Cold Lake council defers on paramedic use of Cenovus Energy Centre

The meeting was prompted by the March 19 Corporate Priorities meeting where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) requested access to the facility due to space constraints at their detachment.

This time around the discussion began with addressing a letter from Jason Spears of Associated Ambulance, representing Cold Lake's paramedics, requesting expanded access to the Cenovus Energy Centre.

CAO Kevin Nagoya addressed the council's previous recommendation of a one-year pilot project for the RCMP's access at the Cenovus Energy fitness centre.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland emphasized the importance of supporting essential services like the RCMP, anticipating similar requests from other sectors. Copeland also stressed the importance of physical fitness for individuals in these fields to maintain strength.

“So, I have no problem supporting under the same guidelines as the RCMP. It was a one-year trial. I don't know how many people are really going to take us up on it, but I think it's important that the ambulance people are in good shape and can carry hundreds of pounds of people. That's just my own thoughts. It doesn't bother me.”

However, the proposal was met with varying viewpoints from council members. Coun. Adele Richardson voiced her disagreement with extending access to paramedics under similar guidelines as the RCMP, emphasizing that the RCMP request is situational.

“I feel a little different. I do think when we look at the RCMP that it's a little bit situational with space and all of that . . . I just struggle with this because you look at the paramedic and the EMS services, but then I think it's going to get stretched and then you have to look at the hospital personnel. And then it's no different if they're looking at emergency staff or acute care staff and trying to help patients off those vehicles. Then, I think it just extends to all of the hospital personnel as well and I just struggle to support this.”

Similarly, Coun. Vicki Lefebvre raised concerns about setting a precedent and the potential ripple effect of granting access to additional emergency service personnel. She suggested exploring volume discounts for healthcare professionals at alternative facilities, such as the Energy Center, to maintain fairness.

“I feel if you do it for one, you have to do it for another. You set a precedent; that's what happens when you open these things up. So, if you did it for one set of emergency type people, the RCMP, then they feel we should do it for the others. And if we're going to look at that, then maybe further on we have to look if we're just going to have a free for all.”

Ultimately, the council opted to defer a decision, agreeing to revisit the matter in the spring of 2025 after evaluating the RCMP's participation in the pilot project.

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week