If anyone thinks High Prairie town council did everything it could to try and persuade organizers of the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup Hockey Cup Tournament to return to High Prairie, think again.
It is true that organizers signed a two-year agreement to go to Slave Lake after negotiations went sour in 2023. So off they went to Slave Lake in 2023 and 2024. High Prairie town council is saying they did “everything they could” but did they? Even today, their efforts are extremely questionable.
Look no further than the North Peace to see a perfect example of what a community can do when they truly want to keep an event in their region.
The Treaty 8 First Nations Cup and Pond Hockey Championships are similar events, the first formerly held in High Prairie, the latter at Lac Cardinal. Both are huge economic drivers and worthy of support.
In High Prairie, last we were told, administration was directed to offer a “tournament rate” to Treaty 8. What that rate is, the public is not being told.
Meanwhile, at the M.D. of Peace meeting Jan. 23 and Town of Grimshaw meeting Jan. 24, they passed similar motions. Each pledged $5,000 plus in-kind support to help support the 2024 Pond Hockey Championships March 8-10 at Lac Cardinal.
Their support is night and day from what the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County ponied up.
Why the difference is a valid question.
Behind the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo, the Treaty 8 event is arguably either the second or third biggest event in the town of High Prairie each year (the High Prairie Gun and Sportsman Show being the other). Yet, not a single penny of economic support has been offered to Treaty 8 compared to the $10,000 offered up north.
If it has, it’s being kept a secret for no apparent reason.
Meanwhile, High Prairie businesses, who help pay the taxes to support such events, are left wondering what happened. Sales are lost. Businesses have suffered. They have every right to be angry and ask questions.
Next is another perplexing chain of events. High Prairie town council has what it calls a council sponsorship budget, where each councillor is given $5,000 to make recommendations to council which it then passes.
Provided by Town adminstration are the allocations and money spent for each member of council in 2023. Of this money spent, not one red cent was allocated for the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup.
Member of council $ Spent $ Left
Mayor Brian Panasiuk $1,779.17 $3,220.83
Councillor Donna Deynaka $991.68 $4,008.32
Councillor James Waikle $2,011.18 $2,988.82
Councillor John Dunn $1,779.17 $3,220.83
Councillor Sacha Martens $911.68 $4,088.32
Councillor Therese Yacyshyn $1,709.17 $3,290.83
Councillor Judy Stenhouse $0.00 $5,000.00
TOTAL $9,182.05 $35,000.00
This means council has a surplus of $25,817.95. There is a note for High Prairie Curling Club funds released in 2024 for $7,441.62. Subtracting that figure, we are still left with $18,376.33.
A suggestion to council: why not take a proactive approach and offer a portion of this money to the Treaty 8 organizers? Pick $5,000. Pick $10,000 as a starting negotiation point. Why not throw Treaty 8 a carrot? Offer Treaty 8 organizers a reason to return to High Prairie. Show them you are serious.
Municipal governments like the M.D. of Peace and Town of Grimshaw are serious and offer help. It is time High Prairie town council stepped up the plate. The Treaty 8 event is a huge event lost to the community. Council has the funds to offer a huge incentive for its return in 2025. Make it happen!
Worth noting, Slave Lake Mayor Francesca Ward says they did not give free ice to the event in Slave Lake, contrary to rumours in High Prairie. They did sign a two-year contract but details of the contract are not made available to the public.
Also, Stenhouse has not allocated funds. She does not believe council should take taxpayers’ money and decide which charities and/or events to give it to. She believes money should be left in the people’s hands and they should decide which charities to give money to, not council.