Prince Albert’s Canada Day celebrations have been postponed due to the thick smoke from northern wildfires blanketing the city.
The City met with the Prince Albert Multicultural Council and the local Royal Canadian Legion branch on Tuesday morning to discuss the current situation. The annual Canada Day event was scheduled to go ahead on Wednesday in Kinsmen Park.
But with the air quality currently at 12 on the index – and seven to 10 being rated as ‘high’ in the range – the City is pulling its workers inside. The air quality forecast is supposed to be “high risk”, according to city manager Jim Toye.
“We take into consideration not only the safety of our employees, but the safety of our citizens and all the people who would come to Canada Day,” Toye said.
He described it as a very difficult decision to make, but the main concern is the safety of staff and citizens.
“We don’t want to be holding an event where people come and they feel they’re going to get ill or something like that,” he said.
The bulk of the setup work would have happened on Tuesday in order to have the event ready for the next morning.
“Even if we had a perfect day tomorrow (Wednesday), I would say once we make the main decision to cancel, it is cancelled because we won’t have the staff to put up all the infrastructure we need in order to support all the people coming to the event. So the event for sure is cancelled,” Toye said.
The City and the organizers are now looking to reschedule the event. A new date for celebration has yet to be selected, but they will be meeting after the air quality has improved to make that decision.
One of the event’s organizers, Shayne Lazarowich, executive director of the Prince Albert Multicultural Council, hopes the postponement doesn’t mean the event will be scaled back when it goes ahead.
“I’m hoping that all the people that, you know, committed to be able to take part will still be able to. I think the important thing right now, of course, is there’s a lot of families in the North … that are affected by these fires … and we need to think about them.”
This isn’t the first time that weather has changed Canada Day plans in Prince Albert. In 2013, amidst concerns the North Saskatchewan River’s levels would be increasing due to the runoff, celebrations were moved from the riverbank.
Lazarowich said this is the reason why the celebrations are now held in Kinsmen Park – in order to eliminate that risk.
Other activities at City facilities, such as the Kinsmen Water Park and Cooke Municipal Golf Course, have been cancelled due to the poor air quality. The City will re-evaluate on Thursday morning.
Toye said the forecast “is not good.”
“We need a wind change or we need a heavy rain in order to make this go away in a quick way and it doesn’t look like that’s in the forecast.”
Celebrations outside of the City
While Canada Day celebrations have been postponed in Prince Albert, they are expected to go ahead as planned at the Prince Albert National Park.
However, a fire ban remains in place.
On Twitter: @thiajames
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