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MORGAN: Face-to-face with opioid deaths

Cory Morgan writes about encountering a young man overdosing, and likely dying.




Just the other day, in downtown Calgary a young man likely died right in front of me.

I want to begin by getting right to the point of the experience I had. I want readers to try to envision what I saw as they read this. I want you to feel some of the panic, sorrow, helplessness, and shame I experienced over the course of a few short minutes.

We know there is an opioid crisis. I have written on it as have many others. It makes headlines now and then and we hear of new government initiatives to battle it all the time.

We don’t like to think about it though. We see the addicts and homeless people in our peripheral vision and have trained ourselves to keep looking straight ahead. It makes us uncomfortable and we feel pity, but we don’t know what to do.

There is no simple solution. There is no magic bullet or panacea. We have a growing problem though and we need to act further to at least mitigate it.

The first part of working towards a solution is to strip off our self-imposed blinders and have a good, hard look at the tragedies unfolding in our cities every single day.

I had as hard a look as I hope to ever have that morning and I want to share it. Maybe through my eyes, you can get a bit of the reality check I experienced.

I was walking to the Western Standard’s Calgary office from my parking spot a few blocks away. My path takes me through a number of areas frequented by addicts and encountering them was nothing new. Like most other commuters, I usually keep my eyes pointed straight ahead, avoid eye contact, and pay little attention to the open drug consumption around me. I would occasionally take pictures of things such as discarded syringes and post them on social media while griping about the downtown social disorder.

I couldn’t help but notice a cluster of street people in the corner of the park I was cutting across. You often see them huddled in a circle as they light their pipes or load their syringes with their poison of the day. This group was shouting though and gesticulating. I realized one person was laying prone in the middle of them. I immediately called 911 and headed towards them.

I vaguely remember the 911 call through my earphones while I tried to communicate with the panicked handful of people around the person on the ground. It was tough as they were all clearly very impaired by one substance or another. I noticed remnants of a naloxone kit scattered about and shouted to ask if they had given him a shot. They said yes and then all backed away. I am guessing they assumed I may know what the hell I was doing and deferred to me. Now my own panic began to set in. I hadn’t thought beyond what needed to be done aside from giving him naloxone and calling 911.

Years of repeated emergency first-aid courses I had taken while in the oilfield fled my mind. I desperately looked around and aside from the three stoned compatriots of the fellow on the ground, we were alone.

I remembered I should check for breathing. I kneeled next to the man on the ground and put my ear in his face. It was quiet and I waited. I heard nothing and my panic rose further.

It came to me that I should try to open the airway by tilting his head. I leaned back and began manipulating his head to try and tilt it back. I will never forget the feeling of how limp he was. I am no expert in this, but I could sense that life had fled this body.

His head behaved nothing like the plastic training dummies from first-aid classes. It kept flopping and lolling as I tried to position it to help him breathe if he was capable. I then took his head in both hands and had a moment where I was looking directly into his face as I leaned over him. I likely only held that gaze for a moment, but it is seared into my mind’s eye.

I was looking down at a kid who couldn’t be more than 20 years old. Aside from probably being dead, he looked relatively healthy. His skin was clear and he was even a little overweight. He had a harmless cherubic look about him. He was nothing like the thin, lesion-covered zombies we usually see downtown. He clearly was early in the stages of addiction. This was a kid that should have had another 50 or 60 years of living ahead of him.

I don’t want to imply it is any less tragic when an addict worn and weathered through years of substance abuse dies. Those addicts began at some point in good health with a potentially positive future. They still may have one.

Looking at his face I just felt my chest split as I thought: “This is somebody’s child.” I got a sudden and full sense of how this was a human being in front of me. He likely has loved ones and had ambitions and plans and he likely was dead already. It is so easy to forget these things as we drive past homeless people and read cold overdose statistics. These are people and they could be any of our children.

I held his head steady with one hand and put my ear right to his open mouth. I still could get no sense of any breathing. I sat up and began chest compressions and was about to ask one of the bystanders to find the breathing mask from the naloxone kit when I saw a pair of first responders approaching. They got there so quickly, somebody must have called them before I happened on the scene.

I told them he wasn’t breathing and naloxone had been administered. I then fled the area.

This is why I keep saying “probably” and “likely” when speaking of this kid’s fate. I didn’t stay around to see how it ended. I already felt useless and didn’t want to be in the way. I just wanted to get out and try to digest what had just happened. I don’t hold a lot of optimism, but all I could do was hope the paramedics managed to revive him. They have better resources and training at their disposal. I very possibly could be misdiagnosing this kid’s fatality. I hope I did.

I will note now, I have even more respect for first responders than I ever did and I assure you I always held them in high regard. I am a wreck from this experience and those guys deal with this every day. I don’t know how they do it.

I slowly made my way to the Western Standard’s office, where we keep naloxone kits at the ready for the many overdoses that take place just outside our doors. I couldn’t help but keep envisioning that young face. It’s such a damn waste. He could have been a great artist or a doctor or maybe held mediocre jobs and died at 50 of clogged arteries. Any future and fate would be better than this ignominious ending in a city park.

In Alberta right now, nearly five people a day are dying of opioid poisoning. In BC, the numbers are worse. This epidemic of addiction is happening throughout the entire developed world and it is killing thousands every year in Canada. Most of the deaths are among men under 35, though every demographic is affected.

This issue is not static. The addictions are increasing along with the deaths every year. In 2016, 553 Albertans died of opioid poisoning. The death rate has increased nearly 300% in the last five years. If the trend continues at this rate, it will rival COVID-19 in mortality though only a tiny fraction of the resources we’ve seen spent on the pandemic will be dedicated to fighting the addiction epidemic.

We have to start by ending the stigma attached to addiction. It could happen to anybody and it impacts your life whether you like it or not. Middle-aged people have started with prescription painkillers and ended on the streets. Kids from some of the most stable of households have fallen into addiction along with those from broken homes. Nobody is immune to this epidemic and while it indeed does always begin with a moment of poor judgment, who hasn’t exercised poor judgment in their own lives?

Most people will get through life without having been addicted to anything. Good on them of course. Unfortunately, that also means most people really don’t understand just how strong the power of addiction is or how hard it is to defeat.

Think of this: the addicts I encountered had their own naloxone kit with them. They knew full well they were playing Russian roulette with the drugs they were consuming. Despite this knowledge, they could not beat the compulsion to consume them. If they were truly self-destructive, they wouldn’t have carried the naloxone. They don’t want to die, but they can’t break free from the addiction.

I posted a short quip of my experience on Twitter as I am apt to do. Many responses were typical of the ignorant views put out on social media but they are worth responding to.

I have written about my struggles with alcohol a number of times. It took me a few attempts over the years in order to become sober. I attended countless meetings in church basements throughout North America drinking bad coffee and eating stale donuts with fellow addicts. In many of the small towns I worked in, alcoholics shared groups with people battling addictions to various narcotics. Not only did the meetings aid in maintaining my sobriety, but they also helped give me insight into other addictions. I am not an addictions expert by any means but am more than familiar with the subject matter.

One takeaway from those meetings is that addiction can be beaten. Some folks responding to me on social media on the event were saying these addicts are a lost cause. One even said they were better off dead as they were going to a better place. I wish they would listen to themselves.

The prognosis for a heavily addicted person on the street (or off for that matter) can be bleak, but it’s hardly hopeless. I met countless people at meetings who had truly come from rock bottom and had managed to recover. There is always hope no matter how far along an addict is and it is always worth trying to help them recover.

Another commonality among recovered addicts is they all had some kind of help. You hear people blurting out how addicts are simply weak-willed and just have to buck up and beat it. That’s a load of garbage. It takes more than simple willpower to beat an addiction. I am sure somebody is going to respond with an anecdote of somebody who beat a heroin addiction alone and through cold turkey. Perhaps that happens on occasion, but it is the exception.

Addiction recovery is a drawn-out process. Detoxing is only the first step. Becoming sober is relatively easy compared to staying sober in the long run. It takes support from medical professionals and recovering addicts to get there. A lot of this support can be expensive and there never seems to be enough resources.

As with damn near everything, the issue is politically polarized. Progressives seem hung up on harm reduction while conservatives are stuck on treatment and getting clean. Both are right, but both are wrong in isolation from each other.

Harm reduction is great, but without a plan for treatment it’s simply prolonging the death of an addict. Treatment options are essential, but if the addict doesn’t live long enough to get there, it was of little use.

Some people heartlessly say “They choose that lifestyle.”

This is a sign of people who keep those blinders on themselves. Go downtown and look at some of the homeless. Notice how they shuffle with their heads down, how unhealthy they look, and how clearly miserable they are. These people are living a hell on earth. They are not choosing this misery. They are captive to it, as a slave is to a brutal master.

Along that line of thinking, many people like to point out we can’t treat addicts until they’re ready to come in. This is true, but it means we have to keep the treatment options available and easy to find for when an addict has hit the point of being ready for it. The window of opportunity is small, and we cannot afford to miss it.

People point to how we need more law enforcement on the issue. I am among them, but it’s the general social disorder I’m concerned about. I am not talking about locking up addicts. It serves little purpose. Addicts can and do contribute to crime, though, as their world collides with ours. They are not always harmless and the protection of the public has to be taken into account. This means a more visible police presence rather than a crackdown on the addicts themselves.

Targetting the source of the drugs is a popular case people make as well. We do need to try and hinder the importation and distribution of these street drugs as much as possible, but we have to be realistic, though. As long as there is demand, the drugs will get through. Under the Reagan administration in the 1980s, an incredible amount of resources were dedicated to the ‘War on Drugs.’ It was a total failure. At best, it only pushed drug prices higher, but it stopped nobody.

Others just cry, “We need affordable housing!” or “They just need to get a job!”. Both of those statements are right and wrong. The addicts you see on the street aren’t in any condition to manage a personal household or a job right now. Affordable housing and potential employment will be essential elements in their recovery down the road. It will be hard to stay sober if still living on the streets and without a sense of purpose. Let’s not pretend it is a lack of jobs or high rents putting addicts to where they are right now though.

Even the coldest of heartless fiscal conservatives should support expanding treatment options for addicts. There is no better outcome for a taxpayer’s wallet than to have an addict recover and become a productive member of society. The savings in medical costs and law enforcement alone make this investment in addiction recovery worth it. In-patient treatment is terribly expensive but it is worth it fiscally and compassionately.

Treatment is not a perfect cure. Fewer than half of those who complete addiction treatment manage to remain sober for over a year. The numbers are still infinitely better than they are with no treatment at all though.

Mental health supports, in general, are needed too. Many people who have found themselves on the streets got there through self-medicating with street drugs to deal with mental health challenges. Deinstitutionalization has contributed to the problem but that is subject matter for a book, not a column.

I’m not saying the government and other groups aren’t doing anything about the opioid epidemic. All levels of government are spending more all the time on this issue and creating new programs. Nonprofit groups — like Alpha House and their heroes on the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) team — are working their asses off and saving lives every day. Police officers, paramedics, and firefighters are doing all they can.

Still, we need more.

The problem feels overwhelming. Like so many problems in life, though, it won’t go away if we pretend it isn’t happening.

Politicians follow trends in public thinking. If more people are demanding more action on the opioid epidemic, the powers that be in government will act.

If more people strip their blinders and realize the real human cost and tragedy of this epidemic, they will speak up. I only hope in sharing my experience from the other day I have helped bring the reality of this into focus for a few more people. We will never end addictions, but we can do a whole lot more to battle it. It’s worth it.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

Cory Morgan the Assistant Opinion & Broadcast Editor and Host of Triggered for the Western Standard. cmorgan@westernstandardonline.com

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  1. Left Coast

    November 30, 2021 at 9:54 am

    By August 2020 in BC slightly over 500 citizens had died from the Wuhan Virus . . . but the increase in Drug Deaths, not the Total just the increase was over 1000.

    The Provincial Health Tyrants & silly Dr. Bonnie completely ignored the problem.

    Today we have Fentenyl coming across the US/Mexican Border, which is Wide OPEN, by the Truckload. Manufactured in Mexico today with Chinese Chemicals. Since the day Senile Joe Biden was Inaugurated over 1.5 Million from 150 countries, have walked into the USA without Covid Tests & distributed throughout the country by the Feds on secret flights. Some of that Fentenyl makes its way to Canada . . .

    When all of the residual Damage caused by the Insane Covid Lockdowns is added up, the numbers will dwarf Covid deaths. The drug epidemic is just one of them.

    In Vancouver one group who can produce 100s of success stories is the Union Gospel Mission . . . the Govt. Funded INSITE can produce nothing but filled graves!

  2. Kelly Carter

    November 29, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    I do wish government would care half as much about the addiction pandemic which is real and has solutions instead of the “fake” pandemic that is COVID. I have always viewed addiction as two fold. It has to be treatment, but meaningful long term treatment. The detox and throw them back out with no skills or solutions means they will go right back to using. I am a big fan of keeping drugs criminalizes, but changing the punishment to forced treatment. You can make treatment available, but the choice to get clean is often over ridden by the desire to get high. Some of these people will never get clean until you force them into treatment. I am not a fan of harm reduction especially without treatment because you only save them to die another day.

    I also firmly believe in prevention. Much easier to educate and prevent addicts than to treat ones who are already deep into addiction. Educate the kids. I still remember this is your brain on drugs ads from the late 80’s. For others they need access to psychological help. And others may need an MD to actually believe them and look for the root problem instead of bandaid solutions. Many addicts start of by self medicating. A health care system that actually cared about both the physical and mental well being of a patient would go a long way to preventing addicts.

  3. John Lankers

    November 29, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    When it comes to addictions there is never a one size fits all. I agree with Jerry, the dealers have to be taken of the street for good!!! Also, addicts need very personalized support 24/7, everyone is different and without personalized treatment chances are they relapse. Hard drugs aren’t the only problem and many have more than one addiction, ranging from sleeping pills and alcohol to what have you. Alcoholics swallow anything from hand sanitizer to vanilla extract when they need a fix, I have seen it. They always find ways to get it, from the pantry, the baking isle in the store or a quick bathroom visit when no one is watching.
    The reason, IMO, why nothing really works for the vast majority of addicts is that the government, as usual, throws money at the problem and says they have done the best they can. Then the bureaucrats take over, waste a good chunk only to eventually put half ass programs together that might be beneficial for some but not others but never include longterm support to prevent addicts from relapsing over and over again. Even the hospitals and volunteer organizations are powerless and overwhelmed by government bureaucracy and are throwing their hands up. You can’t save everyone but those who are willing to accept a helping hand should be supported all the way for as long as it takes. I believe I know what I’m talking about, we helped our daughter’s best friend to get sober, it wasn’t easy it cost us a lot of time, sacrifice, energy and money but it was worth it.

  4. Eddy

    November 29, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Cory – get a Naloxone Kit at most Alberta Pharmacy’s for free.
    They have 3x1ml doses, gloves and retractable needles.
    They will train you to recognize a possible OD and how to inject.
    It is pretty easy if you have ever injected yourself (diabetes or other illness).
    Naloxene only works on Fentyl OD and it might save a life.


  5. Jerry Terpstra

    November 29, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    If the courts dealt with the dealers, suppliers and the mules with more than a slap on the wrist that would be a good start…
    Police work for months on a bust. In less than a week they are back at it. They make more in a day than the slap on the wrist fine. Want to deal with the problem. The problem has to be dealt with a swift powerful painful penalty. The whole supply chain is accessory to the murder. Deal with as such but it has to be swift. Do the crime do the time. Going back to hard labor instead of the cushy jails we have would also help.

  6. Andrew Red Deer

    November 29, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    Cory, the opioid crisis has been around for over three years now. Anyone who willingly takes opioids is willingly accepting the known results, just like heroin, lsd, cocaine, crack, meth and all the other street pharmaceuticals. The only people I felt sorrow for (for the first year of media information distribution) are the ones who were given opioids by their doctor in response to pain from injury or disease and were not managed well enough to avoid the consequences. Now I stay, take street drugs whatever the circumstances ….bear the consequences for yourself.

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THOMAS: How Western Canada fared in the 2021 housing market

“That didn’t happen. By early summer, sales picked up, prices steadied and the industry hasn’t looked back since, with some markets setting sales records in 2021.”




When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, like many industries, the lockdowns and restrictions shut down housing industry operations.

Home sales and prices plummeted, adding to the fear of the virus that homeowners would lose their homes’ equity. 

That didn’t happen. By early summer, sales picked up, prices steadied and the industry hasn’t looked back since, with some markets setting sales records in 2021. 

Here’s how major markets in Western Canada fared last year.


It was the third year in a row with record-breaking sales and dollar volumes.

“Both 2020 and 2021 were remarkable years in delivering sales gains from the previous year,” said Kourosh Doustshenas, outgoing president of the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board. “Last year saw an increase of more than 2,500 sales compared to 2020 and 33% sales growth over the previous five-year average.”

Sales of existing homes in 2021 reached 18,575 units with the dollar sales volume reaching $6.25 billion, up 28% from 2020.

Single-family homes and condominiums were the most popular, with market shares of 68% and 14% respectively.


The Saskatchewan Realtors Association’s (SRA) report covers all sales in the province. 

A record 17,387 sales were recorded in 2021, surpassing the previous record in 2007 by 17%.

While the pandemic triggered disruptions in some sectors of the economy, housing boomed, said SRA CEO, Chris Guérette.

“Improved savings from those not financially impacted by COVID-19, combined with low lending rates have supported the strong sales environment we saw throughout 2021,” said Guérette, adding inventory levels in the province were 16% below long-term trends.

“This resulted in the MLS Home Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price* gaining more than seven percent.”


Sales of existing homes in Calgary soared in 2021, reaching a record 27,686, nearly 72% higher than 2020 and more than 44% higher than the 10-year average, says the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB).

“Concerns over inflation and rising lending rates likely created more urgency with buyers over the past few months, said CREB’s chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie. “However, the supply has not kept pace with the demand, causing strong price growth.” 

The year-end benchmark price was $451,567, up 8% from 2020. 

“We enter 2022 with some of the tightest conditions in over a decade,” said Lurie. “In December, inventory was nearly 25% lower than long-term averages, which will impact our housing market in 2022.”


“2021 was an incredible year for the Greater Edmonton Area (GEA),” says Realtors Association of Edmonton chair Tom Shearer. “The year-over-year stats for sales and listings in the GEA were significantly higher than December 2020.”

Last December, single-family home sales rose 16.5% from December 2020.  Condo sales increased 25.6% from December 2020. Duplex/rowhouse sales increased 16.8% year-over-year.

The HPI benchmark price in the GEA came in at $410,900, a 5.2% increase from December 2020.

Metro Vancouver

Home sales reached an all-time high in 2021, with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reporting a total of 43,999, a 4% increase over the previous record of 42,326 in 2015.

The HPI composite benchmark price at the end of 2021 was $1,230,200, a 17.3% increase from December 2020.

“While steady, home listing activity didn’t keep pace with the record demand we saw throughout 2021. This imbalance caused residential home prices to rise over the past 12 months,” said Keith Stewart, REBGV economist.

“Detached home and townhome benchmark prices increased 22% last year, while apartments increased 12.8%.”


There were 10,052 properties sold in 2021, close to the record of 10,622 sales in 2016.

“The theme of this year has been very consistent,” says Victoria Real Estate Board president David Langlois. “Each month a high demand for homes paired with record low inventory has put strong pressure on pricing and attainability.”

The single-family HPI benchmark price in the Victoria Core in December 2021 was $1,144,900, up 25.1% from $1,122,600 in November. The HPI benchmark price for a condominium in the area in December 2020 was $570,600 up from $487,100 a year earlier. 

Housing supply across the country is a concern, said Langlois

“We have spoken throughout the year about the need for new housing supply at all levels to help moderate prices and improve attainability,” he said. “Some of our municipalities have begun to look at ways to make it easier for new homes to be brought to market and we applaud and encourage any movement in this area.”

*The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) is a measure of real estate prices that provides a clearer picture of market trends over traditional tools such as mean or median average prices. It is designed to be a reliable, consistent, and timely way of measuring changes in home prices over time.

Myke Thomas is a Western Standard contributor. He started in radio as a child voice actor, also working in television and as the real estate columnist, reporter and editor at the Calgary Sun for 22 years.

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MAKICHUK: Flaming question: Should we let them go, or not?

“Maybe Gondek can take a holiday in Mexico? Pretty please?”




So, do we care if the Flames leave, or not?

That, my friends, is the question. 

While it appears Mayor Jyoti Gondek was instrumental in letting the arena deal die, it’s never quite as simple as that.

I wouldn’t exactly put halos over the heads of the Flames owners either.

Someone suggested the right people to negotiate this thing are not in place — that actually sounds like it might have some merit.

It reminds me of when the Flames decided to trade Doug Gilmour, the player who helped them win the Stanley Cup.

At that time, sources told me the team and Gilmour were not that far apart in the money department. In fact, it was pocket change compared to what they pay players now.

I won’t go over the Gilmour-Leeman trade, it’s too painful for Flames fans to have to endure, and, well, I’m not that cruel of a person.

But really, are we that far apart now? We all know construction costs are soaring, but slamming the door shut on this deal, is not the way to go, IMO.

Even though I can’t stand the Flames. Why?

Well, for starters, I’m a Red Wings fan, all the way.

Secondly, when I worked at the Calgary Sun, whenever the Flames went into the playoffs we would end up working 12-hour days until the ordeal was over.

We did well against the competition, having a good stable of writers who worked their tails off. Not to mention the best sports photogs in the city.

As we got no extra overtime pay for all this extra effort and hardly saw our families during these times — which were exciting, of course, no argument there — it just got to be too much.

We would kill forests of trees to pound out pages on the Flames and their playoff adventures. 

In the end, whenever the Flames were eliminated, we would hold the “Thank You Flames Open” — a golf tournament, complete with prizes, and, a Green Jacket, which we purchased at Goodwill for $8.

The winner would get to wear the green jacket in the office, for an entire year — a tremendous honour!

But I’m not here to beat up on the Flames. I know how important this team is to the city.

While personally I don’t care if they stay or go, I know a lot of people want them to stay because they have become such an important symbol of our city.

Some of the best hockey ever played was between the Flames and, those guys up north … what’s their name again? Oil something?

Anyway, you get the picture. We happen to have a big rivalry with the folks in Edmonton who seem to get things done better and faster than our city council.

Case in point, Rogers Place. How come they could get it done and we couldn’t? 

That project also went over-budget, and led to a similar standoff. Clearly, cooler heads prevailed and Edmonton’s council approved the funding for the House of McDavid … and the rest, as they say, is history.

By the way, they also have better winter snow removal according to what I’ve been told.

So do we care or not? Should we try to resurrect this deal or not? 

Should Gondek — she of the climate emergency no one cares about — swallow her pride and step aside from the negotiation process?

Or, well … should we let them go and build a brand new stadium for the Calgary Stampeders instead? Believe it or not, they actually do need a new stadium.

As much as I love McMahon stadium, it is seriously out of date. I mean, even Regina has a much better football stadium, for crissakes. Regina!

If you ask me, I’d rather axe the Green Line, and other such Nero-like mega-projects of the previous mayor and use that money elsewhere.

But let’s get back to the Flames. Remember Winnipeg, who went through a dark period after their NHL team left town?

Glen Murray was city councillor for Winnipeg’s Fort Rouge ward at the time and was elected as the city’s mayor in 1998. He watched as Winnipeg’s team slipped away, eventually moving to Phoenix, where hockey never really caught on.

“It was heartbreaking because the provincial and the municipal governments who were subsidizing [the team] couldn’t sustain it,” Murray told the CBC.

“Every proposal for a new arena involved hundreds of millions of dollars, which no one in the community could raise at the time,” he said. “It was a real dark period for the city because people love their hockey team.”

When the much-despised NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the return of the then still-to-be-named team in May 2011, the excitement in the city was palpable.

“In all my years as a reporter, I have never seen a city stop before,” said Marjorie Dowhos, a CBC Manitoba reporter. 

“Cheers immediately broke out, some people had tears in their eyes and I had shivers up my spine as I watched all of this,” she said.

Season tickets went on sale to the general public on June 4 and sold out in 17 minutes.

What more do I have to say? Do we really want to go the way of the Winnipeg Jets?

Let me finish, with a little story.

Back in 1967, my Dad took me to my first NHL hockey game at the Olympia in Detroit. They were sold out, so we bought $3 standing room tickets.

The first thing I saw was Gordie Howe score effortlessly on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Terry Sawchuk, on a breakaway. The place went nuts, it literally shook.

That, and many other experiences that evening, would change my life. I saw walls of Red Wings paraphernalia, none of which we could afford. I think all we came home with was a cheap program.

To this day, I will never forget that first experience of watching the Wings play and seeing them walk off the ice on a carpet, right in front of me.

Hockey gods they were — not like today’s overpaid prima donnas.

One can’t really put a dollar value on that. I don’t know how much the Flames bring to the city, financially, but I would imagine it’s significant. But then, there’s that emotional attachment, too. 

Remember the big run in 2004? We all do. Hell, even I was popping shooters on 17 Avenue!

So yeah, hell, let’s try to keep the Flames. Let’s give it another go and hope that as good citizens the Flames owners group will cut us some slack in this time of financial disarray. And let’s get the right people in there, to get this done.

Maybe Gondek can take a holiday in Mexico? Pretty please?

And really, let’s leave this “line in the sand” crap to Vladimir Putin and his maniacal ambitions. 

We’re better than that, I’m sure of it. Let’s get ‘er done.

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news

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SLOBODIAN: Truckers going pedal-to-the-metal for Canadian freedoms

“We feel that the trucking industry is literally this country’s last hope to potentially getting our freedoms back.”




The complainers started calling Richland Transport Inc. while Rick Wall was still at the Canada-U.S. border protesting federal mandates requiring cross-border truckers to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated.

Wall, president of the Winkler, Man. trucking firm, organized Convoy Against Mandates. Semi-trucks drove along Highway 75 to the Pembina-Emerson port of entry in Southern Manitoba Monday. Pickups, tractors, and cars joined in.

“I love the haters. We’ll go out there all day long and battle for them as much as we will for any supporters. We were out there uniting the truck industry to fight all mandates for everyone,” Wall told the Western Standard

“This country has been ripped apart. We need to reunite and love and respect each other like we used to. Our government has done a tremendous job of dividing us, destroying us.

“We’re supposed to hate each other based on medical decisions. That is not right… We need to open our eyes.”

One caller who threatened to cut Richland’s phone lines “because your boss is stupid” might change his mind when the impact of the Liberal mandate personally affects him.

The mandate requiring truckers returning from the U.S. to be fully vaccinated or quarantine took effect January 15.

“Whether you support our movement or not, it will affect you. You wouldn’t see an instant effect from what we haul. It’s a trickle effect. It’s all linked,” said Wall.

With fewer drivers delivering loads, the supply chain will be heavily impacted. The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) anticipates a loss of 12,000-16,000 cross-border commercial drivers. Some estimates peg it higher at 20,000-26,000.

Unvaccinated American drivers will be denied entry.

“You’re going to see price increases on basically everything, especially food. I think you’ll see a lot of empty grocery store shelves. We’re in the middle of winter and our food is getting trucked in. Nobody’s growing gardens this time of year. They couldn’t have picked a worse time to do this. So much of our produce comes from the southern U.S.”

Meanwhile, unvaccinated truckers forced into quarantine — after they deliver their loads — lose income. 

“In a lot of scenarios, it’s basically taking that particular driver’s right to provide a livelihood for his family away from him. It’s detrimental to these families. There’s a lot of drivers not willing to participate in this mandate. The vaccines are clearly not working, that’s my view on it.”

Truckers have been treated shamefully by a Liberal government that kept changing direction. 

Since mid-November, the government was in a state of confusion over the requirements, announcing different rollout criteria, then going back to the original plan.

“It’s been a really, really tiring battle. Our heads have been spinning for months. Clearly, we saw how chaotic that was last week on how the government flip-flopped right until the very end,” said Wall.

“We had no solid information on the Canadian side basically until they started enforcing it on our drivers. It was pretty tough for us to navigate and try to figure out what do we tell our drivers.”

When the mandate kicked in, Richland’s first returning driver ran into problems at the border.

“He was down in the U.S. for a week. He came across Saturday morning. He was verbally abused by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at Emerson port of entry. He was treated horribly and was finally released after an hour and-a-half and told to go quarantine.

“Most of these guys know their rights. They will cite their rights and try to stand up for themselves. I’m very proud of them for doing that. We should all have that right.”

Some CBSA officers treat truckers with “utmost” respect.

“But the next guy is on a complete power trip giving the driver a really hard time, disrespecting them, denouncing everything the driver will say in his own defense.

“Goodness gracious, you’re coming home to your own country where you pay your taxes. And quite frankly, that officer’s salary… They come back home, and they’re treated like criminals. 

“Our system is incredibly broken…Something has to be done.”

Well, never underestimate the grit and stamina of truckers.

They’re just getting started. More rallies are planned.

A convoy rally will be held January 24 in Winnipeg. It will circle the perimeter of the city then head to the legislature.

A cross-Canada trucking convoy starting January 23 in Vancouver working its way east will gain momentum as it crosses the country. Truckers from across Canada will convene in Ottawa.

“It’ll just take a few more of us to stand up and say this isn’t right and try to unite the people. We need to end all these totalitarian mandates,” said Wall.

“We feel that the trucking industry is literally this country’s last hope to potentially getting our freedoms back.”

And our shelves stocked.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

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