Fort McMurray First Nation prepares for return of members
June 1, 2016. Members of Fort McMurray First Nation are among the first group of residents to be allowed back into the Wood Buffalo region on June 1. Busses are leaving from Northland reception centre and Lac La Biche Bold Centre today at 10 a.m. and fuel is being provided for members who have their own transportation. Once back on the reserve, food and other essential items will be distributed. However, those returning are asked to bring two weeks’ worth of food and water. According to the band’s Facebook page, off-reserve accommodations will not continue after June 1. Elders or those with medical reasons for not returning have to make arrangements with the health director. In another Facebook post, Band Councillor Byron Bates wrote that crews – who have been on the reserve for the past two weeks - were working hard to clean out water tanks and turn on gas. “If water tank is not cleaned you will be on a boil water advisory until it is done,” wrote Bates.
Fort McMurray re-entry begins
June 1, 2016. Road blocks into Fort McMurray were lifted this morning at 8 a.m. Those residing in the Lower Townsite, Anzac, and Gregoire Lake Estates were allowed in. Scott Long, executive director operations with the Alberta Emergency Management Organization, says it’s hard to estimate how many people will be back on the first day, given that the return is voluntary and evacuees have spread out across the country. However, traffic on Highway 63 is expected to be substantial and RCMP presence along Highways 63 and 881 will be increased. The Red Cross is prepared to bus as many as 2,000 residents who don’t have their own vehicles to the city, but only 150 people had registered by mid-Tuesday. The RCMP will continue to have a large presence in Fort McMurray with over 300 members patrolling. “The RCMP’s main priority in assisting with the staged re-entry of Fort McMurray residents is to ensure that everyone gets home safely,” said Superintendent and Officer-in-Charge of the Wood Buffalo RCMP Rob McCloy. The Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray) RCMP detachment is fully operational. Areas deemed unsafe in Fort McMurray – including the neighbourhoods of Waterways, Beacon Hill and Abasand - will be fenced off to prevent public access and the number of police patrols in the area will be increased to ensure public safety.
Fildebrandt suspension lifted
May 31, 2016. The Wildrose caucus lifted the suspension of MLA Derek Fildebrandt on Tuesday. Fildebrandt was suspended last Friday after what leader Brian Jean referred to as an “unacceptable comment” on social media. On Monday, Jean said steps had been put in place to allow Fildebrandt to return to the caucus. Fildebrandt agreed to a plan to better handle and control social media, including hiring a social media manager to handle public interactions. Fildebrandt’s suspension also followed public criticism the Wildrose Opposition received for heckling visiting Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, when she was introduced in the Legislature on Friday, and what was viewed as a “disrespectful tone” during question period, led by Fildebrandt. Opposition house leader Nathan Cooper said Friday his party shouldn’t have raised the questions with Wynne present as a guest.
New MGA carves new avenue for affordable housing
May 31, 2016. The Modernized Municipal Government Act introduced Tuesday in the Legislature will give municipalities the option to reserve a portion of a new development for affordable housing. Right now, there are more than 30,000 Albertans on wait lists for government-supported affordable housing units or programs. Inclusionary housing is used across North America to increase affordable housing and promote diverse, inclusive communities. “Inclusionary zoning is one of the important tools contained in the MGA that will help municipalities to tackle complex issues such as affordable housing,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in a government news release. The Modernized Municipal Government Act is a culmination of nearly four years of comprehensive review and consultation with municipalities, local citizens and businesses, community organizations, the oil and gas sector, builders and developers, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties. The MMGA focuses on regional and municipal partnerships to deliver services more cost-effectively. Wildrose Shadow Municipal Affairs Minister Pat Stier said his party will be “carefully reviewing this extensive legislation that will have a direct impact on the communities in which we live and work.” The MMGA will go to the public for feedback.