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Will we hear the crack of the bat in Western Canada this summer?


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Since the arrival of coronavirus-19 on the world scene, there has always been a chance that the Western Canada Baseball League – like virtually every other sports organization in existence – would be forced to cancel its season. There is also, at least temporarily, a possibility that WCBL teams will find a way to operate on a reduced schedule.

On Tuesday night in Edmonton, league president Kevin Kvame will oversee a discussion that could settle the issue for all of 2020. Among those present will be the champion Okotoks and playoff runner-up Edmonton Prospects, along with squads from Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Brooks.

Saskatchewan franchises that operated last season in Yorkton and Melville will not be on hand; each received a one-year recess while determining whether they could function successfully while competing with partners in larger centres.

One deadline date has already been bypassed. “I think we can only look at the possibility of opening on or about July 1,” Cassidy said. “There won’t be chance to get started by June 16, which was another outline. Maybe it will be decided to pull the pin now, but we could also wait for awhile, if that’s the league decision.”

Certainly, there are issues in addition to scheduling. “The question of our league’s growth is something that comes up all the time,” Prospects general manager Pat Cassidy said. “I won’t be surprised if an overall plan is discussed that would lead to improve our ballparks in many ways.”

Yorkton and Melville, in particular, were harmed because of small park capacity. Edmonton, for example, could accommodate up to 4,000 fans at REMAX Field for home games in the downtown Saskatchewan River Valley.

One possibility in Cassidy’s view would be a league-wide play-by-play broadcast network. “Some teams have trouble getting their information out to the public in a timely manner.”

A parallel might be drawn with the Alberta Junior Hockey League, which is roughly comparable to the WCBL in market size and the development level of its athletes. Only a few years ago, the AJHL established the sort of broadcast arrangement now seen as a future possibility in the WCBL.

“The best of it is that the league has a solid foundation,” Cassidy expanded. “We’re still growing so there are still questions that need to be asked and answers that need to be developed.”

Hope is Edmonton Prospects & WCBL biggest ally these days


Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

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A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring.

“We are not confident about the technical and economic feasibility of some proposed mitigation measures,” the report says.

“We find that this was particularly true for effects on surface water quality, westslope cutthroat trout (and fish and fish habitat more generally), and vegetation.”

Riversdale Resources had proposed the Grassy Mountain project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region. The area has seen mining in the past.

The mine, said Riversdale, would create about 500 jobs during two years of construction and 400 over the 23-year life of the mine. The company said it would pay $1.7 billion in royalties and $35 million in municipal taxes over that time.

It was supported by many in the town of Crowsnest Pass.

But concerns were raised during a hearing about the chance the mine could contaminate headwaters of the Oldman River with selenium. The element commonly found in coal mines is toxic to fish in large doses.

The review panel also heard the mine would damage ecosystems and impair the cultural and physical heritage of three local First Nations.

“The mitigation measures proposed are not sufficient to fully mitigate these effects,” says the report.

The panel advises federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to turn the mine down. It has also denied the project’s permit applications under provincial laws.

The Grassy Mountain mine is the first of a number of coal projects that have been proposed for the mountains and foothills of Alberta’s western boundary. At least eight companies have taken large exploration leases.

Earlier this week, Wilkinson announced that any proposals from those exploration leases would be subject to a federal environmental review. He said concerns about selenium prompted the move.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2021.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Alberta confirms two patient deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant at Calgary hospital

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EDMONTON — A health official says two patients at Calgary’s Foothills hospital have died from the Delta variant of COVID-19 — and one had been fully immunized.

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the two patients, a man and a woman, were in their 80s, had significant co-morbidities and likely acquired the virus in the hospital.

One patient had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine, while the other had not been immunized.

They were among 23 hospital patients and staff who became infected with the Delta variant, one of the variants first identified in India.

Health experts have stressed that it is still possible to contract COVID-19 even with full immunization, but that the chances of severe outcomes drop significantly with vaccination.

The Delta variant is being watched carefully in Alberta, given it is now the dominant strain in the United Kingdom and, with its rapid transmission, is threatening plans there to reopen the economy and lift health restrictions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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