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WCBL season cancelled ending the Edmonton Prospects run at Re/Max Field

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According to a contract held by the city of Edmonton, COVID-19 has ended the life of the Edmonton Prospects at Re/Max Field.

Until members of the Western Canadian Baseball League voted on Wednesday to write off what would have been a 2020 season, the Prospects were in line to play at the field in Edmonton’s Saskatchewan River valley until the end of the regular schedule or playoffs.

Now, since there will be no WCBL season, there will be no more Prospects in Edmonton unless a one-year agreement can be devised with other park operators that would bridge a one-year gap and keep his team here 2021. He has spoken often of work to be completed on a complex to be developed in the Spruce Grove-Stony Plain area slightly west of Edmonton in time for the 2022 season, by which time a group headed by Randy Gregg will have control of Re/Max.

“I think it would be mighty ambitious to promise a new park would be functioning in time to start a new season less than a year from right now,” Cassidy said in a telephone interview.

The Gregg group won its long-term contract although it has no team at present and has held no meeting with league president Kevin Kvame and other governors about obtaining one. Several involved citizens have advocated that the Prospects and a new team (perhaps the Capitals) ultimately could share playing dates, but Cassidy suggested such an arrangement is unlikely.

“A couple of deals have been presented for us to look at, but they don’t work for us,” Cassidy said. “We offered a deal to the Gregg group but they didn’t accept it, either.”

Evidently, those negotiations will continue into the future. In the meantime, all 10 teams face the necessity to operate with a 2021 start as their most optimistic possibility. Entry of a new Sylvan Lake franchise will add to the enthusiasm, as will the promising ownership and participation structure already taking shape for the Brooks Bombers.

“We had all been kind of hoping that we could start our season in a month or so and get maybe 20 home games for each team,” Cassidy said. “Always, the July 1 long weekend has been good for our league at the gate.” There also had been brief conversation about extending the season into August before starting playoffs – roughly a month later than usual.

“The problem is that every time we got some encouraging news (on lifting lockdown provisions), we got new and discouraging news a day or two later.

“There was not a lot of debate about how we could keep things alive with the information we had, so it was not a hard decision for all of us to make.”

President Kvame expressed regret on “a sad day for the WCBl, our 10 teams, 300-plus players and tens of thousands of fans in Alberta-Saskatchewan, adding that operational costs have been expanding as the league improves and shortening the schedule would only add to potential financial stresses. “We are a gate-generated league. We will mourn the loss of the season for a day or two and then we’ll get busy on 2021.”

The governors’ vote to discontinue plans for the coming season was unanimous, he added.

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Addictions

‘Harm Reduction’ is killing B.C.’s addicts. There’s got to be a better way

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Susan Martinuk 

B.C. recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The resulting explosion of addicts using drugs in public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, recently led the province’s NDP government to attempt to backtrack on this policy

Since 2016, more than 40,000 Canadians have died from opioid drug overdoses — almost as many as died during the Second World War.
Governments, health care professionals and addiction experts all acknowledge that widespread use of opioids has created a public health crisis in Canada. Yet they agree on virtually nothing else about this crisis, including its causes, possible remedies and whether addicts should be regarded as passive victims or accountable moral agents.

Fuelled by the deadly manufactured opioid fentanyl, Canada’s national drug overdose rate stood at 19.3 people per 100,000 in 2022, a shockingly high number when compared to the European Union’s rate of just 1.8. But national statistics hide considerable geographic variation. British Columbia and Alberta together account for only a quarter of Canada’s population yet nearly half of all opioid deaths. B.C.’s 2022 death rate of 45.2/100,000 is more than double the national average, with Alberta close behind at 33.3/100,00.

In response to the drug crisis, Canada’s two western-most provinces have taken markedly divergent approaches, and in doing so have created a natural experiment with national implications.

B.C. has emphasized harm reduction, which seeks to eliminate the damaging effects of illicit drugs without actually removing them from the equation. The strategy focuses on creating access to clean drugs and includes such measures as “safe” injection sites, needle exchange programs, crack-pipe giveaways and even drug-dispensing vending machines. The approach goes so far as to distribute drugs like heroin and cocaine free of charge in the hope addicts will no longer be tempted by potentially tainted street drugs and may eventually seek help.

But safe-supply policies create many unexpected consequences. A National Post investigation found, for example, that government-supplied hydromorphone pills handed out to addicts in Vancouver are often re-sold on the street to other addicts. The sellers then use the money to purchase a street drug that provides a better high — namely, fentanyl.

Doubling down on safe supply, B.C. recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The resulting explosion of addicts using drugs in public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, recently led the province’s NDP government to attempt to backtrack on this policy — though for now that effort has been stymied by the courts.

According to Vancouver city councillor Brian Montague, “The stats tell us that harm reduction isn’t working.” In an interview, he calls decriminalization “a disaster” and proposes a policy shift that recognizes the connection between mental illness and addiction. The province, he says, needs “massive numbers of beds in treatment facilities that deal with both addictions and long-term mental health problems (plus) access to free counselling and housing.”

In fact, Montague’s wish is coming true — one province east, in Alberta. Since the United Conservative Party was elected in 2019, Alberta has been transforming its drug addiction policy away from harm reduction and towards publicly-funded treatment and recovery efforts.

Instead of offering safe-injection sites and free drugs, Alberta is building a network of 10 therapeutic communities across the province where patients can stay for up to a year, receiving therapy and medical treatment and developing skills that will enable them to build a life outside the drug culture. All for free. The province’s first two new recovery centres opened last year in Lethbridge and Red Deer. There are currently over 29,000 addiction treatment spaces in the province.

This treatment-based strategy is in large part the work of Marshall Smith, current chief of staff to Alberta’s premier and a former addict himself, whose life story is a testament to the importance of treatment and recovery.

The sharply contrasting policies of B.C. and Alberta allow a comparison of what works and what doesn’t. A first, tentative report card on this natural experiment was produced last year in a study from Stanford University’s network on addiction policy (SNAP). Noting “a lack of policy innovation in B.C.,” where harm reduction has become the dominant policy approach, the report argues that in fact “Alberta is currently experiencing a reduction in key addiction-related harms.” But it concludes that “Canada overall, and B.C. in particular, is not yet showing the progress that the public and those impacted by drug addiction deserve.”

The report is admittedly an early analysis of these two contrasting approaches. Most of Alberta’s recovery homes are still under construction, and B.C.’s decriminalization policy is only a year old. And since the report was published, opioid death rates have inched higher in both provinces.

Still, the early returns do seem to favour Alberta’s approach. That should be regarded as good news. Society certainly has an obligation to try to help drug users. But that duty must involve more than offering addicts free drugs. Addicted people need treatment so they can kick their potentially deadly habit and go on to live healthy, meaningful lives. Dignity comes from a life of purpose and self-control, not a government-funded fix.

Susan Martinuk is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and author of the 2021 book Patients at Risk: Exposing Canada’s Health Care Crisis. A longer version of this article recently appeared at C2CJournal.ca.

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