3 bay (6,000 sq. ft.) apparatus storage area with an additional 6,000 sq. ft. staff area. Cost of building a 16,000 sq. ft. facility is $2,900,000 or $181.25 per sq. ft.


County staff has noted that a 3 bay facility is sufficient. This would provide a saving of $725,000.


Research indicates that only 1500 sq. ft. of staff space is needed for 11-20 full time employees. There are currently 11 on-call volunteer fire fighters at Leslieville. NO NEED FOR 6,000 SQ. FT. OF STAFF SPACE. Cutting the unnecessary 4500 sq. ft. would save an additional $815, 625. (Note: The new facility at Condor already has 6,000 sq. ft. of staff space and the two groups meet there regularly to train. There is no need for the additional space at Leslieville.)




Fiscal responsibility is even more important now. There is no justification for over-spending on unnecessary, over-built, under-used space.


It is urgent that your voice be heard. Call, text or email your councillor: Jim Duncan--- (403)846-8254); Cammie Laird---(403)846-3760); Daryl Lougheed---(403)846-5817; John Vandermeer--- (403) 844-9286; Theresa Laing--- (403)895-3215; Tim Hoven---(403)846-5197; Michelle Swanson---(403)846-5824


JOIN THE SOS PROTEST--- Stop Over Spending