On Oct. 22, Kingston chose a new city council and re-elected its mayor. But for one municipal candidate who didn’t earn a seat in government, this year’s campaign was not about winning or losing.
Jimmy Hassan, a council candidate for Trillium District, says he had to put up with negative comments on social media during his run for office. The municipal candidate received hateful attacks during his campaign, sometimes targeting his ethnicity.
However, despite these comments, the first-time candidate says the election was a milestone for him, and he appreciates the respect and recognition he’s gained from his fellow Kingston residents.
“I was proud. I’m always proud being a Canadian, but after the election — as of today, even — I’m feeling even prouder as a Kingstonian,” Hassan said. “I’m just feeling blessed to be part of Kingston, part of the Kingston community, part of my Trillium District.”
Hassan pulled in 1,249 votes from his district and says he received support not only from the community but also local politicians like former Kingston mayor and local MPP John Gerretsen and former local MP Ted Hsu.
As for the hateful comments online, Hassan brushes off these negative attacks, saying Kingstonians are big-hearted.
“This is an open city,” he said. “If you are competent, if you are confident, you’ll move forward.”
Mayor Bryan Paterson, recently re-elected for a second term, also spoke out against these kinds of comments.
“When you put your name forward for public office, there are unfortunately some people that feel that gives them the right to just take whatever run at you that they want. It’s unfortunate,” he said.
As for Kingston city council, Hassan says he would like to see more inclusive representation in municipal government, but the businessman also believes it has always been a place for people to exchange diverse ideas.
Hassan came in second during the city’s municipal election, losing out to Robert Kiley in the race for the Trillium District council seat. He earned just over 35 per cent of the ballots cast, coming in 259 votes behind his opponent.
As for running again, the businessman says he’ll do it if the people in his district want him to campaign.
ROWLEY, ALTA.—The keepers of Rowley march across its gravel main street in an early October snowstorm to unlock an Old West-style saloon.
Stepping in from the storm, Doug Hampton flicks on a dim light to reveal a bar that can hold 225 people — many times Rowley’s entire population.
This group of six represents most of the tiny community, and they’re fighting to keep their home alive. Tonight they’ve come to the saloon to unwind after their monthly review of the hamlet’s meagre finances.
The floors are brushed with sawdust, and the walls and ceilings are hidden by crude posters collected over decades. A toilet seat hangs on the wall with “A-hole of the Month Club” written in felt.
It’s still cold, and the group of six keep their jackets on as they distribute cans of beer from a fridge behind the bar. One lights up a smoke at the table.
Anything goes in Rowley, a rural Southern Alberta community with no water or sewer service that swings between bustling tourism hot spot and near ghost town.
“Tourists seem to find the place no matter where they’re from,” said Hampton, a 67-year-old retired oilfield worker who holds a key to open all eight public buildings in town.
“They read about it on the internet or something: ‘tourist attraction’ or ‘ghost town.’ (They say), ‘People live here?’”
Once an agricultural “boom town” of 500, Rowley’s population has shrunk to nine. There’s Doug, his older brother Terry who lives on main street with his wife, a family with two kids and a new couple in a tucked-away home that’s now up for sale.
This is a community that, for all the practical reasons that towns usually exist, should no longer be. The industry is long gone, and there are no civil services. But because the keepers of Rowley see value in these buildings and the history they represent, the place has a chance to keep on living.
Their best shot for fighting the ravages of time: parties.
The community association, made up of residents and people from nearby communities, runs pizza and beer fundraisers on the last Saturday of every month to maintain the hamlet’s most prominent aging buildings.
In July, a record-setting 700 people packed into Rowley, including tourists from across North America and Europe. The main street was roped off so visitors could carry their drinks outside between the community hall, saloon and pool hall while a live band performed.
“We do have a lot of fun. Otherwise it would just be a job and we’d probably all lose interest,” Hampton said.
As critical as the parties are, they aren’t the municipality’s only source of income.
Rowley falls under the jurisdiction of Starland County. In 2017, the Rowley Community Hall Association received just over $6,000 toward utility costs and another $4,500 to help with maintenance and hiring summer students.
Meanwhile, the province has provided close to $600,000 through nine grants since 2007 for tourism products, according to municipal affairs spokesperson Lauren Arscott.
Today the hamlet of Rowley is known for its kitschy storefronts, abandoned houses and barns that have fallen to ruin and two tall grain elevators that house flocks of pigeons. The first sign of life upon entering is a gang of about 15 feral cats occupying a wooden “cat condo” built by Doug’s brother Terry.
The old train station, school house and store are populated by haunting white mannequins dressed in period clothing, positioned to emulate scenes that might have occurred in the 1920s when Rowley was “booming.”
“People would bring in their produce and their milk and their cream and their eggs and ship it on the train, and grain was being hauled out of the elevators. In Rowley then there was two or three lumber yards and a couple of garages and pool halls and barber shops, the hotel, a couple of stores,” Hampton said.
When the Great Depression hit, food stopped growing and the boom turned to bust.
“We never got the rain, just wind all the time. So people started moving away, and the odd fire would sweep up main street there and take away a few of the buildings, and then nobody would rebuild it.”
Rowley once had a daily connection to Edmonton via the Dayliner passenger car, but it stopped running in the 1970s. The nearest place with any real amenities is Drumheller, a 38 km drive away.
When the train disappeared, Hampton’s parents helped form the Rowley Community Association and started restoring the few buildings left on main street.
They re-shingled the United church and turned the train station into a museum with artifacts dating back to the 1800s, “just to keep the buildings alive.” A former grocery store and meat market owned by Chinese immigrant Sam Leung, who passed away in 1972, was renovated as Sam’s Saloon in 1980.
Hampton’s sister Shirley Bremer said the hard work has been worthwhile for the simple joy of sharing the town’s history.
“It is kind of wild, because some of (the buildings) are pretty bad. But I guess it’s the pleasure you get,” Bremer said. “We’re all proud of where we grew up. It’s just kind of a unique little thing and we like it.”
Rowley’s early rebuild caught the attention of Hollywood film producers, who spent several months there in 1988 shooting the film Bye Bye Blues. The crew constructed storefronts for a bank and a funeral home that residents turned into a pool hall. Film crews occasionally still come around to shoot movie scenes or commercials.
Bill Reimer, director of Rural Policy Learning Commons and professor emeritus at Montreal’s Concordia University, said towns often try “chasing smokestacks” by bringing in new industries, but that’s rarely successful. The ones that get by, Reimer said, are places like Rowley that find ways to leverage the things that make them unique.
“In very general terms, the towns that are managing are the ones that look around and say, ‘What have we got here that we’re particularly good at, and who might be interested in it,’” Reimer said.
In warmer months, visitors can camp in town by donation, and the association hires students in July and August to give guided tours, touch up paint jobs and mow the lawns. Rowley’s community hall, church and saloon are already booked through next summer with weddings, family reunions and other events.
But money from bookings is not enough to cover ongoing maintenance and power costs, and the labour of rebuilding gets tiring for the aging population.
Sitting in his kitchen the afternoon after the snowstorm in one of Rowley’s four inhabited houses, Hampton contemplates the hamlet’s future. He likes the peace and quiet that comes with living in isolation but has recently become painfully aware that it can also be dangerous.
“Life is good until you get sick,” he said.
One night in October, his wife Brenda, in bed at home battling bone and lung cancer, was in pain and needed an ambulance. When he dialed 911, the dispatcher said it was not on their map.
“They didn’t know where the hell Rowley was at,” Hampton said.
“It took probably 15-20 minutes on the phone trying to explain we need an ambulance out of Drumheller, not Red Deer. The wife was dead by then.”
Now another couple that moved to Rowley a year-and-a-half ago is planning to move away, which would bring the population down to seven.
Lars Hallstrom, University of Alberta political studies professor and director of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities, said the trend of people leaving is almost impossible to reverse.
He said rural populations in Canada have been on a pattern of decline for more than a century. Eleven Alberta municipalities have dissolved over the past decade, and about 30 have reviewed whether they should continue to be autonomous, stand-alone municipalities.
Grande Cache in Western Alberta, with a population just over 1,000, voted to dissolve as a town in September after a loss of population and tax revenue made it unsustainable.
“It’s tough. They’ve been paddling upstream for years. And you have to admire the people who are willing to stay (in Rowley) and try to say, ‘This is our home, we do want his place to exist,’” Hallstrom said.
“But it’s very difficult to be optimistic in even the medium term about the likelihood of that community returning to a population of 50, let alone 500.”
Hampton said it’s getting harder to live in a place that lacks so many basic services.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Once I croak and my brother croaks, hopefully some young people come into town and take interest in it and learn to be proud of the town, too.”
Winter is about to settle in, and a heavy snowfall can render the community inescapable until a snow plow comes from outside.
When asked if he plans to stay put, Hampton takes a moment to pause before answering.
“Yeah. I don’t know where in the hell else I’d move.”
Kevin Maimann is an Edmonton-based reporter covering education and marijuana legalization. Follow him on Twitter: @TheMaimann
The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the surprises of the young season with only one regulation time loss in four starts, including two wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The game at the Bell Centre against the Detroit Red Wings Monday was all about Tomas Plekanec. It was a special night in his career as he played game 1000. Plekanec started out as a third-round draft choice, taken 71st overall. He wasn’t given much chance to make it, but he parlayed his work-ethic, and intelligence into a superb career.
While some focus was on game 1000 for Plekanec, the more important focus was on game five as the Habs tried to solidify their strong start against a Wings team that has struggled to start the year.
Most everyone for the first week of the season was in an uproar seemingly ready to end the career of Jonathan Drouin or trade him to anyone for a draft choice, if the Habs got lucky. The entire time, on my radar, the thinking was this is a player who is trying hard moves and that’s excellent. Skilled players are supposed to try to show what they can do. When you should be scared is when a high-talent player doesn’t want to participate anymore. Drouin wants the puck. He’s got energy in his stride. He believes in his ability to beat players directly with his stick and skating.
So it’s no surprise that Drouin is now finding his better self. He scored in the shootout on Saturday night against the Penguins, then early on Monday against the Wings, he earned a breakaway and had the stick knocked out of his hands. Drouin was awarded a penalty shot. Now considering when you have not scored yet on the season, there can be a little bit of butterflies to finally get going. But what we saw instead was a player completely in the moment without fear. Drouin skated over the blue line near the right-side boards to make the goalie Jimmy Howard move laterally, and then he fired blocker side just over the pad. It’s the hardest shot in hockey in close for a goalie to stop. It’s the dead zone and Drouin found it. Same shot twice in a row one-on-one as the shot duplicated the shootout against the Pens. Drouin’s going to be fine. He looks freer than he did last year. He’s thinking offence. Some players need to think offence and not worry about centre duties and the defence that comes with it. This move to the wing is absolutely what Drouin needs.
WATCH: Call of the Wilde: Habs season opener
Plekanec doesn’t have a lot of goals left in his stick, but it sure was nice for him to find one of the last goals in his 1000th game. Plekanec scored it not with a lightning shot or some gorgeous end-to-end rush, but with savvy. He scored in the same manner that he has done to make a career for himself — with his terrific hockey sense. He ended up on a clear advantage down the left side not being able to get a shot away, so he found himself behind the net where he did the Plekanec thing to do: he fired it off a Red Wings defender trying to get back into the play. The ricochet worked perfectly and Plekanec had his first goal of the year.
Good things happen when you charge the net and you then stay there. The Habs line of Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, and Philip Danault kept possession over the blue line and then stumbled their way with it to the front of the net. They then simply overwhelmed the Red Wings with numbers. All three forwards were all over the crease area. It was Tatar who batted it out of the air for his third goal in two games. Tatar is the leading point getter on the Habs with three goals and four assists. For Tatar, apparently, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. By contrast, Max Pacioretty has one goal this season. He has no assists and he is -3. Pacioretty can do better. Tatar already is — and a little reminder that he is only 27. He is hardly a player on the down slope. This may be a very hard trade for Vegas general manager George McPhee. He may never want to hear the name Tatar ever again. He acquired Tatar giving up a first, second, and third rounder. That’s three assets. He then didn’t like Tatar and wanted Pacioretty, so traded away another three assets in Tatar, first rounder Nick Suzuki and a second rounder. That’s three times two and that’s not how to manage effectively.
The line of Tatar, Danault and Gallagher is the best line on the team. It was Max Domi‘s line last week that was the best. If the best line can change from week to week, you might just find you have a pretty good hockey team. The pass from Tatar to Gallagher on the first goal of the second period was sublime. It was very sweet. It was a pass of only two feet but it changed everything making it an easy swipe for Gallagher’s third goal of the season.
It wasn’t a minute later and the Habs scored a fifth bringing the crowd to a frenzy. Again, it was sublime passing that left the defence mesmerized. Matthew Peca had a clean lane to shoot, but chose a cross-ice pass leaving Howard no chance. Charles Hudon with the goal and Howard with a seat on the bench to watch the rest of the night. These are not last year’s Habs.
The Red Wings scored their first goal on an extremely unfortunate moment of puck watching for Jeff Petry. In front of the net, Petry ended up going a whirlwind tour of the crease area watching the puck go to his left and then to his right and then back to his left. It ended up being a severe case of “puck watching” instead of “player taking.” Frustrating for Petry for sure as today’s NHL is certainly less designed for him to just hold on to a man and let Victor Mete take the other man.
It was the first night that Jesperi Kotkaniemi looked like he didn’t belong quite yet. Not to suggest that he was bad, but he didn’t create anything. Not an easy feat to be without a scoring chance or shining offensive moment when there were so many for the Canadiens. Not saying his path back to Finland or Laval is certain by any means, but that road being taken is starting to get some focus.
A flu is going through the locker room to start the season. It has hit only two so far, but these things can get out of hand when the players are in such close quarters with each other. Carey Price missed two starts with the virus. He is heathy now and was the back-up. Head Coach Claude Julien said that Antti Niemi was slated to start against the Wings anyway and Price had not skated in three days, so he felt Niemi was the more prepared goalie. Andrew Shaw came down with the flu as well and missed the game against the Red Wings. Peca played in Shaw’s spot on the wing.
WATCH: Call of the Wilde: Habs impress in first game
The Canadiens fans did the moment right when the PA announcer indicated that it was the 1000th game for Plekanec. The fans were standing as soon as Plekanec showed up on the giant scoreboard. And they stayed standing through the commercial break of two minutes. The Habs fans are so passionate and that means knowledgeable too. They knew that this was certainly well deserved and they were well aware it was coming.
There are a lot of years left on the contract of Karl Alzner. Four years and $18 million left on a player who can not get in this lineup and it’s hard to imagine that he will get in this lineup. There will have to be injuries, though perhaps Jordie Benn could falter with a little fatigue. The drama is not around when Alzner will play but what to do with him when players become healthy. Nicolas Deslauriers and Jacob De La Rose will be healthy soon and when they are, it’s difficult to imagine that Alzner will stay up in Montreal. Nikita Scherbak is also in the mix to stay up and not be lost on waivers. It’s looking more and more like Alzner will go to Laval with the improved play of Benn and Xavier Ouellet.