Cranbrook’s five most important news stories of 2015

Federal election in Kootenay-Columbia; Closing of Target; Decommissioning the Idlewild Dam; Fire Hall Debate; DyCar

Barry Coulter

In these pages, and in some following issues, you can read our 2015 in Review — select top stories throughout the year (separate entries for the Townsman and Bulletin). But several stories stand out, indeed have an historic quality to them.

And so, the editorial department of the Daily Townsman has determined the most important news stories of the year past. These are events that effected great change in Cranbrook, or show that great change is occurring.

1. The federal election in Kootenay-Columbia:

Less than one year after Wayne Stetski lost his position as mayor in the municipal election, he returned to public office — first winning the NDP nomination, then upsetting incumbent MP David Wilks in the Oct. 19 federal election, ending more than 20 years of Reform/Conservative incumbency in the riding. Everyone knew the riding was in play this time, after years of Conservative landslides — the addition of Nelson to the riding, and the nation-wide disenchantment with Prime Minister Stephen Harper obviously tightened things up here. But few could have guessed how tight it would be.

It was a bitter campaign, and polls consistently showed the riding too close to call. On election night, Wilks and Stetski traded the lead back and forth, by a handful of votes each time. The national media prematurely called the victory for Wilks, but Stetski ended up elected by a mere 200 votes. David Wilks gave a premature victory speech based on the national media’s call — a quite gracious speech, in fact; but shortly afterwards gave a gracious concession speech. Stetski, subdued by the tumult of election night returns, declined to offer any oratory at all that night. He is now representing our riding in Ottawa, in opposition to the Liberal government headed by his friend Justin Trudeau.

2) The closure of Target:

Two years after roaring into Canada with great fanfare, the American department store chain Target roared out again, with great fanfare. The chain’s failed Canadian experiment proved there is indeed a difference between Canadian and American economic and shopping cultures, and even if you build it, they won’t necessarily come unless you keep your shelves properly stocked. Around 200 jobs were lost in Cranbrook, and Target’s going-out-of-business system of graduated discounts brought out the worst in bargain-hunting shoppers.

There was some mitigating good news: Later in the year Canadian Tire announced it was taking over the erstwhile Target space in the Tamarack Centre, and is set to open in 2016. It will be a much bigger store than it’s current location on Victoria. But Cranbrook is still down one large employer.

3. The decommissioning of the Idlewild Dam:

In February, the newish Cranbrook City Council announced it was drawing down the manmade lake in Idlewild Park, for the purpose of taking out the old decrepit dam that fed the waters of Joseph Creek into Cranbrook. Perhaps the dam would be replaced at a later date, but safety concerns due to possible dam failure and flooding was what prompted this decision. The lake had been designed to be dredged occasionally, but hadn’t been for years. Silt levels were high, and water backing up on to properties on the east side of the park. The lake is home to abundant wildlife, including the endangered western painted turtle. The drawdown is proving to be a bit of a sticky wicket. Expect more dam news in 2016.

4. The Old Fire Hall Debate:

Cranbrook has a dearth of heritage buildings, and one of the few that has survived the decades is currently up for sale. The Cranbrook and District Arts Council lobbied the newly elected Cranbrook City Council for use of the old fire hall as a permanent home — something the Arts Council has never had. City Council was unpersuaded by the Arts Council’s business plan, and elected to put the building on the market, where it now exists. Councils of yesteryear may have torn the building down for parking, as was nearly the fate of what’s now the Studio Stage Door. But for the time being, the future purpose of the elegant brick building on 11th Avenue is still to be envisioned. And the Arts Council’s nomadic ways continue, having just moved into their newest space on Baker Street.

4. DyCar Pharmaceuticals:

A B.C.-based company’s announcement that it is planning to open a commercial medical marijuana facility in Cranbrook is surely considered good news by everyone. After all, everyone’s talking about pot these days — its use for medicinal purposes, its possible legalization for recreational purposes, and the breathtaking economic possibilities marijuana has if taken out of the black market, then regulated, taxed and sold. Very exciting.

DyCar’s application for the facility is proceeding slowly, but proceeding nonetheless. The facility would create upwards of 200 jobs in town — most of them, admittedly, part-time.

 

Dear readers, keep your eyes to the future — it is our plan to be there with you. Our very good wishes to all our readers, here at the bottom of the year, and may 2016 bring you all health, prosperity and contentment.