The District of Clearwater council voted in favour of recommending the Liquor Primary License at the Trans Mountain camp be approved to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, at the end of a public hearing at the Dutch Lake Community Centre, held Aug. 5.
In addition to council, members of the public and Trans Mountain employees were present, as well as a few uniformed RCMP officers.
“I think it was important that we took the time and felt good about the decision,” said Councillor Barry Banford after the vote.
“The reason why I seconded the motion is because, for me, the safety elements outweigh the financial elements of some of the concerns of the businesses.”
Community safety and the economic benefit of local businesses were the two major concerns brought up by various letters and presentations to council.
Despite some disagreements among the community, Councillor Shelley Sim expressed her gratitude to both the residents of Clearwater and the license applicant.
“I’ve really appreciated the interest and the committed scrutiny from the public and I’ve really appreciated the balance for how a community grows and how a community keeps safe,” she said.
“And I really appreciated the applicant having a wide purview of how to incorporate into a community.”
Coun. Sim added it’s clear safety was a concern of the community, considering a conservative estimate of the number of workers (550) is roughly a quarter of Clearwater’s current population, while also factoring in COVID-19 restrictions.
She also touched on a point made by Clearwater resident Sherri Madden in a submitted letter to council, which stated that COVID-19 may have had a negative impact on the tourism industry this year, but summer of 2021 could see a shift back to normal.
“I thought Miss Madden’s letter was particularly informative in the fact that tourism may be a little bit in a lull right now, but there is going to be rebounds next year and we have to make sure that our community has spaces to allow that growth,” said Coun. Sim.
“We don’t want to be a community that turns away not only locals but our potential tourism leg, which is going to be the sustaining left after this camp is gone.”
Six letters were submitted to the DOC and read aloud by Chief Administration Officer, Leslie Groulx. Only one member of the public gave a presentation to council. Many of the voices at the previous public hearing were against the license, citing concerns around COVID-19 protocols and who was allowed into the lounge, as well as ensuring local businesses benefit from the influx of workers in the area.
At the second hearing, however, many of the voices heard were in favour of the license and were in support for varying reasons.
“It seems self-evident that if Trans Mountain brings upwards of 800 workers to Clearwater, there’s no way that its liquor facility for 130 patrons, even less during COVID, can support all of these people,” said a letter submitted by Gretchen Reveille.
“There are still 670 potential seats available to local establishments to accommodate the overflow.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the capacity for the Liquor Primary License would be closer to 65, instead of the proposed 130 in the application.
The number of pipeline workers are also expected to be higher than originally estimated.
In addition, an argument made by some was the establishment would exacerbate noise levels and create an unsafe environment for workers and the community, but an ATCO Frontec employee addressed those concerns at the Aug. 5 hearing.
Vitaly Galinlin, vice president of operations and sales, said the company’s main consideration when applying for the license was safety for both the community and their workers. They also wanted to provide a place for their workers to relax after a long day of work that was close by and where they could better provide the safety element. One way they would do this is by having a two-drink maximum and a cut-off time of 10:30 p.m.
“It’s the avenue to relax a little but, have a couple of drinks and then we’re ensuring that they’re going to bed at 11 p.m. because a lot of these workers have very early shifts so we want them to show up…that they’re not impaired because some of them drive machinery,” said Galinlin.
Another concern was the ability of those in the camp to invite “guests” to the licensed lounge.
Despite the heightened level of testing being done by Trans Mountain to ensure there is no spread of COVID-19, inviting “guests” from outside the 500 designated camp workers could pose a higher risk to the community. The term “guests,” however, may have been the wrong term to use, said Galinlin.
The only people allowed in the licensed lounge are those with a swipe card — residents of the camp and those who work for the company in some form, but may not be staying at the camp, like Galinlin.
During council remarks, Mayor Merlin Blackwell said he had been on the fence about the decision, trying to weigh the safety component against the local economy.
“On both sides of the coin here, I see safety issues but also great opportunities for local businesses to benefit from this,” he said.
“Having travelled the province recently to a few places, I think we’re going to fare the next couple of years on the economic front a lot better than a lot of other tourism communities.
“I am still somewhat torn on this one, for sure, but I definitely have to put a significant amount of weight on the public safety consideration on this.”