Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peace River Municipal Library: Update

As the Town Council representative on the Peace River Municipal Library Board, I will try to keep blog readers updated. Here are two items of interest for library patrons:

1. The Library Board is delighted to welcome back Theresa Hrab, who steps into the Library Manager position on April 1. Theresa held that position in the early 2000s and is coming back after an absence of nearly 5 years, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience that staff and patrons will appreciate.

In the absence of a Library Manager, Donna Cunliffe ably stepped into that role and kept things running, for which the Board is very grateful.

If you haven't been in the library for awhile, stop in and say "hello" to Theresa, Donna and the other staff.

2. The Peace River Municipal Library small-but-mighty Board needs some new faces. If you have an interest in the library and could spare a few hours a month to contribute to your community, please contact me and I'll pass your name along to the Board Chair. If you're not familiar with sitting on a board and would like to find out more, get in touch and I'd be happy to discuss this.

Our library is such an important resource to Peace River and area residents. People who are travelling come in to acquaint themselves with the area and use the free Internet service to check their email. Children come in with parents for special activities. There are pleasant areas to sit and read magazines or book. And with Interlibrary Loans, patrons are able to access nearly any book they want.

Although the library's website needs updating due to staffing shortages and transition over the past months, you can still find information about the library's services and use the links to the catalogues by visiting:

I also thought that readers might be interested in knowing more about how libraries in Alberta work. In a previous blog entry I talked about the Peace Library System, which our library has been a part of since its inception. But did you know that Alberta libraries operate under their own legislation?

Here's how the Alberta Municipal Affairs & Housing website describes the relationship that libraries have with the province, schools and municipalities:

The Libraries Act defines the roles of the partners in library development. It recognizes the municipality as the foundation for public library service and the library boards as the major building blocks. It allows for cooperation between municipalities and school authorities to provide equitable and enhanced service through library systems in large regional areas.

The Libraries Act sets out the governance structure for public library service. It provides for the establishment of municipal and community library boards at the local level and system boards at the regional level. These autonomous boards cooperate through provincial networks and resource sharing agreements to give access to public library resources to all Albertans.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

River Breakup Advisory: Town of Peace River

Alberta Environment issued a River Breakup Advisory today for the Town of Peace River. Yesterday, the ice front was approximately 68 km upstream from the town and it is expected to come through within the next 7 days. The full advisory is available at:

Not to alarm anyone, but it's always good to be ready for anything at this time of year. For information on emergency preparedness, you can download the Annual Spring Break-Up Contingency Plan Information Brochure from the Town's website:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Emergency Preparedness

When warm weather, melting snow, and longer days signal spring in Peace River, we all start watching the river for break-up--always an anxious time. Now that I'm part of the Town's Emergency Management Agency, I find myself even more aware than I was in the past about what this time of year means and how important it is to be prepared for anything.

This week, residents received the Town's Annual Information Brochure: Spring Break-Up Contingency Plan in their mailbox. As the cover states, the intent is not to frighten or alarm residents, but to inform and help us all think about our readiness for an emergency.

The provincial and federal emergency management agencies have started to ask Canadians to be prepared to be relatively self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of an emergency of any kind, and there are many possibilities beyond flooding, such as extended power outages, a tornado, rail derailment/toxic spill, or even a terrorism incident.

When you think about the chaos that often exists after a major emergency, early responders should be able to concentrate on establishing order and dealing with injured or people at risk rather than worrying about whether the rest of us have food and water or are prepared to be evacuated. We can make their jobs easier by being prepared.

On Get (, there is a booklet that can be downloaded that will help you and your family be prepared for those first 72 hours. The booklet contains a list of the supplies we should have on hand and be able to easily access, documents we need copies of, what to do with your house if you get evacuated, and so on. There is also an excellent page on flooding, including ways to minimize damage in the case of a flood:

On the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) website, you can access a variety of resources on emergency preparedness and emergency management, including brochures entitled "Before the Flood," "After the Flood, " and "Flooding." While the Town has put a number of measures into place to minimize the risk of flooding, such as rebuilding the Heart River bridge and working with Alberta Environment and BC Hydro to closely monitor freeze-up and break-up, Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate and we're better prepared if we're knowledgeable.

Beyond personal safety and planning, businesses have become increasingly aware, since 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, that they need to find ways to ensure business continuity after a disaster. The Public Safety Canada website has a resource on this topic called
A guide to business continuity planning, available at this link:

There are more links on business continuity on the AEMA website:

Let's do our part for emergency preparedness by being ready to spend the first 72 hours without power or other amenities or to be prepared for evacuation after a major event. Check out the supplies list and see how well you'd fare if disaster struck tonight. I'll be checking that list myself!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Did You Vote on Monday?

So did YOU vote in the Alberta provincial election? Did your friends, family, siblings, and adult children make the effort?

I've never taken my vote for granted, but really came to value it after the experience of working as an assistant returning officer during the 1988 federal election and seeing just how much work goes into giving us our democratic right to a secret vote and honest results.

The Returning Officer that I worked for during that election subsequently travelled as an Elections Canada official to Thailand and other developing countries where she worked with those governments to develop the structures needed to hold open and legal elections.

When Afghanistan was preparing for its first election in 2004 (Elections Canada had a major role), I remember seeing a photo of ballot boxes on the backs of animals, being trekked over high mountain passes for delivery to polling stations. It made me reflect back on how hard WE had found it to organize an election and marvelling at what was going on in this country with few roads, poor telecommunications and no culture of democracy.

What has also impressed me in Afghanistan and elsewhere are the lengths that people in new democracies will go to and the dangers they brave so they can vote and have a say in who governs them. Yet so many Albertans couldn't or didn't even make the small amount of effort required to vote in Monday's election.

So the question that everyone seems to be asking on radio, TV, and print is why the record low voter turnout and where do we go from here? Democracy is too important to just be left until there's an election campaign; I think it needs to be nurtured and encouraged all the time. But how do we do that? How do we get people engaged? How do we get people to treasure their right to vote?

Please share your thoughts here, write to your MLA, or both. Our government needs to hear from us, and on a local level, maybe some of what is learned can be used by municipalities to encourage higher voter turnout for the 2010 election.