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Looking Back: A review of Bonnyville's first half of 2021

In the first half of 2021, Bonnyville and area residents responded to public health measures, hooked up to the new water line and said farewell to several long-serving public servants

BONNYVILLE/COLD LAKE - The following is an overview of the many events and issues that took place in 2021 from January to June. See next week's edition of Lakeland This Week for July to December highlights.

January

At the beginning of 2021, MLA Dave Hanson called out members of his party who travelled to tropical destinations during last year's winter break despite the government discouraging unnecessary international travel to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

“I can’t defend the action of staff, I can’t defend the actions of the minister and I can’t defend the actions of some of my fellow MLAs. Errors like that in politics come with a price,” said Hanson, relaying his own feelings and those of his constituents after six MLAs and three senior bureaucrats travelled outside the country. 

The following week, City of Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, who later won his seat in the 2021 municipal election through acclamation, also faced some public scrutiny for travelling to Florida for 18 days to help his father relocate.  

In an interview last year with Lakeland This Week, Copeland said the trip was a family duty and not a holiday. 

A COVID outbreak took a hold of the Extendicare Bonnyville. On Jan. 28, Lakeland This Week reported on a devastating COVID-19 outbreak at the Extendicare Bonnyville facility. At the time, one resident had died and there were 23 active cases of COVID-19 among its residents. One resident had been hospitalized. At the onset of the outbreak 13 staff members tested positive and were required to self-isolate. By Feb. 19, seven deaths were connected to the outbreak.

Jennie’s Diner and Bakery was among several restaurants across the province that defied provincial restrictions by opening their dining area to patrons on Jan. 27. At the time, public health restriction only allowed for take-out services, and no indoor dining was permitted.  

February 

After a historic agreement was struck between the Cold Lake Regional Utility Service Commission and the Bonnyville Regional Water Commission, Cold Lake water began running through the lines and faucets in Bonnyville homes. 

The Bonnyville SPCA took in three abandoned puppies that were later determined to have Parvovirus, a highly contagious and aggressive viral disease of the stomach and small intestine. The puppies were treated and given a second chance at life.  

Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) announce an investigation in the circumstances around the discharging of a Cold Lake RCMP member’s weapon that occurred when police were dispatched to a break and enter in progress at a rural property near Ardmore. No one was injured during the confrontation between police and the two suspects. A Bonnyville-area man faced several charges in relation to the incident, a female arrested at the scene was released without any charges. The investigation remains ongoing.

Results of a Regional Economic Development Committee survey found that Bonnyville residents believe the area’s lakes, sense of community and natural assets are Bonnyville and area’s greatest strengths. During the MD of Bonnyville’s last council meeting of 2021, held on the Dec. 22, council decided to reject the committee’s Regional Economic Development Brand design in a closed session. It is possible that information from the survey may have been incorporated in the brand design, which was axed during the in-camera session. 

The City of Cold Lake council approved a budget for a security pilot program to address crime in commercial areas after consulting with downtown businesses and the Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. A need for increased security patrols was voiced after businesses reported an increased number of aggressive panhandlings, threats, theft and squatting in the area.  

 A new registry office opened on Feb. 3 in the Town of Bonnyville. This came after the town’s previous registry permanently closed almost a year prior. The lack of a registry was a great point of concern for the Town’s council. 

Craig Wenzel, a firefighter with a decade of volunteer firefighting under his belt, officially stepped into the role of Station 5 fire chief after members of his station nominated him for the position. Wenzel took over for Darryl Shyian who retired in 2019. 

The MD and Town of Bonnyville came together to offer a relief fund for small and medium-sized businesses as well as provincially registered non-governmental organizations totaling $60,000. Businesses that qualified could use the funds to create websites for online ordering, purchasing PPE or anything necessary to reduce the impact of the pandemic. 

With several events canceled due to the pandemic, the Age Friendly Cold Lake Society hosted the inaugural Cold Lake Ice Fishing Tournament during the Family Day long weekend, Feb. 12-14. The event was a fundraiser for Men’s Shed, a local organization that provides space for men to socialize and work on projects such as wood working. 

The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs announced they would return to the ice on March 12, for the remainder of the 2020/21 season. The AJHL season had been put on hold on Nov. 24, 2019, due to public health restrictions related to the pandemic. Over 100 days would pass before the team would get to lace up their skates again. 

March  

On March 7, roughly 80 people took part in a ‘Enough is enough’ rally outside Bonnyville’s Provincial Building to protest the province’s public health measures. The event’s organizer, DJ Benita Pedersen was issued a $1,200 ticket from the Bonnyville RCMP for breaching 73 (1) of the provincial Public Health Act in relation to holding a mass gathering. 

MD of Bonnyville Coun. Dana Swigart was found to have breached the municipality’s code of conduct in early March. Swigart had all of his committee appointments revoked and was directed to refrain from speaking to any MD employees, other than the CAO about municipal business. In October, Swigart was reelected to his seat on council and at the first meeting of the newly elected council, members voted to remove the sanctions that had been placed against him.  

Bail was denied for two Glendon men, Anthony and Roger Bilodeau, who stand accused of second-degree murder in relation to the deaths of Jacob Sansom and Morris Cardinal. A trial by judge and jury was scheduled to begin in the fall but has been rescheduled to May of 2022.  

Superintendent for Lakeland Catholic School Division, Joe Arruda announced his retirement. Arruda filled the position for eight years. LCSD’s Deputy Superintendent Pamela Guilbault was later selected to take on the role as superintendent.  

April 

Luc Mercier, the former chief administrative officer (CAO) for the MD of Bonnyville announced his departure after two years of service to the municipality. April 1st was Mercier’s last day with the MD. The municipality’s current CAO, Al Hoggan, was hired to fill the role beginning May 3.  

Ongoing construction of Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS) modernization project delayed the return of BCHS classes to the school. Students and staff finished the remainder of the 2020/21 academic year at the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre.  

Local Business Wheel Fit Co., which had locations in Bonnyville, Cold Lake and St. Paul, reopened its facilities despite the province’s public health restrictions that had mandated the third round of lockdown measures. 

The MD announced the Kinosoo Ridge Adventure Park’s first delay. The park was intended to be open as of the May-long weekend but was reportedly delayed until July 1, 2021. The Kinosoo park is still not complete. It is now anticipated to be open in the spring of 2022. 

May  

Former Town of Bonnyville councillor, Ray Prevost, announced he would not seek re-election in October. Prevost served the town for 24 years after being elected for the first time in 1983. He was 76 years old when he retired from local politics. 

The Improvement District 349, now known as Ward 6 North, became a part of the MD of Bonnyville after the province officially agreed to annex the land. The MD acts as an administrator for the Ward and is responsible for distributing the tax revenues collected from the Ward to the City of Cold Lake, Village of Glendon and the Town of Bonnyville. 

MLA Hanson supported a letter written by MLA Todd Loewan requesting that Premier Jason Kenney resign citing persistent issues of dysfunction within the government. Hanson told Lakeland This Week that Kenney needs to start listening to rural Albertans and the MLAs who have been elected to represent them. 

On May 15, fire crews from Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority, Cold Lake First Nations, Cold Lake Fire Rescue and Agriculture and Forestry managed to contain and extinguish an out-of-control grass fire that claimed between 80 to 100 acres of land. The fire was first spotted across from Casino Dene located on Highway 28.  

Bonnyville Health Centre’s first floor acute care team was named the recipients of the Covenant Health 2021 Mission Award for Compassion. The team was provincially recognized for the heart and soul they put into their work along with the compassion they provide for their patients.  

June 

On June 4, Kehewin Cree Nation organized a ceremony to honour residential school victims and survivors after news broke that 215 unmarked graves held the remains of Indigenous children who attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Several similar ceremonies and vigils were held across the Lakeland to honour the victims of residential schools. 

 A large search party of civilians and authorities searched for 17-year-old Aaron Thir who was swept away in the Beaver River while fishing with his brother on June 5. The 17-year-old's body was recovered four days later on June 9 – it was an immense loss for the community.  

Former Town of Bonnyville councillor, Rene Van Brabant, announced his name would not appear on the municipal ballot in the fall. He had served since 1998. 

On June 20, a suspect died following a confrontation with Cold Lake RCMP. Police had been dispatched to a dispute taking place in a vehicle in the Ardmore area. RCMP had used a police dog to track the male suspect who had allegedly fled on foot. The male sustained life-threatening injuries resulting in his death and a police dog was injured. ASIRT opened an investigation into the incident and it remains ongoing. 

The Cold Lake Motocross Association renamed its track to honour Mason Watt, a St. Paul rider who passed away last year after suffering a traumatic brain injury at a motocross event in Two Hills. The track is now the Mason Watt Memorial Raceway. 

Northern Lights Public School Division celebrated the completion of the Bonnyville Centralized High School modernization, and a grand opening was set for the fall.  

A 30-year-old Cold Lake man was charged with murder for the fatal stabbing of a 58-year-old woman in June.  

Bonnyville-native and UFC heavyweight, Tanner Boser, won his match against Ovince Saint Preux in Las Vegas by a knockout during a UFC Fight Night card on June 26. Prior to the fight, Boser was re-signed by the UFC. Although his subsequent matches were put on hold for the rest of 2021 due to COVID-19 and on-going travel restrictions between Canada and the US. 

See next week’s edition of Lakeland This Week for a look back on the last half of 2021. 



Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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