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Alberta

B.C. Lions chase down Calgary Stampeders with 41-40 comeback win

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By Donna Spencer in Calgary

B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke threw for 488 yards and engineered a 41-40 comeback win Saturday over the Calgary Stampeders.

The 24-year-old from Victoria recovered from two early interceptions, which the Stampeders converted into touchdowns, running for a pair of short-yardage touchdowns and throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the exciting CFL contest.

Completing 39 of 52 pass attempts, Rourke broke his own single-game passing record by a Canadian following the 477 yards he posted in last week’s win over Edmonton.

“There’s going to come a time in my life when I’m going to look back and realize how fortunate I was to be able to play with him,” Lions receiver Bryan Burnham said. “I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

Sean Whyte’s 25-yard field goal with two seconds left in the game capped the Lions’ comeback.

The Stampeders led by nine points midway through the fourth quarter when Peyton Logan scored on an electric 99-yard kick return, but the Lions chewed through that deficit.

“It wasn’t pretty by any means but we found a way to win, but I’m proud of the guys for staying together and finding a way,” Rourke said. “At this point, I’m just trying to help this team win in any way possible.”

Rourke threw touchdown passes to Burnham and Dominique Rhymes. Whyte also kicked field goals from 19, 38 and 23 yards.

University of Calgary alumnus Jalen Philpot scored his first CFL touchdown, as did defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade on an interception return for Calgary.

Shawn Bane had a touchdown catch and Rene Paredes kicked field goals from 28, 53, 32 and 51 yards in front of an announced 22,229 at McMahon Stadium.

The Lions (7-1) and Stampeders (5-3) rank second and third respectively in the CFL’s West Division behind the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-1).

Calgary and B.C. conclude their season series with a home-and-home Sept. 17 in Calgary and Sept. 24 in Vancouver.

Bo Levi Mitchell became the Stampeders’ all-time leader in passing yards with an eight-yard throw on Calgary’s opening drive.

He needed just six yards to vault over Henry Burris (32,191) and reach that milestone in his 10th season and 116th game with Calgary. Burris played 118 games for the Stampeders.

After two straight games without a touchdown pass, Mitchell threw two Saturday. The Stampeders quarterback completed 18 of 32 pass attempts for 206 yards and was interception-free, but he was unhappy with Calgary’s inability to finish the Lions off.

“Bad penalties, bad decisions. Everybody, from sidelines to the guys on the field, everybody was terrible,” Mitchell said. “It was a bad second half. You score 40 points, you can’t lose a game.”

Calgary led 40-31 with just over six minutes to play following Logan’s kickoff return for a major.

The Lions would not go quietly, however, with Burnham’s 33-yard catch under double coverage taking B.C. to Calgary’s 10-yard line with just under three minutes to play.

Rourke collected his seventh rushing touchdown this season on a one-yard carry for B.C. to trail by just two points.

Calgary opted to punt instead of insert Paredes for a 55-yard field goal attempt with a minute-and-a-half to play.

“I get nervous anything 50-plus especially with their returner back there,” Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson explained. “We had in our mind around 51, 52 maxed out. He did hit one because the wind kind of switched.

“I just felt we had a good plan. We just didn’t get them stopped.”

The Lions still faced a long field for a winning field goal starting from their own six-yard line, but Cameron Judge’s roughing-the-passer penalty shortened it for the visitors.

Rourke engineered a nine-play, 86-yard drive to put Whyte in field-goal range.

The Lions trailed by 12 points when B.C. linebacker Ben Hladik recovered Dedrick Mills’ fumble on Calgary’s 34-yard line in the final minute of the third quarter.

Rourke overthrew Lucky Whitehead in the end zone leaving Whyte a 23-yard field goal to make.

But Rourke’s 54-yard touchdown pass to Burnham behind coverage with seven minutes left in the game pulled the Lions within two points of the lead.

Calgary parlayed a pair of Rourke interceptions into a 20-3 lead by the first minute of the second quarter, when Orimolade ran his first career pick back 28 yards to score.

Rourke rallied with a pair of scoring drives — sandwiched around a Paredes 32-yard field — but the Stampeders would score again before the half.

B.C.’s David Menard’s roughing-the-passer penalty moved Calgary to the Lions’ 24-yard line, where Mitchell promptly threw to Bane dashing into the end zone for a 30-18 lead at halftime.

Paredes was wide from 51 yards in the final minute of the half, but split the uprights from the same distance early in the third quarter for Calgary’s 33-18 lead. Whyte was good from 38 yards midway through the quarter to cut the deficit.

Rourke scored his first rushing touchdown of the night with a one-yard plunge in the second quarter.

After Orimolade’s pick-six, Rourke quickly marched the Lions downfield and threw a 30-yard pass to Rhymes in the end zone to score.

Paredes’ 53-yard field goal, which matched his season’s longest, gave the hosts a 13-3 lead with four minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

After Nick Statz picked off Rourke on B.C.’s second drive of the game, Mitchell’s second pass was a 19-yard throw to Philpot in the end zone to score.

The clubs traded field goals on early drives in the first quarter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2022.

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Alberta

‘Short-term pain’: Group of Alberta lawyers escalate job action over legal aid cases

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Alberta criminal defence lawyers are taking another step in their dispute with the provincial government over the amount of compensation paid by Legal Aid Alberta.

Organizations representing lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta began job action Aug. 8 by refusing to accept certain bail and duty counsel files from legal aid.

The lawyers also began refusing certificates for new cases for the most serious criminal charges, including sexual offences, firearms-related crimes and homicides.

Beginning Monday, they say all services will be withdrawn.

“We’re going to stop taking all certificates. That will include some our prior job actions still allowed us to take certificates for people who are already existing clients and there will be a very, very limited set of circumstances now where our members will do that,” said Kelsey Sitar, vice-president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary.

“The default will be: ‘We are just not taking any new work from legal aid until the problem is fixed.'”

Sitar made her comments at a rally in front of the Calgary Courts Centre on Friday that drew about 50 criminal defence lawyers.

A table with a sign reading “Save Legal Aid” offered bake goods for sale. Lawyers carried signs reading “Access 2 Justice Must be Equal.” Another read: “This sign is too small to fit my outrage.”

“This is drastic. I mean, what we were doing up until now is something I know has happened in Ontario before, it did not last long, frankly,” Sitar said.

“I can tell you that none of us want to be out here. We all want to be in there doing our jobs.”

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has said nothing is going to be done until a review of the Legal Aid Alberta administrative system is complete, which is scheduled for next month.

He said any budget changes for legal aid wouldn’t happen until next year.

Sitar said the ministry chose to undertake “an incomplete and, frankly, useless review” at a time when the governing United Conservative Party is about to go through a leadership change.

“So we have to act now and they need to respond now,” she said.

Sitar said she understands the people being affected the most by the job action will be people with lower incomes who need the services to afford legal representation.

“It’s short-term pain right now,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate, but I can tell you that most of the people I’ve talked to on the street who are finding themselves caught up in this understand and are grateful that we’re doing it.”

Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the problem has been growing over the last three years. She said when her party was in power, it committed to additional funding for Legal Aid, but the UCP government backtracked.

“We simply cannot be asking the Legal Aid bar to be doing what we are asking them to do at the rate that we are asking them to do it,” she told reporters.

“We have the lowest funding for Legal Aid in the country. What that means is that we don’t have equal access to justice. It undermines the integrity of our justice system and, overall, it undermines our ability to build a sense of community safety, community security and an overall respect for the rule of law — all of which are important to community health and economic growth.

“It sounds like a niche issue, but it’s not. It actually has knock-off effects to very, very important issues that affect all of us. So, the government needs to come to the table and negotiate decently with these lawyers.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

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Alberta

‘Kind of like carnies’: International balloon festival returns to High River, Alta.

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By Bill Graveland in High River, Alberta

The windswept prairie east of the Rocky Mountains seems an unlikely spot for a hot-air balloon festival, but the town of High River, Alta., is celebrating the event’s 10th year.

More than 20 brightly coloured balloons — including a pink elephant, a black and yellow bee and the purple and yellow Eye of Ra, named after the Egyptian sun god — took advantage of a lull in the prevailing wind this week to get some up-in-the-air time to mark the opening of the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival.

“We get about 50 per cent of our flights off. Weather impacts us everywhere,” said event director Jamie Kinghorn, who is also a town councillor.

“This is our 10th. We started in 2013 partly because of the flood that happened. I’d been to a number of balloon events and thought this might lift the spirits of the folks in town.”

The town of 12,000 just south of Calgary gained an international profile in 2013 when flooding in parts of southern Alberta caused billions of dollars in damage.

High River was one of the hardest-hit communities. Entire neighbourhoods were under water for weeks.

“I called in a bunch of friends from the balloon community and they knew what happened, so 20 of them came into High River and we put on a balloon festival that was actually amazing for the community,” Kinghorn said.

“That was sort of the first major thing toward recovery after the flood and we’ve been doing it every year since at the end of September.”

Kinghorn said the festival is a boon to local tourism and there’s not a hotel room to be had in town.

He had his first hot air balloon over the city of Calgary in 1988. A year later he was a balloon pilot.

There are 23 balloons participating this year, including some from the United States, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Kinghorn said it’s a pretty small community.

“We tend to meet at various events. We tend to travel. We’re kind of like carnies to some extent,” he said with a laugh.

“We travel around to different cities to different balloon events.”

Alan Davidson, who has been involved in the sport since 1977, is one of the volunteers.

He said those who get involved tend to stick with it.

“The amazing thing is that there are still seven or eight of the people I was ballooning with in the ’70s and early ’80s who are still here at this event,” said Davidson. “They’ve been working with balloons for over 40 years.”

Kinghorn, who is the owner and pilot of the Eye of Ra, was the first balloon in the air Thursday morning after a Wednesday evening flight was cancelled due to the wind.

“My God am I glad we got this off,” he said as the flight came to an end.

The festival runs through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

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