Advocacy Efforts

Dialogue that drives regional progress

At every opportunity, MD Council engages provincial and federal decision-makers, industry leaders, fellow municipal leaders, and other stakeholders in discussions focused on tackling key regional issues. These activities underscore Council concerns about how the Province is handling particular issues; and advocate for solutions to these issues.

KEY COUNCIL PRIORITIES
RMA Convention

MD attends the
RMA 2022 FALL CONVENTION

MD Council and senior administrators attended the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Fall Convention in early November 2022 at the Edmonton Convention Centre.

This event gave the MD delegation direct access to provincial and federal decision-makers, industry representatives, fellow municipal leaders, and other stakeholders.

Economic Development Opportunities and Threats

Industry is thriving in the MD, and our region’s untapped sustainable economic development potential sets us apart from most rural municipalities.

Background Details

The MD of lesser Slave River is uniquely positioned as a resource-rich, industry-friendly region with the capacity to support new businesses, foster growth, and incentivize diversification. Our municipality is home to North America’s most productive and lucrative heavy oil play. Our forestry industry taps into one of the most extensive tight-grain lumber reserves in the western hemisphere. We provide fertile ground for new sectors and strategic alliances to take root, like the recent $35 million Expander Energy biomass plant.

The MD’s robust industrial sector provides cascading benefits to the respective producers; the local workforce; area businesses; and the region in general. As a recipient of hundreds of millions in royalties and stumpage fees each year, the Government of Alberta is also a beneficiary of this industrial output.

Industry is thriving in the MD, and our region’s untapped economic development potential sets us apart from most rural municipalities. However, to capitalize on this potential we must take meaningful strides with our provincial counterparts to remedy our physical and social infrastructure deficiencies.

Crumbling roads and inadequate transportation infrastructure — including a major bridge at risk of failure — hobble existing operations, and all but eliminate the MD’s ability to court new industry or development. These deficiencies increase the cost of transportation; throttle access to production inputs; limit access to markets; and shrink the available local labour pool.

The flaws in our healthcare infrastructure are less visible than roads and bridges — but equally impactful to the state of the MD. We have emerged from the global pandemic with critical fatigue among our health care professionals. Some are retiring; others are saying ‘enough is enough’ and leaving the industry altogether. Direct outcomes here in the MD range from twelve-hour waits in the emergency ward, to residents avoiding medical care altogether. From a higher social perspective: we are living longer, yet our health care professionals are dwindling. This predicament is not unique to Lesser Slave River. Like COVID itself, it is endemic to the entire province. A fundamental shift is needed in how we attract, train, retain and support our medical professionals.

Each day that our requests for infrastructure support are delayed, postponed, or outright ignored represents another squandered opportunity to market the Lesser Slave River region to prospective businesses, developers, new community members, or seasonal visitors.

Main Concerns Raised by Council

  • Transportation infrastructure is heavily utilized by industry, and it is nearing the point of failure at critical junctures
  • The approach to health care in rural Alberta needs an overhaul
  • Failure to address the region’s infrastructure decay will lead to productivity decline, squandered opportunities, and capped economic development potential

The issue: The Province must recognize present and emerging economic barriers and act expediently to implement a multi-faceted action plan to support and expand our region’s rapidly evolving economy.

Health Care Personnel Shortages

Establishing a framework for the recruitment, retention and support of trained medical professionals is a primary concern of Council.

Like most of rural Alberta, health care service levels continue to erode in the Lesser Slave River region due to a shortage of skilled medical personnel.

Background Details

Health care service level challenges directly impact the daily lives of our citizens, and secondarily compromise the MD’s ability to position the region as a destination of choice for industry, skilled labour, and other target demographics. As municipal leaders who have weathered significant crises and borne witness to their social aftershocks, we are confident that inaction on addressing fundamental flaws in our rural health care infrastructure will result in unforeseen economic, social, and quality-of-life ripple effects for many years to come.

We have emerged from a global pandemic with chronic cultural fatigue within our health care system. Some practitioners are retiring; others are saying ‘enough is enough’ and leaving the industry altogether, having been overworked and under supported during the two gruelling years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many bright young minds avoid the profession altogether due to training barriers, licensing thresholds, and an anecdotal perception of what it’s like ‘on the inside.’

COVID-19 cannot be the sole scapegoat for the state of health care in rural Alberta. Medical and nursing professionals (registered nurses / licensed practical nurses / nurse practitioners) continue to be difficult to recruit. This leaves facilities perpetually short-staffed, which in turn places pressure on the remaining medical staff, resulting in lengthy treatment delays and postponements. Direct outcomes here in the MD range from waits of up to twelve hours in the emergency ward, to residents avoiding medical care altogether.

Establishing a framework for the recruitment, retention, and support of trained medical professionals continues to be a primary concern for MD Council. Health care training, licensing, and funding mechanisms must evolve or be completely reworked in order to support proper health care delivery in rural Alberta.

Main Concerns Raised by Council

  • The shortage of skilled health care personnel poses a considerable and ongoing challenge in the Lesser Slave River region.
  • The Province needs to revisit its approach to health care, and redouble its resolve to implement sensible policies, programs and mechanisms.
  • MD Council would like a status update on the questions and concerns expressed during the summer 2022 Provincial Health Tour; specifically:
    • Did the Provincial Health Tour sessions result in any action plans?
    • What, if any, progress has been made to address medical personnel shortages
      in the Lesser Slave River region?
    • What, if any, plans are in place to address medical personnel shortages in the MD?
    • What is being done to retain existing health care personnel?
    • Is there a plan in place to recruit more health care personnel?
    • Does the Province monitor the percentage of Alberta-trained health care professionals that choose to stay and continue working in Alberta?

Key issues: Like most of rural Alberta, health care service levels continue to decline in the Lesser Slave River region. These service level challenges directly impact the daily lives of our citizens, and secondarily compromise the MD’s ability to position the region as a destination of choice for industry, skilled labour, and other target demographics.

MD Council urges the Government of Alberta to review and rework most aspects of health care, including the recruitment and retention of health care professionals in smaller centers and rural communities such as ours.

We seek further dialogue around the ideas tabled during the summer 2022 Provincial Health Tour, including rural internships; increased educational opportunities; less stringent GPA requirements; a simplified physician licensing process; and an improved housing, onboarding, and support framework for new personnel. We also seek to know what progress has been made since the summer 2022 Provincial Health Tour to address critical medical personnel shortages in the MD.

Intersection Upgrades for Highway 2 & Bayer Road

Overlooked provincial road improvement obligation has resulted in a highly dangerous and occasionally fatal intersection.

Background Details

The intersection of Highway 2 and Bayer Road is located 3.75 kilometres west of the Town of Slave Lake. This is well-known by locals as a highly dangerous intersection due to the lack of a westbound left turning lane. According to the Alberta Transportation Traffic Counter (70000912) located nearest this intersection, this highway sees approximately 3800 AADT in each direction.

Bayer Road has 32 residences along it, and is located on the south side of Highway 2. The north side of the intersection is Sawridge Road, which has approximately 5 residences located nearby. Highway 2 is a regular commuter thoroughfare for residents of Kinuso, Assineau, Faust, Widewater Canyon Creek and Driftpile who travel to and from work in Slave Lake or the surrounding area.

Previously, the MD has reached out to Alberta Transportation to request that this intersection be widened to accommodate a turning lane, in addition to the installation of streetlights and signage improvements. Despite these requests, the position of Alberta Transportation was that traffic volumes did not warrant such improvements.

On average, emergency responders attend approximately 13 calls per year along this stretch of highway. That is more than one emergency call per month. Not all of these incidents happen at the Bayer Road intersection, but a good deal of them are accidents due to a vehicle turning left heading west and the driver behind them not seeing the vehicle or losing it in the sun. A turning lane would help increase safety and reduce accidents at this location.

Main Concerns Raised by Council

  • There is no left turning lane for traffic eaving the westbound lane of Highway 2 on
    to Bayer Road. There is also no deceleration lane or widening of the intersection that would allow traffic to flow safely.
  • There is no roadside illumination at the intersection, despite the majority of traffic occurring between 6:00am and 9:00am and 4:00pm and 7:00pm (dusk or darkness periods for the majority of the year).
  • There is limited signage to indicate that traffic may be slowing, turning or otherwise stopping on the highway.
  • Daily traffic count in 2021 was 3820 westbound and 3810 eastbound.
  • There is a high volume of loaded log trucks in the area, as well as other heavy trucking. This commercial traffic, coupled with high speeding rates in the area, increases the risk at this intersection.

The issue: The intersection of Highway 2 and Bayer Road is not an accident waiting to happen; it is accident prone. Traffic continues to increase, and if the present situation is not remedied, a major accident is an eventuality.

How can the MD and Alberta Transportation improve the safety of this intersection before that happens?

Marten Beach Flood Mitigation Plan

The MD is seeking provincial contribution toward Marten Beach flood abatement and prevention strategy.

Background Details

The Hamlet of Marten Beach has experienced increasing occurrences of overland flooding in recent years. These flooding events have damaged homes, temporarily displaced residents, and discouraged recreational use of this picturesque community on the northern shore of Lesser Slave Lake. Within the last three decades, Marten Beach has experienced two separate “hundred-year” rainfall events (in addition to three “twenty-year” rainfalls). These events have proven costly and traumatic to Marten Beach residents, and pose an ongoing risk to the municipality and Province.

MD Council, with the assistance of a specialized team of engineering, financial, environmental, and social analyst experts, has undertaken an extensive study on the Marten Beach area regarding flood risk mitigation strategies. This study resulted in five potential flood mitigation strategies. Upon review of the options presented, combined with consideration of community input and legacy studies, MD Council directed administration to evaluate Option 5C: narrowing the entire channel. A detailed cost-benefit analysis isolated Option 5C as returning the highest long-term net present value for both the Province and the MD.

In addition to evaluation of this risk management strategy, the MD has placed a moratorium on development in the area until Alberta Environment and Parks has provided the required flood mapping forecast criteria.

Prior to arriving at its decision, numerous options were considered, including buying out property owners; moving or raising houses; and installing berms and sheet piles.

All legacy studies conducted by both the Province and the MD were reviewed. In consideration of the recent studies and legacy data, the MD has developed a four-pronged approach to finally address the repeated flooding in a meaningful way. The four components are as follows:

Communication and engagement

  • Current website communication sub-site for updated progress status
  • Provision of pertinent information regarding resident preparedness and response
  • Provision of pertinent information regarding on site future development, upgrades, and maintenance guidelines
  • Ongoing status of engineering flood mitigation design and implementation concept design

Emergency preparedness plan

  • Establishing the responsibility of the resident
  • Establishing the responsibility of the MD
  • Establishing the responsibility of the Province
  • Determining critical points of implementation

Land Use Bylaw guidelines and amendments

  • Drafting of Municipal Development Plan and Land Use Bylaw document amendments as necessary to allow for safe future development practices within the various flooding zones
  • Creation of a flowchart for intuitive use and informational uptake by residents

Engineered flood mitigation design and implementation concept plan

  • Production of a preferred area flood mitigation concept plan for Council and resident endorsement
  • Strategies for funding the flood mitigation concept plan
  • Strategies for political engagement to obtain funding from available grant sources
  • Development of an implementation timetable

The Marten Beach area has been prone to flooding for many years, wherein a reactionary approach has historically been applied by way of critical incident response and post-flood recovery activities. A proactive approach, while comparatively expensive, will prove far less expensive in the long run.

The Marten Beach subdivision was approved when the MD of Lesser Slave River was still an improvement district; therefore it falls under provincial jurisdiction. It is not reasonable to expect the MD to shoulder the entire cost to fix an inherited problem.

The issue: The cost to mitigate the ongoing flood threat in Marten Beach is estimated at $10.6 million. Neither the MD nor Marten Beach homeowners have sufficient means to cover the entire mitigation project. Further, there are presently no applicable federal or provincial grant programs. MD Council requests that the Province bear its fair share of partial financial responsibility for the chosen flood mitigation strategy in Marten Beach.

It is not a matter of if Marten Beach will flood again; it is a matter of when. It only makes sense to take proactive measures to mitigate the risk rather than perpetually pay to clean up the mess each time flooding occurs.

Repairs to Highway 88 North of Slave Lake

Highway 88 is becoming increasingly unsafe, and there is no plan to improve it despite its status as a valuable piece of transportation infrastructure.

Background Details

Highway 88 runs north from the Town of Slave Lake toward Wabasca and Red Earth. The highway is an important corridor for the oil & gas and forestry sectors; facilitates the transport of goods and services to remote outlying regions; and provides recreational traffic access to Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park.

Currently, Highway 88 is in a state of severe disrepair. The highway experienced back-to-back major floods in 2018 and 2019 that led to major washouts. While these washouts have been repaired, numerous other sections are riddled with potholes, crumbling shoulders, and cracking and heaving of the asphalt.

These deficiencies further erode the safety of a road that is already very narrow with hardly any shoulder. 2021 traffic counts from Alberta Transportation state that Highway 88 sees approximately 2000 AADT in each direction. Traffic has substantially increased over the prior year due to the continued rapid expansion of the Clearwater Oilfield. The Province and the MD both stand to benefit from the Clearwater oil play; however, if access becomes diminished or difficult, then it will be a net loss for all involved.

The MD wrote to Minister of Transportation Ric McIver in 2021 requesting to know what the plan was for rehabilitation of this highway. The Minister's response was that there was no plan.

Data provided by local service providers states that emergency responders attend approximately 19 calls per year on this stretch of highway. That is an average
of almost two calls per month. The increase in large truck and heavy equipment traffic will only push this number upward — especially when combined with the present poor road conditions.

Main Concerns Raised by Council

  • Transportation infrastructure is heavily utilized by industry, and it is nearing the point of failure at critical junctures
  • The approach to health care in rural Alberta needs an overhaul
  • Failure to address the region’s infrastructure decay will lead to productivity decline, squandered opportunities, and capped economic development potential

The issue: The road is becoming increasingly unsafe, and there is no plan to improve it despite its status as a valuable piece of transportation infrastructure for industry, residents and visitors alike.

Smith Bridge Rebuild

The Smith Bridge is five years past its engineered life span. The time to rebuild is now, and we need the Province to prioritize the required funding.

Background Details

The Smith Bridge is located on the north side of the Hamlet of Smith crossing the Athabasca River. Built in 1944 and finished in 1945, the structure is approximately 228m long, 5.5m wide, and a vertical height of 4.7m. Historical issues include sloughing of the north abutment; erosion gullies on both abutments; and horizontal cross brace damage due to oversized load collisions. Recent inspections, including a 2021 scour survey, have found significant deterioration of pier 3. The current alignment makes this pier extremely susceptible to debris accumulations, requiring near-constant monitoring and periodic debris removal at the expense of the MD.

In early 2016, the Clearwater Oilfield was discovered in the Marten Hills area. Highway 2A via the Smith Bridge provides one of the easiest access points to Clearwater — currently the most productive and lucrative heavy oil play in North America. In addition to the MD’s robust oil & gas sector, there is a significant forestry industry thriving in the Lesser Slave River region. The Government of Alberta benefits from royalties and stumpage fees to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The Smith Bridge reached the end of its service life in 2022; however, in January of 2022 the Alberta Government extended its life to 2034. Estimated replacement costs for a two-lane open-top bridge, plus the required repairs to the alignment and north slope, range from $70 to $100 million. Provincial funding for this project would eliminate a major barrier to industrial expansion and continued economic stability in the region.

Main Concerns Raised by Council

  • This is a major bridge located on a road that services residents, tourists and the travelling public — but it is also heavily utilized by the oil & gas and forestry industries.
  • The narrow bridge deck width and restricted height due to the overhead structure
    prevent the bulk of industry vehicles and equipment from using the Smith Bridge to access their sites in the north of the MD.
  • The bridge’s outdated design also limits the size of agricultural equipment that can cross, which results in agricultural producers taking a 60km detour to access their properties.
  • The Smith Bridge requires $553,000 in repair work to remain operational for a mere five additional years. Until this repair work has been completed, engineers recommend reducing the bridge’s load rating by 15%.
  • If a provincial commitment to assist with the replacement of the bridge came today, it would still take four to five years before construction could be completed.
  • The Smith Bridge and Old Smith Highway combine to create an important emergency route. During the 2011 wildfire when Highway 2 was closed, this route was the sole reason many residents were able escape to safety.

Key issues: The Smith Bridge is a vital part of the MD’s transportation network, but it is past the end of its engineered service life. Council is hard-pressed to explain to constituents why it was deemed safe to postpone the bridge’s replacement date by a decade despite numerous engineers opposing such an extension.

It is incumbent upon the Province to finance the construction of a new bridge, as the Province is a primary long-term beneficiary of the industrial activities made possible by this infrastructure.

With the projected timeline of four to five years before a new bridge would come into service, the MD and the Province need to develop a meaningful strategy to replace this critical infrastructure now.

Featured Community Events

Calendar Christmas Farmer’s Market
Date 12.10.2022 10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Come visit us at the Kinuso Ag Hall from 10am to 3pm to enjoy fresh food/baking, as well as local crafts, artwork, beading and much more!

Free admission (food bank donations appreciated). Thousands of dollars in prizes to be given away. Must be in attendance to win.

Social Inclusion
12.30.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am

The Social Inclusion program is a safe place for adults and teens living with a disability or barrier to interact with others and get creative.

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