mixed messages

Sign posted as visitors enter Radium from Kootenay National Park.

The volume of tourists in the Windermere Valley over the Christmas holidays and continuing into January has been extraordinary and troubling. Extraordinary, because the resorts, ski hills and businesses are having a great season. Troubling, because there is a world wide pandemic and British Columbia, Alberta and the entire country have travel restrictions.

The vast majority of tourists who come here are from Alberta. They are second home owners and vacationers seeking the solitude and recreational opportunities this area offers.

The travel restrictions between provinces are only suggestions and can not be enforced. The Provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia warn against nonessential travel, however what is that exactly?

When the pandemic started I tried to keep my thoughts on how our family can stay safe separate from my feelings of people who refuse to adhere to the suggestions of our top doctors. I haven’t worried about what other people are doing. Lisa and I take calculated risks. We have continued to work throughout the pandemic. I work directly with tourists and I am very careful. I don’t always do the things I am asked by tourists if I feel I may be in harms way.

Lisa looks after her elderly parents. Like many their age they have health concerns and it’s essential they are kept safe.

This Christmas our grown children stayed in Calgary due to the travel restrictions. We talked via FaceTime but it was a very quiet Christmas.

All the while the valley was teeming with tourists. Overflowing a matter of fact.

Alberta has had difficulty controlling the Covid virus with about twice as many daily cases as British Columbia. Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenny, after ignoring the crisis for many months, implemented heavy restrictions. One of which was to not allow people from different households to gather in the same house. This was a good reason for many Albertans  to vacation in British Columbia where the restrictions are much more lax.

Our small town politicians and business leaders haven’t helped the situation. In short they have rolled out the welcome mat with little care for our elderly, medical staff and front line workers.

In the December 3rd edition of The Columbia Valley Pioneer, just as the second wave was starting, there were two articles of interest.

One was written by local physician, Gareth Mannheimer. Dr Mannheimer is Chief of Staff of Invermere District Hospital. He has been instrumental in keeping the area informed of the dangers of Covid.

In his article he warns the second wave is in the valley and spreading. His article is sobering.

The second article that caught my attention, was the lead article on Page 3, it was titled, Second Wave of Covid-19 Pandemic Looms Just as Winter Tourism Season Set to Begin, with the byline, Local Officials Urge Calm and Measure Approach, Highlight the Columbia Valley Made it Through Summer Tourist Season With Pandemic Going On.

Our Mayor and local businessman, Al Miller is quoted within the article, “There’s never been a better time to get out on the local ski hills or get out to the many other winter activities we have here. It will be good for your mental health, good for you physically, good for local business, good for keeping people at work, and good for community spirit and well-being.”

That’s a mouthful. And yes that’s our mayor and not the President of the Chamber of Commerce, although he held that position in the past. Perhaps he forgot what hat he was wearing.

Our Provincial MLA, Liberal, Doug Clovechok wasn’t much better. 

The article continues: Clovechok pointed out that the travel advisory is a just that — an advisory — and not part of the actual provincial order (which is enforceable by RCMP), and said it’s important that people remember “that just because your license plate is a different colour doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong,” alluding to Columbia Valley second homeowners who happen to be from Alberta (and have red licences plates instead of the blue ones associated with B.C.). “In the summer months, there was travel going on, but there were no major spikes in COVID-19 in B.C, and almost no cases in the Columbia Valley. That’s because people were following protocols…I strongly suggest we continue to do what we did this summer, continue to take it seriously, and follow the rules that will keep us safe,” said Clovechok. “If you protect yourself individually, we’ll be okay collectively.”

The only person quoted in the article who showed good sense was Radium Mayor Clara Reinhart who said, “We’ll work on the economy when we get through this. We need to focus, primarily, on one thing at a time, and right now, that’s making sure everybody is healthy and safe.”

This is what it comes down to; the virus is spreading at a rate we haven’t seen since it started.  The vaccines are here, but could be many months before they make a difference to the spread.

The virus has mutated into several other varieties concerning health experts. These varieties have been detected in Canada. Finally, there are travel advisories warning against nonessential travel. Perhaps it’s time they are taken seriously.

It would be easy, and not necessary to be enforced by law enforcement. The first thing that has to happen is the mixed messages have to stop.

Let folks know when travelling to another province they must quarantine for fourteen days. Stipulate what is essential and nonessential travel, with bulletins posted on Provincial websites. For instance, vacationing in a second home is unnecessary, travelling for a medical appointment is necessary, travelling to another province to recreate (sking, snowmobiling, partying) is not essential.

Bonnie Henry and Deena Hinshaw, BC’s and Alberta’s top doctors respectively have said, staying at home saves lives. Does that mean the opposite is true, travelling unnecessarily costs lives?  

We are Canadians, we naturally want the best for other Canadians. Covid has tested our resolve. It’s time to get tough, if it means sacrificing for a while so be it. 

2021

A lone ice shack sits on Lake Windermere at dawn.

Lisa and I rang in the New Year in a rather low key manner. We enjoyed a nice dinner of steamed crab legs, vegetables, tapenade, crackers and hot pepper Oregon grape and rose hip jelly made by my good friend Dave. After dinner we watched an episode of The Crown on Netflix. The rest of the night was spent in front of the fire listening to fireworks. The fireworks started at 6 pm and continued throughout the night. There was no official fireworks this year due to Covid, so most were set off by individuals.

The Columbia River flows by cat tails after a chinook.

It goes without saying it has been a different year. Luckily our family has been spared from the personal heartbreak and financial hardship Covid has placed on so many families and individuals.

Lots of power outages lately. Probably not the moon’s fault, more likely wind, melt and freeze.

Nixon’s place from across the Columbia. To live under mountains is special.

Not being able to see our kids and grandkids has been difficult, especially during the Christmas season. It seems odd considering how many people are not adhering  to the Provincial and Federal safety protocols. However, as I like to point out to my children, and they understand, it is about how we conduct ourselves, considering we have elderly grandparents and recognizing many other families do as well. For us that’s what it comes down to.

A chinook turns Lake Windermere’s surface rutted and unskateable.

2021 we are looking forward to getting to know you.

The old part of town, built on a mudflat. You won’t see this in a tourism or Chamber of Commerce brochure and that’s okay with me.

remembrance

Tonight, the sun going down behind a ridge lining the valley.

Remembrance Day ceremonies were held at the cenotaphs around the country like usual, except without many people and very few spectators, due to Covid. In Invermere a scaled back ceremony was broadcast on Facebook for people to see.

It is a day that stirs up many thoughts and feelings. I had to work early in the morning for a few hours clearing the fresh snow at the resort. On the way home I passed the large illuminated digital sign on the highway that crosses the Shuswap Indian Band Reservation. The sign often displays phrases and words of their original language. Today they were displaying pictures of their people who served in the wars.

As I drove by Jack Stevens was displayed on the sign. He was a handsome man. My father and Mr. Stevens joined the services together while in their teens. They were Valley boys trying to do right, possibly, for different reasons. My father was following in his father’s footsteps. Jack could have been feeling free from racism that was so prevalent, hoping once the uniform was on the colour of skin would be forgotten.

Mr. Stevens and my father both came home to the Valley from the Second World War. I know now my father was changed and struggled for years, until he learned how to survive. My mother, his two daughters and my older brother helped with that.

Whenever, Ron and Jack met, usaully at the ball diamond or hockey rink, they spent time reminiscing, laughing about good times spent before the war.

damn near november

Strange days, despite the pandemic valley businesses had a very lucrative summer. Tourists from Alberta and other parts of Canada flocked to the valley, as travel to other countries was off limits. The resort I work for had a banner summer. We were run off our feet due to being low on staff. Hiring enough people was difficult due to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). I don’t blame people for taking advantage of the program instead of making minimum wage and risk getting sick.

Now CERB is wrapping up people are becoming available to hire. The resort has hired two more people in our department. There was plenty of funds to do so from the money earned and saved on wages in the summer.

We sure could have used the extra hands in the summer. Now that it is slow we are standing around looking at each other. It is brutal, we are almost fighting over who gets to change a light bulb.

So, I decided to take my accumulated holidays rather than try to look busy. When I get back I hope we have plenty of snow to shovel.

***

It will be nice to have a week off. The weather is the shits and isn’t expected to get better, still, I may head into the bush for a few nights to clear my head. The stars are mostly hidden by clouds, yet a fire and tent listening to rivers and wolves may be what the doctor ordered. It won’t take much hiking to be in a foot and a half of snow, waking up cold with Willow shivering beside me. It is good for both our souls (did I just say arseholes?).

***

Was up wondering around the old mine today. Blue lake is almost completely filled in. While standing above looking at the small part of remaining bottomless blue, I realized I haven’t made it far in life. I mistakingly tried to live the same life as my father and grandfather, not changing while the world raced on leaving me in the dust. A small walk away from were I stood was where I shot a rifle for the first time. It was before I was in school. As my father instructed I lay on the ground, he put the 22 against my shoulder, told me to look down the sights at the oil can about 30 yards away. He told me to steady and hold my breath and squeeze the trigger. When I did so the explosion rang in my ears and the oil can jumped. It was exhilarating.

***

A good friend asked me to pick him up from work today. His truck is in the shop. Across the street from where he works is my Grandparents’s farm. It was several acres. The old house still stands, dilapidated but still occupied. The property has been subdivided over the years. Back then it stretched down to the cemetery on the edge of the lake. Now it consists of a trailer park containing the only people that live in Windermere year round. Closer to the lake a bunch of million dollar second homes owned by Albertans who could care less for what came before and really why should they.

***

The point is I’ve continued the tradition of buying high and selling low. I should be sitting on my ass letting the new guys do the little work there is instead of taking vacation in November.

***

I’ve never been patient or thought much about the future, preferring instead to dwell in the past. Not sure I’d change it if I could.

Early May

RCE_5093Don’t make such a rhubarb about the current goings on!

Covid19 precautions are starting to ease in Canada. We are seeing more tourists. Shops are starting to reopen. About two thirds of the vehicles on the highway and around town, on the weekend, are from neighbouring province Alberta, ignoring warnings not to travel outside of your home province.

The ambulance has been out several times today, a sure sign the roads are getting busier with tourists.

It should be reminded, we are as susceptible to this disease now as we were two months ago.  The only thing changed is we have learned to social distance and bought time to possibly better ready our health care system. Numbers show most are still vulnerable to contract the sickness. This will remain so until a vaccine is developed. It will be interesting how we go forward.

RCE_5096A handsome Flicker.

Five years from now, we will know better how we managed this illness, did we overreact, was there things we could have done better? Right now we move forward with the information we have.

Strange times. One good thing in our small community; it’s amazing to see people forgetting about money and tourists, choosing instead to support each other.

we got history

_LME4923.smBird’s Eye.

It’s quiet. Just like I remember it. Tough to get over the eery part though. We’re so used to the valley full of tourists. Second home owners coming out to their big homes, investments they say. Or cabins; now that’s a joke.

_LME4916.smBruce Street. Downtown Invermere, BC  Canada.

Do I miss them? My job for the last few years depends on them. Still, to see the downtown deserted, it’s like turning back time. I can see my brother and I running through those streets jumping and touching the swinging signs, falling off bicycles, busted for smoking pot that couldn’t get an astronaut high. Drinking was our thing. It delivered.

_LME4919.sm

Maurice’s Food Basket. Mom would have drove through the front window, if it weren’t for a telephone pole right out front. My best friend, a couple years older than me, lived up top. He busted me open with a two-by-four. I just about cut his head off when I threw an old licence plate at him. I quit hanging around with him when he reached puberty. He wanted me to play with his cock. He said, pretend it’s a gear shift. I knew he wasn’t going to pretend he was a car.

After this is over, are we going to go back to the way things were? Getting on planes? Pretending we are explorers in foreign countries that see us as tourists. Are we going to burn gasoline tearing up the backcountry? Going where we figure. Are the art shops going to make a living selling egg carton caterpillars?

_LME4936.smThe Mercantile. Lisa and I used to pick out our school clothes without our parents present. All we had to do was sign for them. Our parents would settle it later.

It’s no different now then then. We don’t now what we are fighting for or against. Hopefully history spares our town.

_LME4928.smThe Toby Theatre and Cenotaph. Who has grown up here and not taken a drink or smoked a joint at the Cenotaph, it’s a right of passage, goddammit! And the Toby where I watched whatever was showing, everything from True Grit to Linda Lovelace for President. I even threw up on the floor, in the lobby, when my brother gave me too many Bugles.  I can still remember how good it felt eating them and how bad the aftermath looked. I’m still not sure who had to clean that up.

the place we call home

A couple of big announcements in the local news this week.

***

First, the proposed Jumbo Resort is dead. It has been on the books for over thirty years, at times pulling the community apart, setting business people against each other. 

It was a harebrained scheme from the get go. With bullshit from both sides of millionaires being flung, liberally, at each other. 

I think most regular folks got out of the way along time ago, leaving the fighting to the elitists in Wildsight and Patagonia, and the villainous, Jumbo Glacier Resort and dumbfounded Jumbo Municipality.

However, something good may have come out of it. The area will now be a designated protected area to be overseen by the Ktunaxa First Nation.

Time will tell how this will play out.

The only way this issue was going to resolve itself was by money. Reason, common sense, goodwill, or even a deep desire for preservation or development was not enough.

It took the government paying off both sides. The anti Jumbo folks secured over $16 million and Jumbo Glacier Resort was paid an undisclosed amount for the tenure to the publicly owned property.  

***

Screen Shot 2020-01-18 at 2.40.57 PM

The second announcement was The District of Invermere down zoning the Octagon Property behind the Invermere Arena. 

Part of the property was where I grew up. It overlooks Lake Windermere. At one time the property was worth next to nothing, because it was on a sidehill and had a train running by almost constantly.

Later the coal trains started running less frequent, with the Albertans buying up most of the other available lake front, the property became more valuable.

After my parents passed away our family quickly sold the land to a couple of wheelers who sat on it for a year and sold it to Octagon for a couple hundred thousand profit.

After Octagon bought it they left it derelict, while lobbying mayor and council for rezoning to build a nine story hotel. 

It was during this period that my parents house became a crack den. Police were called regularly. Octagon refused to board the place up. My parents would have rolled over if they would have seen what became of their house.

One of the hardest things I never did was burning the place down. I would have got everyone out. That wouldn’t have been a problem. I worried about a volunteer firefighter getting hurt.

Instead, I pestered the brass at Octagon, a bunch of snakes, into tearing it down, which they finally did.

Meanwhile the District of Invermere, against the will of most citizens, caved to the wishes of Octagon and granted their rezoning demands. 

Last week, the District down zoned the property so the owner, creditor of the previous owner, can sell it off by the piece. In the end, regardless of their grand plans, that’s the only way they can make their money back.  

***

There won’t be a nine story hotel beside the tracks, beside the lake. Jumbo will remain undeveloped. I should be happy, but it takes a bunch of nasty business to come to the right decision. This time money was on the side of preservation, next time. . . who knows.

long weekend

_LME3237Dave rolls a dart, Chewy licks the papers. It’s a joint effort.

Damn, this has been a busy long weekend. Calgarians tailgating everywhere they go. All in a hurry to have fun. Making the most of it, they must figure.

While driving through town I saw two incidents of road rage. All four involved were from the city. One had a Flames front licence plate, stealing another’s parking spot. Cue the horn, hand gestures and expletives. I am ashamed to say this warms my heart. I wish the Flames were as aggressive.

It never ceases to amaze me how people act on holiday while trying to relax.

It also never ceases to amaze me the wealth that flows into the valley. If Alberta is hurting, we don’t see it here.

Also, if there is a climate crisis we don’t see it here. It’s big cars, trucks, boats, RV’s, ATV’s and huge second homes built as close to the water as they can get away with. All spewing CO2, polluting the land and water. Perhaps when they start worrying I should too.

Some of these folks can be counted as our most vocal environmentalists. Always reminding us they love it so much this is where they decide to vacation, drive, boat, ATV, fly, build, spend their money and die. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it. I have a $16 an hour job because of it.

Tonight the sky is blue. The breeze is warm. My arms are tanned and I have a full garden of food.

Very fine day.

we’re all running for something

slink

Tonight was an all candidate forum for the upcoming Municipal and School Board election. There are several candidates running who I know very little about. Also several incumbents who are stepping down so the council chambers is going to have a different look regardless.

This forum was a little different from others in the past. At the beginning of the evening each candidate was at their own table. People could sit with them and ask them questions.

When I arrived most candidates had at least a few people around their tables. The two that didn’t were the candidates vying for the sole School Board position. I was in luck because these were the candidates I wanted to ask a few questions. I asked them the same questions and came away with a better idea of what each brings to the position.

After the table discussions a more formal process took place where the candidates were able to introduce themselves, followed by questions submitted by the audience to named candidates.

Along with the School Board candidates were two candidates running for Mayor and six candidates running for four Councillor positions. One of the Councillors was not present. He is an incumbent. If I recall he missed the forum at the last election. He has a good reputation, perhaps election forums are not his thing. I was disappointed he didn’t show up as it goes with the job and speaks of his commitment.

Most of the questions were directed at the Mayor and Councillor candidates. Many were soft balls with each candidate taking a turn to espouse how much they care for the environment, how we need to explore alternative energy sources and, of course, sustainability, the buzz word of the night.

There were moments of importance throughout the evening. There isn’t any contentious issues on the books, however audience members got a glimpse of how each candidate will handle themselves under difficult circumstances.

Of interest, two Councillor candidates spoke about the motorboat pressure on Lake Windermere. Neither are on council now. It’s interesting, because the topic of pressure on Lake Windermere, mostly by tourists and second home owners has long been a topic not to be discussed, in case we are to dissuade the ringing of our businesses cash registers by our neighbours to the east. I found it encouraging they spoke up. It could very well be their political naïveté allowing them to do so. I could almost hear the incumbents (both business owners) bums clenching at the mere mention of the topic.

There are also two referendum questions on the ballot. Should the district ban plastic bags and should the district borrow 5 million dollars to buy a a parcel of riverfront property? The plastic bag question got nary a mention.

It was a good evening, though not well intended, which I take to mean most citizens are content.

For me, it was about learning a little about the candidates to help with my decision come October 20th.

Thanks to Imagine Invermere for putting on an informative evening.

early June

RCE_0058.jpgA Great Blue Heron fishes in the runoff. Photo by Lisa.

Lisa and I took a quick drive behind Swansea tonight. We commented how nice it is to be able to get away from it all in only a moment. We have been busy in the studio. We both like being busy and we have to be if we are going to make it. We have always worked a lot of hours for not a lot of money. That is how we have been able to stay in the valley. It comes with a lot of perks. It is being close to the bush and able to show our children, and now grandchildren, that makes it worth while. We are fortunate, but money has never come easy. My personality is something to blame as well.

Tonight, we were fortunate to be close to the truck when it started to hail. We saw it coming and heard the thunder. We got back in the truck and watched the show. The temperature dropped to 3°c and the pea sized hail gathered on the truck and ground before it could melt.

On the way back into the valley bottom we spotted a Great Blue Heron and Lisa took some photos. Willow would have barked the dinosaur into the air, but she never caught onto what we were looking at.

***

The National Post reported the Alberta Government is cracking down on School Superintendents getting raises and bonuses. http://nationalpost.com/news/alberta-cuts-school-superintendent-pay-as-review-finds-high-salaries-big-perks

In our school district, in recent years, there have been several instances of mismanagement; busing issues, disposing of school properties, increased management costs, including the hiring of spouses in top positions, the handling of teachers accused of indiscretions, schools over populated or in need of upgrades while choosing to build a multi million dollar Operations building, to list just a few.

When things appear to go sideways, in business or government endeavours, it can almost always be traced to the top.

Sure enough, in School District #6 Rocky Mountain, the Superintendent is at the top of the heap, getting yearly salary raises and bonuses, while teachers and staff put up with salary freezes or minuscule increases.

Some would explain his salary package as compensation for a job ‘well done’, or to attract people of ‘high calibre the pay must be good’, or simply say, ‘the money is in the budget’.

All would be untrue. Convenient, but untrue. Leaders who’s first goal is feathering their own nest are not rare. They’re a dime a dozen.

Not unusual in this day and age where leading by example is non-existent in our businesses, institutions and government.

***

We get bogged down. We hear about the American President on every newscast and the internet. We hear about Canada buying a non existent pipeline from a Texas company for 4.5 billion dollars just to see it built. We hear constantly that we are doomed. The Doomsday Clock is 3 minutes to midnight, the seas are filled with plastic, the ice caps are melting and the oceans are rising, the storms are getting worse. Meanwhile, the whole world is arming themselves with assault rifles and nukes with the only outcome, the complete annihilation of humankind!

That’s what we read and that’s what we’re told. It keeps us from a lot of pleasure. I don’t know if we are being fed a line, but I do know I’ve been lied to before.

We feel powerless.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of dragons we could slay right in front of us if not for the fatigue of thinking it won’t make a difference. Isn’t our own backyard where we should start? There is no shortage of scoundrels, big and small to go around, nor garbage to pick up at our own feet.

***

The tomatoes and lettuce were pummelled by the storm. The hail punched holes in the leaves. Still the moisture did them good.