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What a year - A lookback on top news of 2022 in Lac La Biche County

From "Lac La Rich" comments about municipal budget to world and provincial champs, it was a year of highlights

A look-back through the pages of the 2022 newspaper highlights several standout topics  — some that will continue into 2023.

TOP NEWS story of 2022: Main Street Street-scape project.

Initially budgeted early in 2022 at $16 million, the project will replace aging underground utility infrastructure along Lac La Biche's Main Street, as well as upgrades to sidewalks, curbs and decorative features, including speed-reducing roadway bulbouts. The scope of the project was approved in 2021 by the previous council, and faced several revisions and discussions by the current council before construction bid packages were sent out in late 2022. When the tenders were opened, the lowest bid price was more than $10 million over the projected budget. The highest bid price was more than double the budget price. 

As 2022 wound down, municipal officials had re-tendered the project, and added an additional $11 million in funding to the project. When tenders were again opened on the renewed project in December — just prior to Lac La Biche County councillors finalizing their overall municipal budget for 2023 — the low bids were around $27 million.  

Despite some outcries from several council members about eventual costs reaching upwards of $34 million, the project's long-term funding was factored into the 2023 budget. Going into 2023, actual work schedules and timelines for the Main Street project have still not been set, with administrators expecting to make an announcement on the selected construction bid in late January.

TOP SPORTS story for 2022: Ecole Plamondon Volleyball champs

The top sports news for the community was from the volleyball courts, where the Ecole Plamondon Hawks first won Wow Pow, then Zones, then Provincials. The Ecole Plamondon Hawks senior boys' team are the 2022-23 Provincial 1A Alberta Schools Athletic Association Champions. Earning the title in late November after a season of wins. The Hawks girls team battled to the gold-medal match at the same provincial level. Both teams are also the 1A Zone Champs, and the boys team is also the 2022 Wow Pow volleyball champ, defeating the host team JAWS Sharks at the 50-year anniversary of the regional volleyball showcase in early November. On the girls' side of the Wow Pow event, the Hawks took silver, losing to the powerhouse Ecole Notre Dame squad from Bonnyville. The school and Plamondon community hosted a pep rally for both Hawks teams in late November.

Other newspaper headline grabbers from 2022 ...

• COVID-19 pandemic measures were still in place early in 2022, downgrading or postponing several community events, including the annual Library-Con hosted by the Stuary MacPherson Public Library, the annual Rob McCormick Memorial Kinsmen On the Pond Hockey Tournament and a multitude of school-based and community events. Lac La Biche County Mayor Paul Reutov was pleased to hear the province begin a three-phase plan to reduce and remove COVID-19 restrictions starting in February. Reutov, who chose not to wear a mask for most of his public events and meetings during the pandemic, said in February: "It's not what it was a year ago, we have learned a lot. Science has caught up to it. I believe that we would be doing ore damage if we continue with these extreme measures."

• Shelter insecurity issues continue for many in Lac La Biche County.

The one-year lease on land used for a temporary homeless camp in the Bonesville subdivision expired in July of 2022, but was extended until a more permanent solution could be found. That solution, however, proved to be tricky. The Bonesville location has several garden sheds equipped with power that serve as shelters for a growing number of community residents who identify as homeless. The site is administered by the local Metis Nation of Alberta office. Through the summer months and into the fall and winter, municipal and Metis officials worked to build a new treatment and assistance facility. After months of discussions, a site located near the Alexander Hamilton community park was selected. The site was cleared and prepared to house a new facility. But late in the year, the project was sidelined due to community concerns and questions about the process of the development. 

While that debate continues into the new year, and to create more emergency space for the area's homeless during the cold winter months, the old Lac La Biche Curling Rink building on Main Street has been converted into a temporary homeless shelter. Discussions on the homeless issue— and where a new facility will be built — are ongoing.


• First-term MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Laila Goodridge said her vote in the secret ballot that saw 60 per cent of Canada's Conservative Party MPs vote out party leader Erin O'toole was just that — a secret.

"I cast my ballot after consulting with Conservatives across our region," she said of the February 22 party vote. "It was a secret ballot, so I will be keeping it secret."

• The Obstetrics Department at Lac La Biche's W. J. Cadzow Hospital had its first of many rotating closures in February of 2022. The ward was closed for most of the year due to a lack of surgical staff, explained Alberta Health Services officials.


• Surprising few, returning political figure Brian Jean won the March 15 provincial by-election to replace Laila Goodridge as the MLA for the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche constituency. 

Jean went on to campaign in the provincial leadership race to replace outgoing Premier Jason Kenney. The October leadership vote left Jean in third place and crowned Danielle Smith as the new Premier. Jean was given a cabinet position in Smith's caucus, as the minister responsible for economic development and jobs.

• The discovery of a body in a Lac La Biche home led to vigils and protests across the community. Tytiana Janvier's family, friends and others called for justice in the 21-year-old's death. RCMP have yet to release a formal cause of death, but have stated they believe it was not suspicious in nature. Family members and police did say the death was likely connected to drug use. In July, police charged a local man with causing indignity to a body. That case will begin in the St. Paul Court of King's Bench with an arraignment hearing this month.


• Lac La Biche Mission Historical Society officials were still awaiting word on a funding request to explore the site for information on the possibility of un-documented burials at the site which is a former Indian Residential School. While the cemetery next to the site does have an area identified as a "mass grave," more details about the burial history at the Mission requires funding, noted then society president George L'Heureux. It is believed that funding of up to $75,000 was available for investigative studies at the site.


• Lac La Biche County was the host community of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards. The awards event spanned two full days and recognized emerging artists and distinguished artists from across the province. The event featured a gala reception and opportunities to see and learn from the province's best poets, painters, musicians, writers, singers and actors. 

• The new Lac La Biche County Protective Services Building on Beaver Hill Road had an official opening on June 14. The building is the new headquarters for County peace officers and the Lac La Biche Fire and Rescue Services. The building, a former car dealership that went into receivership in 2018, was purchased by the municipality in 2019 for $4.1 million. Approximately $2.5 million more was needed to retro-fit the 25,000 square foot building to suit its new needs.

• With a price tag of $27 million — with almost three-quarters coming from provincial and federal grants — the proposed Lac La Biche County Aquatic Centre plans are well underway. The new facility, attached to the Bold Center, is expected to be open in the fall of 2025.

• Summer Days took over the Lac La Biche hamlet for the Heritage Day long-weekend. Midway rides, family events and the Friday parade all combined for the annual community celebration. The 2022 Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Jim Piquette and the Senior Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Annette Plamondon.


• It was bitter news for coffee lovers and local economic development in mid September, when municipal officials confirmed a Lac La Biche POST newsroom story that the proposed Tim Horton's franchise would not be coming to the Lac La Biche hamlet as planned. Due to "higher than expected costs," the developer informed municipal officials in September the project would be delayed indefinitely. Upgrades to an intersection near the proposed site, adjacent to the Fat Unicorn restaurant on Beaver Hill Road, were made in anticipation of future growth in the area. The intersection upgrades, including new traffic lights and underground power, cost taxpayers approximately $1.4 million. There was no time-frame given on when — or if — the developer would begin work.

• The Terry Fox Run and a fundraiser at Plamondon's Ecole Beausejour helped to raise awareness and thousands of dollars for cancer research in September. The annual run drew dozens of participants in Lac La Biche, and a special fundraiser to help Kids with Cancer and a school student, received donations totalling more than $2,000.


• Samantha Onciul was named the 2022 Junior Citizen of the Year at the annual Light Up the Night event in Lac La Biche.

• The annual Festival of Trees weekend sold all 60,000 raffle tickets, helping to generate tens of thousands of dollars for Lac La Biche and region organizations. The event has helped to raise more than a quarter million dollars in its 14 year history.


• The Lac La Biche Youth Assessment Centre (YAC) closed its doors in December as the Province prepares for a two-year construction project that will put an $8 million facelift onto the 40-year-old building. Clients of the centre — teens requiring court-ordered monitoring and care — will be directed to other centres, including group homes in the area. Staff at the centre, say provincial officials, have been seconded into other government departments until the project is completed in 2025.

• The Metis Nation of Alberta announced that 96.9 per cent of the 15,241 votes cast in a month-long campaign to bring in a new Metis Government Constitution, were in favour of the new docuent. The MNA has about 50,000 members in the province. Only MNA members could vote on the Constitution question. According to Statistics Canada, there are more than 135,000 Albertans who identify as being Metis. The new MNA Constitution is said to be a stepping stone towards more autonomy for MNA members and better governance through the association.

• Lac La Biche County council members and the mayor created some community discussions during their budget discussions at the end of the year.  From not approving cost of living increases for staff, to suggesting mileage and expense claim increases, to calling services "Cadillac" levels, and finishing the year with discussions over a new intersection near the mayor's private business development, council news continued to be a well-read topic.


• Lac La Biche curler Barry Chwedoruk was again part of the best senior men's curling team in the world, returning to Canada from the  World Senior Men's Championships in Geneva in April with a gold medal. Chwedoruk, who plays third on the Wade White rink said the team — compriesed of curlers from St. Albert, Edmonton and Lac La Biche — was honoured to represent the country. The same team, who curl under the banner of the Lac La Biche and District Curling Club, won the world title in 2018 and were the national champions in 2021 and 2017. Their latest world championship banner hangs in the Lac La Biche curling rink in the Bold Center.

• The entrance of 2022 marked the sudden exit of the Lac La Biche Junior B Clippers from the Northeast Alberta Junior B Hockey League. The team's departure officially took effect on the first day of 2022 after a New Year's Eve decision to fold the team. Citing a low team roster and a continuing reliance on just a small core of supporters, team officials said they would be taking a "leave of absence" from the remainder of the 2022 season to re-evaluate. With the start of the 2022-23 season in November of '22, the Clippers had still not returned to the league.

• Izzy and the Rockets — Lac La Biche's Ismail Abougouche went from training camp invitee to team member of the Kelowna Rockets in a whirlwind rush in 2022. The 15-year old was invited to the mid-year training camp of the Western Hockey League team, where he impressed coaches and scouts, signing a contract with the team in November.  The young, left-handed defenceman played in Lac La Biche Minor Hockey league before joining double and triple-A teams in Fort Saskatchewan prior to being scooped by the Rockets. Team stats for his rookie WHL season to the end of 2022 show Izzy with five points and 39 penalty minutes in his first 31 games. Izzy and the Rockets are slated to play the Edmonton Oil Kings in Edmonton on February 24.

• The Lakeland Archers hosted the 2022 Canadian Indoor 3D Archery Championships from April 15-17. The event lead to the announcement later in the year that the Lac La Biche archery club will once again host a world championship event in 2024. The World Outdoor Field Championships will take over the Herb Erickson archery fields in late September of that year.

• The scorekeepers' box at the Bold Center Performance Arena was officially dedicated to the late Mark Froehler during a special ceremony to start to eh January 14 Portage College Voyageurs hockey game against the NAIT Ooks. Froehler was a long-standing community volunteer and local hockey supporter who passed away in July of 2021.

• Members of the KABZ Martial Arts club in Lac La Biche came home with nine medals from the 2022 Alberta Jiu-jitsu Provincial Open in Calgary over the January 22 weekend. The medals, four golds, four silvers and a bronze were split among adult and child competitors in the local club.

• The tradition continues for the Lac La Biche Boxing Club, with three fighters bringing home medals from the April 23 Golden Gloves provincial championships in Edmonton. Coached by veteran corner-man Ken Scullion and co-coach Jeremy Trimble, fighters Joey Reed and Maria Laboucane earned silver medals and Zander Lavallee came home with gold. 

• Combined Lac La Biche and Bonnyville junior soccer teams took gold at the annual Lakeland Cup in June. The combined U15 boys, the combined U13 boys and the combined U15 girls' teams all won gold at the district championships in Cold Lake.

• The Lac La Biche Golf Club championships were held in August. The 2022 junior champ is Harvee Valente, the women's champ is Marianne Polzin, the men's champ is Jamie Schel and the senior men's champ is Sammy Abougouche.

• From August 19-21, the annual Kikino Silver Birch Rodeo and Celebration Days kicked up the fun. The rodeo, like many other big community events, was back after a two-year absence due to COVID-19 restrictions.

• Lac La Biche boxer Muhammad 'Hummy' Moghrabi competed in — and won — his first professional bout on October 30 in Toronto. The 27-year old, light-heavyweight beat Mexican fighter Ruben Mejia in a unanimous decision. Moghrabi won his second fight on December 17 in Mexico, taking just two rounds to beat his opponent with a technical knockout. 

• District Champs — The Aurora Middle School boys volleyball squad brought home the gold at the Lakeland Schools Athletic Association Districts in November.


Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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