What’s in a name?

My high school English teacher often said, of all the subjects taught, throughout my life, I’d come to rely on Shakespeare the most. I thought she was just trying to make herself seem indispensible, but she was right because “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

When amalgamation talks began in earnest in 2018 after the Town of Black Diamond annexed some land so the borders between BD and TV finally kissed, meaning we could amalgamate if we chose, I was scared – scared a shared future would somehow have us forgetting our history and our pasts. I remember sitting in the basement of the Black Diamond Town Office (aka. Council Chambers), listening to the amalgamation discussion of 13 other councillors. I did voice my concern. I was, and maybe still am, concerned our people would be very upset about this perceived loss of identity.

But, we don’t lose our identity when we marry. We don’t forget the past when we form new friendships. We build, we grow, we create new stories, memories and identities. This is what I wish for all of us – a shared history, because it’s not as if Turner Valley hasn’t been part of Black Diamond’s history and visa versa; it’s been shared all along.

Heading into the unknown, into the combined future of our two towns, I’m excited to see how we will celebrate this union. This amalgamation is the first of its kind and that in itself is something to celebrate. Most amalgamations are a larger and stronger municipality taking over a smaller and probably failing one. That’s not us. We are both healthy organizations that have made the choice to come together. So, let’s celebrate our community that’s been tied together from the beginning.

How do you see us celebrating? A party, community murals, in song, a play, a book? It’s all possible, we just need you to help make it happen.

The council years

It’s been an eye-opening and challenging few years on Black Diamond Council. It’s not something I will ever regret doing – putting my name forward in 2017 and being elected has been, by and large, a wonderful experience. Now, trying to relay all I’ve done over the past five years in an easy to read post is the trick.

Here are some of the highlights:

Sustainable Black Diamond Advisory Committee – I was with this group for two years. The committee wanted to increase youth participation with the town, so we partnered with Oilfields High School and welcomed a youth member. We also started supporting the sustainability efforts the students were working on and the school’s garden and outdoor classroom grew from there. I am still involved with student-led projects and am happy to say the relationship between the Town of Black Diamond and Oilfields High School is stronger than ever.

Community Futures Highwood – I had the amazing fortune to join the CFH board in 2017. This organization is tasked with lending money to local and regional entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses. This is a federally funded program, but it is managed at the regional level. I am now the chairperson at CFH and the board just approved a full restructuring of how they operate. The mandate remains the same, but we have made the board a more manageable size (down from 18 to 9). This will allow for better future planning and delivery of services from CFH.

Amalgamation – this was a complicated and complex task. Looking back, this topic took up the bulk of my time on council. It was no easy decision, but I stand by my vote to amalgamate. What finally helped me decide was looking to the future and imagining what our community would be like if we did not amalgamate. I didn’t feel the status quo was good enough so I said yes.

Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee – this committee was created to build name recognition for Turner Valley and Black Diamond and to promote business retention and new business development within our community. I am proud of the the way this group formed. Amalgamation talks were in full swing and I viewed the IEDC as a training ground for how the two towns could work together towards a common goal. This committee has grown from the original 10 members to 12 people; four councillors and eight members at large, all business leaders within the region.

Foothills Tourism Association – my work with FTA is not part of my council duties, but it does play a huge part in what I believe is the future of our region. The FTA encourages tourism from Bragg Creek to Nanton and Kananaskis to Okotoks/High River. By bolstering tourism we create a visitor economy where all businesses, tourism facing or not, can flourish. The Foothills Tourism Association works with municipal and provincial support. We want visitors to see our region as we do and of course support our businesses while they enjoy this incredible place.

It was a full five years. I managed to keep within my interests and talents when it came to committees of council. I hope to continue being part of these initiatives in the future whether I am on council or not.

Diamond Valley election – 2022

Hello everyone, I am Veronica Kloiber and I am running for council of the newly minted Town of Diamond Valley. I have been on Black Diamond Council since 2017 and told myself and voters I would run for two terms. The amalgamation changed things a bit, so now I get to participate in three elections, not just two.

My husband and I have called Black Diamond home since 2009. We moved here to be closer to extended family and raise our son in a small town. Our boy is now a teenager and we look back fondly on the fantastic childhood memories that were made possible by living in this beautiful place.

When I was first elected in 2017, my goals were to improve communication, transparency and infrastructure (specifically water and sewer). There is still much work to be done on those points. I voted in favour of amalgamation. I see the benefits outweighing the short-term challenges of merging two towns and look forward to doing away with the duplication of work.

I am a strong supporter of business retention and economic development. Prior to my time on council, I was a volunteer member on Black Diamond’s Economic Development Committee. As a councillor I sit on the Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee, a partnership with the Town of Turner Valley. I am the chairperson of the Community Futures Highwood board, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to economic growth and business development.

Since June of 2020, I have had the good fortune to work with the Foothills Tourism Association in promoting this region. Not only have I had the opportunity to meet Black Diamond business owners but business owners throughout the Foothills. I see the tourism industry as a valuable asset to our town and our region and I will continue to promote a visitor economy and regenerative tourism.

Being a member of a municipal council means sharing the work and the successes. I cannot say I’ve accomplished anything on my own, but some things I’ve had a hand in are as follows:

  • Increasing youth participation by volunteering with the students of Oilfields High School through their work on sustainability projects
  • Supporting existing and new businesses through Community Futures Highwood
  • Bolstering tourism and economic development through the Foothills Tourism Association by bringing visitors to the region
  • Opposing mining exploration and mining development on our Eastern Slopes
  • Worked to ensure fairness from municipal government through utility rates and billing
  • Pushed for more expedient infrastructure improvements
  • Fought to ensure responsible development and secure future availability of water
  • Spent time looking at the Land Use Bylaw to ensure a fair and equitable development approval process
  • Encouraged new faces on council in the 2021 election 

This region is and has been a wonderful place for me and my family to call home. It has given us an affordable house, friendly neighbours, community spirit, and free time for me to get out on horseback and explore the nearby trails. I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be your voice on the new Diamond Valley Council.

You can reach me at mzzandry@gmail.com or by phone/text at 403-921-2811.

Bluerock Gallery – coping through COVID

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I wondered how to get the word out about our local businesses. As a Black Diamond Councillor and a member of the recently formed Inter-municipal Economic Development Committee (IEDC), the growth and sustainability of our businesses is top of mind. The IEDC commissioned a report on the state of our business community and the main point that emerged was locals don’t know of all our wonderful companies. I figured with my writing background, I could easily feature a business every few weeks and help spread the word that way. Then the pandemic began. Now it is even more important we support our own, so here goes. To try to keep me impartial, each business I feature gets to pick the next one. I hope you enjoy learning about our community businesses and how they are coping.

Veronica Kloiber

There is something special about Black Diamond’s main street. To imagine it without even one of the shops is a painful exercise, but to think of it without Bluerock Gallery is not possible. The gallery has been a fixture of the downtown, in all its iterations, for decades.

“I’ve asked myself that over and over. Mainstreet now looks great, many beautiful, different stores – destination stores, it would be quite a tragedy to lose anyone,” said Tarek Nemr.

“I can’t imagine what main street would look like without Bluerock,” agreed Shelly Faulkner. “Not just for my own sake, because it’s mine and Tarek’s, both of us really believe in Black Diamond and want to see it thrive. I love Black Diamond; I think it’s a wonderful place.”

Tarek and Shelly are the co-owners of Bluerock Gallery, and in Shelly’s mind not so much owners but caretakers.

“It’s not ownership but stewardship,” she said. “We’ve inherited this amazing thing; people love the gallery.”

It’s comforting to know that neither are alone in steering the ship that is Bluerock Gallery, they can lean on one another for support and that leaning has never been more important.

“He’s the guy at the helm,” explained Shelly, of her business partner. “He’s so business minded and clear headed, I’m just so impressed by him. He is more comfortable being the face of the business. I feel really lucky for both our sakes, we have our roles and it seems to be working.”

If Tarek is the face of the gallery, Shelly is at home in the details and accoutrements. Happiest behind the scenes, she revels in quiet pages and the tactile elements that make up the shop.

“I look after the books – it’s something I have always loved. I take care of the shop, books, cards, textiles and jewellery,” she said.

The pair have been business partners for only a year. Their new roles as owners and caretakers were becoming comfortable and the business was humming along, boasting one of its best years in 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

“It came so quickly, it happened so quickly,” explained Nemr. One day he was placing orders and seemingly the next was locking his doors, in accordance with government regulations.

“On Saturday we opened, on Sunday we heard there were more cases. Monday it was busy but no more than 10 people at a time,” said Nemr. “At the start of pandemic on Monday, the 16th of March I made three orders. On Tuesday I had to cancel orders. It was a state of emergency and all galleries closed,” he explained.


“I’m so thankful to be in such an amazing town.”


Coming from Syria, Tarek is no stranger to government orders and social upheaval.

“Back home we had a thing that all stores close. The supermarkets closed,” he said.

“The state of panic and emergency is not strange but my past experience prepared me for this because after all the government and people are working together for this,” Tarek said of the Canadian response.

“I’m so thankful to be in such an amazing town,” he said of the local attitude to the government health measures. “I’m really impressed.”

With the doors locked and no customers to marvel in person at their collection, the owners of Bluerock Gallery cooked up a once in, it has never happened sale. Without asking any of their artists to make up the difference, Tarek and Shelly put on a 25 per cent off everything sale over the Easter weekend.

“The sale was amazing – it exceeded my expectations,” marvelled Tarek. “Thank you so much for the support.”

“We were run off our feet, and it was entirely a good thing,” agreed Shelly.

Having closed the shop on the 17th of March and with few online sales coming in, the sale (which was totally online, save for pickup) was just the ticket to not only get a much needed influx of sales but to remind people what kind of place they are missing.

“From March to the 10th of April we had very little amount of sales,” explained Tarek. “Some of our artists depend on sales from galleries to make a living and we are trying not to ask for government assistance.”

Now, with the success of the sale behind them, Tarek and Shelly have not been slacking. Being so dependent on online sales, the pair are committed to posting on Instagram and Facebook each day. As for upcoming plans, Tarek remained secretive.

“I certainly have some plans,” he teased. “The next event is Mother’s Day.”

Even without the bell on the front door to Bluerock Gallery heralding the entrance of customers to greet and delight, the gallery owners are far from bored. They are tidying up and readying for when the restrictions are lifted and they can welcome people into the shop once more.

“As you can imagine we have a lot of holes in the walls,” said Tarek. “We are painting the walls at the gallery. Now is a great time to do so.”

While neither will argue, the world is a strange place right now they are committed to what was entrusted to them – the gallery and are planning to come out the other side of the pandemic ready to reopen.

“There is some element of having to face a challenge. We’re in the middle of it and all you can do is try your best,” said Shelly. “I try to be philosophical about things, the previous owners dealt with a flood year. My hope is we can resume operations as they were before. It’s a totally different place without people in there.”

Black Diamond Rona – coping through COVID

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I wondered how to get the word out about our local businesses. As a Black Diamond Councillor and a member of the recently formed Inter-municipal Economic Development Committee (IEDC), the growth and sustainability of our businesses is top of mind. The IEDC commissioned a report on the state of our business community and the main point that emerged was locals don’t know of all our wonderful companies. I figured with my writing background, I could easily feature a business every few weeks and help spread the word that way. Then the pandemic began. Now it is even more important we support our own, so here goes. To try to keep me impartial, each business I feature gets to pick the next one. I hope you enjoy learning about our community businesses and how they are coping.

Veronica Kloiber


Matt Wagstaff is a numbers man. His background in finance has bent him this way, and no amount of virus talk, government health regulations, or fear of the future can change that. As one half of the ownership team at Rona Black Diamond, he is watching his spreadsheets closely and wondering how to make this new reality work.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” he admitted, “but we need to be optimistic.”

In years past, this being optimistic thing wouldn’t have been too hard. With the promise of spring just around the next bend and orders of plants and soil starting to trickle in, optimism should be easy to come by. The seasonal orders for soils, seeds, patio sets, plants, posts and rails, and outdoor lumber were placed months ago, bought and paid for as they say, when reality was very different.

“This is just the nature of the business and the season. This time of year, we’ve pre-bought for the next three months,” explained Wagstaff. In an ordinary year, he would have no reason to be overly concerned. As spring turns to summer and the sales are good, the credit gets paid off, no problem. But this is no ordinary year.

As the province laid out new restrictions and curtailed the economy to essential services, Wagstaff watched his March sales numbers fall flat. While the numbers showed him it was a good month traffic-wise with home builders pushing to get their projects completed, Wagstaff watched his business morph from a construction focus to a retail.

“There’s lots of uncertainty in the home building market,” explained Wagstaff. “We used to be 80/20 construction to retail, now more like 40/60.”

The numbers don’t mean what they used to in this new reality. That’s left Wagstaff looking for new measures of success and shifting focus to retail customers and a different outlook for his business.

“I’m thankful for every single customer
who’s come into our store.”


“Our days are full,” said Wagstaff of he and his team. “It’s gone from a contractor business to retail and we are thankful for all our customers.”

“I think it’s going to be easily worthwhile to focus on the seasonal aspect of our business,” mused Wagstaff. “We are getting plants in this season, we bought them in December and January.”

Also on the docket for customers are long-procrastinated home repairs and upgrades. “People are organizing their houses,” he stated. “People haven’t painted their walls in 15 years. There is good news there.”

“I’m thankful for every single customer who’s come into our store,” said Wagstaff. “We are focusing on customer service, protecting our staff and customers. We’re trying to keep as normal as possible.”

The only other break from normal is the store no longer accepts returns. “We’re not doing returns right now. We just can’t control that,” explained Wagstaff, whose team is also applying all recommended practices set out by the governments and Lowes’ management.

He and his staff are taking more phone calls than ever before, from people who need advice, to those who want to place an order and not come into the store. Rona Black Diamond has upped their home delivery game and have also been offering curbside pick-up.

One bright point so far is Wagstaff has not had to let any of his 20 employees go. He is well aware of the federal wage subsidy available to businesses but as of yet, his business does not qualify. Proof of a 30 per cent drop in monthly revenue compared to last year is required to access the subsidy and Wagstaff said March numbers did not meet that criteria.

Being a numbers man doesn’t grant access to a crystal ball so Wagstaff is still working on the next steps for the business. What his business will look like in the coming months is a question he cannot answer.

“There’s no playbook here. We’re taking every action possible to keep the business viable,” he said.

“It’s exciting and scary as hell,” Wagstaff admitted. “When I get home I’m mentally and physically exhausted and trying to make sense of it all. All we can do is support our customers and staff as best we can.”

Wagstaff asked to include one last thought: “We have all been asking for more time in our lives. Now is the time to embrace this and focus on trying to find the bright spots in our lives. We have so much to look forward to.”


Council Meeting – November 6

It’s a big one this week. We have two delegation presentations; one from TCEnergy (formerly Trans Canada) on a natural gas pipeline in our area and the second presentation from MDB Insight on their report on the Intermunicipal Economic Development Strategy.

I sit on the Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee and we were pleased with the report and its contents. The presentation is expected to take longer than the standard 15 minutes so bring a pillow as the chairs in Council Chambers aren’t that comfortable for extended sitting.

Council is also being asked to decide on next year’s Fortis franchise fees; a budget reallocation of $3,000 and $6,000 for conceptual design of a park and ride, washroom and bus shelter; and to determine a voting representative for the Sheep River Regional Utility Corporation (SRRUC) AGM which will be held Thursday, November 28 at 5 p.m. in the Sheep River Library

We are also being asked to decide on a utility account refund in the amount of $393.39.

The correspondence, reports and information list looks quite long and daunting but it’s mostly all CAO reports. Council receives them quarterly and they outline what the CAO has been up to.

There is a letter introducing a new higher up in the RCMP: Trevor Daroux, Chief Superintendent, District Officer for Southern Alberta. Also from the RCMP, a letter thanking the council members who met with them at the AUMA last September.

On October 2, 2019, Black Diamond Council filled out a self-evaluation. You can take a look and see if you agree with the responses.

Lastly, an invitation to join the campaign to stop ageism let by the Alberta Council on Aging.

Below is the pdf version of the agenda. Hope to see some of you there on Wednesday.

REGULAR COUNCIL – 06 Nov 2019 – Agenda – Pdf

October 22 – Regular meeting of Council

The next meeting of Black Diamond Council is Tuesday, October 22nd at 9 a.m.

On the agenda is a delegation presentation from Black Diamond resident Ted Davis, regarding pavement concerns in the Riverwood subdivision.

Also to be discussed is regional solid waste management which was on the agenda for the last meeting but Council asked for more time to review the report.

Finally, Council is being asked to accept the resignation of one of the Library Board members. This is merely protocol. Council has a policy for committee and board members and it must be adhered to.

So likely a short meeting this coming Tuesday.

REGULAR COUNCIL – 22 Oct 2019 – Agenda – Pdf

Communication error


I received some good feedback last week from a resident. It is clear I’m not doing as good a job communicating as I hoped. The criticism was Black Diamond councillors do not engage with residents online as much or as well as Turner Valley’s councillors. I’ll try to remedy that by posting on Facebook more often.

I’ve also heard that many would like to follow Town business and have an interest in what Black Diamond Council is discussing but either forget or can’t find the agendas. I’m happy to post the agendas here on my blog and hopefully that makes it easier for people to find them.

It would be so nice to see more people at council meetings. Rarely does anyone show up and when they do it’s because they are unhappy with something Council has done or is doing. From a councillor’s perspective, this is difficult. I see a lot of opinions on Facebook but I don’t often get an opportunity to talk face to face with constituents. I’d like more discussion. I’d like to present your opinions to the rest of council. I’d be thrilled to talk to you.

Here is a copy of the next Black Diamond Council meeting agenda. This meeting will be Wednesday, October 16 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers (downstairs at the Town of Black Diamond Municipal Office). Hope to see you there and as always, if you want to reach me you can email, call or text. My information is on my contact page.

REGULAR COUNCIL – 16 Oct 2019 – Agenda – Pdf

A sustainable high school


I’ve been volunteering at Oilfields High School for the past semester with some interested students. Interested in what you ask? Interested in sustainability.

At the Town of Black Diamond’s Sustainability Fair, six kids spent their Saturday displaying and explaining what they are accomplishing when it comes to sustainability.

The students have three main focuses:

  • Fabric and costumes
  • Recycling and awareness
  • Construction

Now that summer is almost here, my volunteer time with the students has come to an end but my job is not done. I promised them I’d try to source out the tools and materials they need to keep going next fall. So, my lovely community, I’m asking nicely for some items.

The seamstresses and fabric artists have asked for:

  • a serger machine
  • fabric – except upholstery
  • embroidery thread
  • dyed wool (loose wool for felting)
  • buttons

The recycling and awareness group would very much like:

  • your attention – they have things to say
  • to learn more about our current (flawed) recycling system
  • a possible mentoring relationship with our local recycling providers
  • plywood to build recycling stations for the high school/elementary school

The builders of the group have dreams of a vertical hydroponic farm like this one on Instructables (a full materials list is included on this website) and a compost area on school property. This crew is hoping to find these materials:

  • 2″ and 3″ PVC pipe (schedule 40)
  • 2″ and 3″ PVC tees
  • 3″ PVC endcaps
  • 3/4″ PEX elbows and tees
  • water pump
  • LED lights (suitable for growing)
  • water pump timer
  • light timer
  • Raspberry Pi (fun but not completely necessary)
  • any local expertise on indoor growing and hydroponics

The composting crew would like:

  • buckets (to collect organic waste)
  • 2×6 or 2×8 lumber to construct the compost bins
  • compost thermometer
  • short spade(s) for turning the pile

The entire sustainability group, and likely the entire school would also welcome hand tools such as:

  • screwdrivers
  • small screwdrivers for taking apart electronics

If you have these items and wish to part with them, even if you have other items you’d like to donate, please, DO NOT drop them off at the school. Give me a call so either I or someone with ties to the sustainability group can take a look first. We do have some space to store the stuff until September so get cleaning, and thank you in advance for your generosity.

Inter-municipal Economic Development

For the past six months, two councillors from Black Diamond, two from Turner Valley, along with administration from both towns have worked out the details and created an innovative joint venture for our communities.

Both Black Diamond and Turner Valley Councils approved the terms of reference and the bylaw to form the committee. The four council representatives; myself and Daryl Lalonde from Black Diamond and Jonathan Gordon and John Waring from Turner Valley, then set to work hiring a consultant. The role of the consultant is to create a new joint economic development plan.

The brand-new Inter-municipal Economic Development Committee needs members beyond council representation. There are six seats available to anyone, from either community. You don’t have to live here to be a member-at-large. We councillors wanted to keep membership open to any and all who have or had ties to the communities and have business experience.

Please see the volunteer job posting for more details.