Weekly update: Suncor cuts, opioid deaths, and teaching and leadership awards

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Happy Friday, Fort McMurray!

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  • Ola Dada at Bailey’s Pub: Fort McMurray-raised comedian Ola Dada is performing in Fort McMurray tonight fresh off his comedy special in Vancouver. Dada has also appeared on Canada’s Got Talent and Just for Laughs. Dada’s Mr. Funny Man Comedy Tour arrives at Bailey’s Pub tonight at 8 p.m.
  • Remembrance Day Ceremonies: The Royal Canadian Legion is hosting an indoor ceremony at MacDonald Island Park and an outdoor ceremony outside its Waterways branch on Nov. 11. A reception will be held after the ceremonies.A schedule of events is in our story on this year’s Memorial Family.
  • Christmas poinsettia fundraiser: Poinsettias, wreathes and planters are being sold with all funds going towards the Autism Society of the RMWB. Orders can be made online. Deliveries will be on Nov. 23.
  • Festival of Trees: The annual fundraiser for the Northern Lights Health Foundation returns to MacDonald Island Park from Nov. 17-19. The trees can be enjoyed for free during the day, but tickets are limited for the Festival Gala and Tree Auction, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and Daddy/Daughter Sugar Plum Fairy Ball. Ticket information is online.
  • 24-Hour Game Day: A 24-hour marathon of gaming for the Stollery Children’s Hospital. The event includes board games, video games, prizes and challenges. Admission is FREE but donations can be made online. Starts Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. at Keyano’s e-sports arena.
  • An evening with Leahy: Immerse yourself in the spellbinding melodies and exhilarating performances of Leahy, a multigenerational Canadian Celtic folk band. Te 11-strong ensemble performs at Keyano Theatre on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets online.
  • Black Friday Indigenous Urban Market: More than 20 vendors will be at the market. Market will open with a ladies drum group. Lisa Marie Bourque, owner of the Urban Market, will teach the 7 Sacred Principles of the Cree. Roxy Woodward of Fort McMurray 468 First Nation will teach classes on making dreamcatchers, birch bark canoes and an Indigenous Christmas ornament. Market is open to all, instructions on reserving a workshop spot are online. 9713 Hardin Street from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 24.
  • RCMP Regimental Ball: Wood Buffalo RCMP is hosting a regimental ball open to the public. All funds go towards the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165 and the Centre of Hope. Gala includes dinner, dancing, door prizes, a 50/50 draw and raffle, and live entertainment by the Kitchen Party. Each guest gets a commemorative Challenge Coin. Tickets are $150 and can be bought via etransfer at [email protected]. Include name and phone number in the etransfer comments. Nov. 24 at Shell Place.
  • Emo Night feat. Wade MacNeil of Alexisonfire: Nov. 24 at The Banquet at 9 p.m. Ticket information online.
  • KD Gala for the Centre of Hope: Local chefs will create their own spin on macaroni and cheese at this fundraiser for the Centre of Hope. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 26 at the Golden Years Society. Tickets are online.
  • The Summer Canada Burned: Postmedia’s new book about the 2023 wildfire season—The Summer Canada Burned—is in bookstores Nov. 27 and is available online now.
  • Mean Girls: The Musical: Dec. 14-16 at Ecole McTavish High School. This totally fetch show is $15 for adults and $10 for students.
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Suncor Energy employees walk past heavy haulers at a Suncor site north of Fort McMurray, Alta. in this 2014 file photo. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Suncor still hunting for cost savings after wave of job cuts

Suncor has wrapped up its planned 1,500 job cuts two months ahead of schedule, but the company is still looking for areas to trim as part of a wider efficiency push.

The company is also pursuing plans for fewer, bigger trucks to replace nearly twice as many smaller third-party vehicles. These new trucks will be driverless-ready as part of a wider push into the technology.

Suncor is ramping up the number of trucks running autonomously at its Base Plant operation from 31 as of the second quarter this year to 91 by the end of 2024.

“If our data is correct, this will be the largest single mine fleet of autonomous ultra class trucks globally,” said CEO Rich Kruger.

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A man holds a Naloxone kit on Tuesday, Aug 30, 2022. Michelle Berg/Postmedia Network

2023 already deadliest year of opioid crisis for Fort McMurray

Opioids killed more people in Fort McMurray between January and August than in any other year since the Alberta government began tracking deaths in 2016.

Data released Monday by the Alberta government shows 2023 is on track to be Fort McMurray’s deadliest year for drug poisonings.

The data shows 20 people died from drug poisonings during the first eight months of 2023. Opioids were involved in 18 of those deaths. Methamphetamine was involved in six deaths, cocaine was found in four deaths and alcohol was present in three deaths.

The data also shows 2023 will be the deadliest year for the opioid crisis in Alberta. There have been 1,349 Albertans killed by drug poisonings so far this year, up from 1,145 in 2022.

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Article contentCalgary leads the death toll in Alberta’s cities with 475 deaths. Edmonton is close behind with 454 deaths. Lethbridge—which has a population of more than 104,000 people—is in third with a record-high 98 deaths.

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Said El Mejdani (left) with Jeff Landry.

Award recognizes impact of local teachers on one student’s life

Two teachers at Westwood Community High School were honoured for significantly impacting their former student’s growth.

Said El Mejdani and Jeff Landry were both awarded the Loran Scholars Foundation’s Teachers Building Leaders Award after they were nominated by Dhruv Patel, a 2019 Rebanks Family Loran Scholar.

Patel, who graduated from Westwood in 2018, went on to found AfterSell, which builds software that helps independent eCommerce merchants compete on a global scale.

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Article contentEl Mejdani mentored Patel and encouraged his love for science and creativity. Landry was Patel’s badminton coach and taught leadership, sportsmanship and patience.

Ola Dada
Ola Dada. SUBMITTED.

Former Fort McMurray resident brings his comedy talents home

Although he grew up as a class clown in Fort McMurray, becoming a stand-up comedian was not on Ola Dada’s radar when he graduated high school in Fort McMurray. His plans were to study finance.

But one night when the Nigerian-born comedian was out for pizza with friends, they saw an open-mic comedy show and Dada took the stage. The event organizer was impressed and booked Dada regularly.

Since then, Dada has appeared in several Just for Laugh festivals in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto; was runner-up in the SiriusXM Top Comic Competition, a semifinalist on Canada’s Got Talent and appeared on CBC’s The New Wave of Stand Up.

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Article contentDada returns to Fort McMurray tonight for a performance at Bailey’s Pub.

Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines

Local businesswoman recognized as one of Canada’s most powerful women

Kristi Hines, founder and CEO of Hines Health Services, is one of 100 women from across Canada to join Canada’s Most Powerful Women list created by Women’s Executive Network (WXN).

The organization recognizes Canadian women who make a transformational difference in their fields and actively shape a more inclusive future.

Hines was named in the Compass Rose Entrepreneurs Award category, which recognizes female founders who own and operate businesses.

Her company provides emergency medical services, occupational health, and medical recruitment and placement services to businesses, organizations and government agencies across Canada.

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Keyano Huskies
Image supplied by Keyano Huskies

Keyano College’s soccer teams win big

Keyano College’s men’s and women’s soccer teams took home gold and silver at the 2023 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Soccer Championships in Edmonton.

For the fourth time in ACAC history and the first time since 2017, the men’s Huskies were crowned champions of the outdoor season, while the women’s Huskies earned silver for the first time.

Niels Slotboom, head coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams, was honoured as the ACAC Men’s Soccer North Division coach of the year. Seven athletes also received honours on the ACAC’s All-Conference teams.

robert crawford
Cst. Robert Crawford with Coun. David Boucher and Coun. Chrystal McDonald of Fort McKay First Nation. PHOTO SUBMITTED.

Fort McKay gets RCMP community officer: Const. Robert Crawford has been assigned to Fort McKay as a community engagement officer. The position was made after the RCMP’s local Indigenous liaison officer, Sgt. Martina Noskey, noted Fort McKay’s leaders want more support from the Mounties.

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Article contentSecond person charged in murder: Charlotte Mackey, 43, of Fort McMurray has been charged in the second-degree murder of Norman Lineham, 43, of Fort McMurray. Matthew Thomas Cooper, 39, of Fort McMurray, was charged with second-degree murder last month. Lineham was killed in his home in September.

Truck likely shot by careless firearm user: The driver of a truck is safe after police say their vehicle was unintentionally shot by a careless firearm user north of Fort McMurray. The driver was travelling on Highway 63 near Supertest Hill when the truck was hit with a bullet. No one has been arrested or charged regarding the incident.

Three stolen vehicles recovered: After recovering two stolen vehicles in the early morning hours of Halloween, police are reminding people to keep their vehicles locked and not leave the keys in the ignition when a truck or car is unoccupied. Three Fort McMurray residents have been charged.

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There’s an app for that: People in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo can learn what’s happening in the community with the RAVE Mobile Safety App. The app sends notices about local crime, road closures, traffic advisories, missing people and other emergency information.

chuck isaacs
Chuck Isaacs, president of the Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta, holds an Eagle Staff as he prepares to lead indigenous veterans into an event celebrating National Indigenous Veterans Day at Edmonton City Hall on Wednesday Nov. 8, 2023. The event recognizes the sacrifices and contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Métis veterans have made in service of Canada. Photo by David Bloom
  • Rats!: Alberta, which proudly bills itself as rat-free since 1950, is fighting infestations at two Calgary recycling centres. This recent battle against the rats is going well. The last rat incursion was a decade ago at Medicine Hat’s landfill. It was so bad that officials considered releasing bull snakes into the landfill to hunt the rodents. The province also dropped poisoned hay bales in what was called Operation Haystack around Medicine Hat to keep the rats from entering neighbourhoods. After a two-month war, rat-free Alberta declared victory over the rodent menace.
  • Cold case: A 73-year-old Sundre man has been charged with the murder of a Métis teenage girl in 1975. The breakthrough in the murder was made possible by advances in genetic genealogy. Ronald James Edwards is charged with the murder of Pauline Brazeau, 16.
  • AHS overhaul: The Alberta government is restructuring the health-care system. Alberta Health Services will be divided into four agencies focusing on acute care, continuing care, primary health, and mental health/addictions. The government plans to restructure advisory councils. Premier Danielle Smith said AHS is “scattered and uncoordinated” and a “rigid centralized structure.” The Alberta Medical Association and United Nurses of Alberta say they weren’t consulted. The AMA is optimistic, but the nurses’ union has doubts the new system will address nursing shortages or improve efficiencies.
  • Council fired: The Alberta government is firing the councillors and administrators for Chestermere. Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver says dissolution was his only option. A report details several instances of council acting outside its legislated duties, shirking provincial edicts and multiple examples of what the province cites as financial irregularities. There are also concerns about city expenditures and even the mayor’s credit card expenses.
  • Party’s over: Barry Morishita has resigned as leader of the Alberta Party. The former mayor of Brooks became leader of the centrist party in 2021. The Alberta Party peaked at three MLAs between 2015 and 2019, but has failed to elect a candidate since the 2019 election.
  • Read up on the politics and culture of Alberta  with Postmedia’s subscriber-exclusive newsletter, What’s up with Alberta? Curated by the National Post’s Tyler Dawson every Tuesday and Thursday.
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