Highlights of 2019, as selected by the East Central Recorder

EAST CENTRAL — We've reviewed our most popular online stories and the sports highlights of the year. Now here's what the East Central Recorder sees as some of the big highlights of 2019.


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The aftermath of the crash continues

The consequences of the April 2018 collision between the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus and a semi-truck continued into 2019.

On Jan. 8 at Melfort Provincial Court, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary pled guilty to 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.

Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in jail on March 22.

In late March, the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation gave $1.15 million to east central communities. Humboldt received $800,000; Tisdale, Melfort and Nipawin $100,000 each; and Zenon Park $50,000.

Coun. Lorne Pratchler of Humboldt said the city appreciated not just the money from the foundation, but the thoughts and prayers given by people all over the world.

The one-year anniversary of the collision on April 6 focused on moving forward.

“I just don’t want people to be stuck.”  said Céleste Leray-Leicht, the mother of player Jacob Leicht, who died in the accident.

“I think it’s important that we recognize that and in order to truly honour all 29, I think we need to live our lives to the best of our ability.”


Little change after election

For east central Saskatchewan, not much changed after the Oct. 21 election.

The Conservatives swept the region – and the province as a whole, while the Liberals remained in government – albeit in a minority situation.

“I’m overwhelmed, really overwhelmed with gratitude to the constituents of Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek who once again put their faith in me and voted for me to be their voice in Ottawa,” said Kelly Block, the MP for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek.

Randy Hoback, the MP for Prince Albert, predicted a rough ride ahead for Saskatchewan.

He said a Liberal government, supported by the New Democrats, would have a huge impact on Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector, and resource sector.

“You know, I’m very, very concerned about the long term viability of Western Canada under this government and the damage that they’ll do in four years.”


HSD opens new office

Right at the beginning of 2019, the Horizon School Division moved into its brand new, $6.2 million, 22,780 square feet office building.

Located in east Humboldt on Highway 5, it houses 43 staff and features offices, a new boardroom, storage space, lunchroom and maintenance shop.

On Nov. 15, the division hosted a grand opening.

Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said the new office makes it easier to develop the skills of its teachers and other staff.

“With less than a year in this building we’ve already been able to host a great number of professional development opportunities and meetings for our staff are across our system and from across the province,” he said. “In previous years, we were required to rent meeting space from an outside facility if we wanted to offer those opportunities.”


Citizens of the Year

Local communities celebrated their best citizens.

Tisdale’s citizens of the year were Dwight and Bonnie Olson.

The two said they were surprised and honoured to receive the award. While they’re not sure why people voted for them, they have their suspicions.

“I think it’s our personalities, outgoingness and care for people, and interest in people,” Dwight said. “We enjoy engagement with people. We’re very outgoing, that’s the way we are.”

Humboldt’s citizen of the year wasn’t a single person. It goes to all who offered support, assistance and comfort in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy.

“It was just a concerted effort across this province and across the country, across the globe, that really helped us navigate, in some ways, one of the worst tragedies anyone can imagine,” said Kevin Garinger, the Broncos’ past president.

Bridget Holmen, a volunteer that’s active in local causes like KidSport and a program that provides food for students in need, was Carrot River’s citizen of the year.


BHP sets date

BHP is expecting its board of directors to make a final decision on its Jansen Potash project by February 2021.

The date was announced in the company’s quarterly operational review released on Oct. 17.

“In order to make a final investment decision, work on engineering to support project planning and on finalizing the port solution is required, and the Board has approved US$144 million for these activities,” said the report.

Jansen would be BHP’s first entry into the potash market. The company finds the commodity attractive because the world’s population is projected to grow – with demand for fertilizer to grow with that.


Chamber changes

Both the Melfort and Nipawin Chambers of Commerce dealt with major changes in 2019.

The Nipawin chamber moved to a new location after the Town of Nipawin decided to take back control of tourism promotion.

The town bought the building, which also served as the tourism office, for $85,000 plus a $5,000 signing bonus in June.

Meanwhile, the Melfort chamber, still dealing with finding out they owe $36,000 in unremitted payroll expenses and another $4,000 in unpaid bills, sold its office to the City of Melfort.

In November, the Melfort Business Revitalization Corporation voted to change its name to the Melfort Trade Alliance. It aims to represent Melfort and district businesses in place of the chamber.


Potash trouble

It was not a rosy year for the area’s potash industry.

Mosaic has announced that it will temporarily close its Colonsay potash mine in August.

The fertilizer giant told the Canadian Press it has issued 395 layoff notices to hourly workers as it indefinitely idles the Colonsay mine, but expects 52 of those workers to stay on to keep the operation on standby in case market conditions improve.

Jim Gray, Colonsay’s mayor, said he doesn’t agree with the decision to close the mine, but there is little he has the power to do about it.

“The people with young kids are going to suffer the most because you need x amount of dollars throughout a household, and not having work doesn’t work too well for those people,” Gray said.

Nutrien decided to temporarily close its Lanigan mine for up to eight weeks starting in November due to weakness in potash demand.


NESPCA opens shelter

After years of fundraising and planning, the North East SPCA opened its new animal shelter.

The grand opening was held on Sept. 27.

Schmitz said this shelter is important for the community as it is the only shelter in the region, with the nearest shelters being in Prince Albert and Humboldt.

“They kind of serve their own jurisdictions and they actually can’t take anything from beyond their jurisdiction,” said Meagan Schmitz, shelter manager. “So there are animals in the northeast region that need our help and that’s why the SPCA is going to serve the whole geographic area of about 35,000 people altogether.”

The facility will provide shelter for homeless small house pets through the region. While this typically means cats and dogs, it can also include the possibility of gerbils, hamsters, birds, snakes, lizards and goldfish.


Crime watch

The Saskatchewan RCMP opened crime watch advisory network to cover the entire province in April.

When residents sign up to the netwoerk, they’ll receive alerts about criminal activity in their area. If they have any information, they can then contact the RCMP.

The RCMP said the network would be used in cases where there’s a piece of information the public can quickly act upon, like a good description of a suspect or a piece of stolen property.


Tisdale hosts walk

For the first time in its history, the North East Outreach and Support Services hosted Walk a Mile In Her Shoes in Tisdale.

The event was held on May 28. Louise Schweitzer, executive director with North East Outreach, said there was interest in holding the event in Tisdale for a while.

“Every man that walks that walk has the opportunity to make a public change at home and in their communities, even be it that they speak with someone and say, ‘You know what? That’s not right. You can come to me and I’ll help you get services,’” Schweitzer said.


New CEOs for Community Futures

The regions two Community Futures organizations have new leadership.

Taylor Watt is serving as the CEO for Community Futures NewSask.

Before taking the role of CEO, Watt was a lender with Farm Credit Canada for the last seven years.

“I thought it would be a new challenge and opportunity to come and change things up a little bit,” Watt said. “Just kind of do something a little different, similar, but different.”

Further south, Susan Wehage became the CEO of Community Futures Sagehill, moving up from small business specialist.

“It was an easy transition for me and also the next step. It was natural,” Wehage said. “I know the corporation and the clients very well.”


Five blooms

Melfort Communities in Bloom received a five bloom rating, the equivalent of 80 to 100 per cent, on national judging.

Melfort also won a special achievement award for landscape.

“We were quite proud of that,” said Peggy George, volunteer with Melfort Communities in Bloom.

“Usually when you take the jump from provincials to nationals, very often you lose a little bit of ground because the marking is so much tougher at the national level.  The expectations are higher and therefore reflecting on that tougher marking.”


LeRoy opens new daycare

LeRoy celebrated the opening of a unique daycare that combines care for young and old in the same building.

The official ribbon cutting for the LeRoy Daycare, which is attached directly to the Evergreen Country Home for seniors, was held on Oct. 15.

“In only five weeks of being open, it has been so amazing to see our staff team build strong relationships with each other and with each child,” said Chelsey Holt, the daycare’s executive director.


Suing over climate

Sàj Starcevich is among a group of 15 youth suing the federal government for contributing to climate change.

The case argues the youth are being harmed by climate change and the federal government is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and for failing to protect essential public trust resources.

“My life may have been violated by the federal government, and I feel obligated to act upon that,” Starcevich said. “It’s my future and I just feel if it’s my future I should do something about it.”


Kenny Shields inducted

A man who graduated from Nokomis School and became a rock star was honoured by the Horizon School Division.

Kenny Shields, the lead singer of Streetheart, was inducted into the division’s wall of fame. The wall honours those who graduated from one of the division’s schools and achieved considerable success in their chosen field.

“From small town Saskatchewan to world-famous rock and roll legend, his example shows our young people that there is no limit to what they can achieve,” said Linda Mattock, the division’s vice board chair, at the induction ceremony at the division’s Celebration Day on Aug. 28.


Caboose arrives

After two years of work, the Melfort and District Museum has a 1912 Canadian Pacific Railway caboose to display.

“We finally brought it to fruition, so that’s great,” said Gailmarie Anderson, curator and cultural co-ordinator with the Melfort and District Museum.

She said this exhibit is an asset to the museum and to the development of the history of Melfort.

“Melfort was actually developed because of the railway. The Stoney Creek Settlement was south of Melfort, and then in 1903 when the rail came through the community basically moved to this location – because there was a lot of rail traffic going north, south, east and west for years.”

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