What started out as a presentation for equality between rural and urban areas quickly took a turn to the left and ended as a victory for the rural areas.
Council has voted in favor to move the Conklin Multiplex from the deferred list to the resume list of projects. A standing ovation from a packed council chambers erupted immediately after the vote. Many in attendance had their eyes glued to the screen waiting anxiously for the vote to go through.
“It’s a huge win not just for Conklin but for the rural communities but this is just one win of many that we hope to achieve,” said Ron Quintal, President of the Fort McKay Métis.
Back on July 20th, council had voted in favor of moving the project to the deferred list with 6 Councillors voting in favor. Councillors Tyran Ault, Keith McGrath, Sheldon Germain, Allan Vinni, Lance Bussieres and Claris Voyageur. Councillors Bussieres, Vinni and Germain were the only ones to keep their previous vote, with Councillor Ault missing the meeting due to illness.
“My opinion has been the same prior to the fire, when the facility was first purposed, it’s about scope, size and standards, it’s a $50 million Rec Centre, it’s to large,” said Councillor Germain. “I understand the residents of Conklin, I understand their needs, I think a lot of their needs could have been met at $15 million, this is the same position I’ve had since 2010.”
“For what’s worth, I respect Councillor Germain, he stuck to his guns, he has an opinion and he has to answer to his constituents and I respect that, however, I don’t have to agree with his opinions,” said Quintal.
Around 15 delegates took the chance to speak out on the Multiplex, many reading opinions from those who weren’t able to make the trip from Conklin to Fort McMurray. Young and old were represented and spoken for during the delegation.
One 16 year old youth, Tyson Adby, came from Conklin to speak on behalf of all the youth and children in the area.
“With very limited activities in our community the youth don’t know what to do after school or on weekends,” he said. “I ask on behalf of my community and for the youth, for the multiplex project so our future youth will prosper and be thankful for what we have done for them.”
“For such a young guy he spoke very powerfully and his words were that of his future and the future of the other kids in the community and that is what he spoke to and he spoke about his culture and spoke about the need for something else in the community so they can have success in curbing the teens and youth in that community to a better future,” said Quintal.
The youth were highlighted as a major reason why the Multiplex needed to return for the purpose of helping them go towards a positive life and away from crime.
All rural areas in the region were present including, Conklin, Anzac, Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan. The meeting had started with a presentation for equality between the urban and rural areas.
They wanted to drive the points out to council about the Conklin multiplex, a review of the 1995 Amalgamation Agreement, and a standard of living comparable to the urban service area.
“We have a motion on the floor to have a meeting so we can have a discussion on steps forward, we are prepared to play in that sandbox so to speak,” said Quintal.
Other facts they wanted council to know included the $0 spent on policing by the RMWB in Conklin while $52 million was given to Fort McMurray for a new detachment. They have no piped sewer or water, unsafe roads and sidewalks and a higher crime rate.
“I agree with the residents of Conklin and I agree with Mr. Quintal, we have to work together and get the amalgamation right, we have to work with the province, RCMP policing in the rural areas are a province responsibility, health care is a provincial responsibility and college education is a provincial responsibility,” said Councillor Germain. “All I’m saying is I support the need to go to work with the province and work with our communities, our rural communities, help get support to get the level of services improved in the rural areas.
The 1995 amalgamation agreement was a big part of the presentation and the talks following. Council has voted to move the topic to the Rural Committee and the Sustainable Development Committee where rural stakeholders will be able to discuss their concerns over the agreement.