As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time to look back on stories that generated the most interest and reaction among Global Saskatoon online readers.
From a tragedy that touched the hearts of millions of people across the world, heated city council debates, these were the stories that topped the headlines during the year.
10. North Battleford Amber Alert
An Amber Alert was issued on the evening of Sept. 16 after a vehicle with a young girl inside was stolen in North Battleford, Sask.
She was secured in her car seat when the running SUV was stolen late in the afternoon in front of a strip mall.
There were concerns for the girl inside due to her medical conditions; she is autistic and has epilepsy.
The alert was eventually expanded to Alberta and Manitoba.
The Amber Albert was cancelled the following morning after the child was located safely inside the SUV in a remote industrial area in North Battleford.
Johnathan Gunville has since pleaded guilty to several charges, including abandoning a child, and theft of a vehicle.
9. Former Humboldt Bronco and family killed in crash
The community of Rosetown was left in a state of shock after a former member of the Humboldt Broncos and his family were killed in a head-on crash in western Saskatchewan.
The SUVs collided head-on north of Elrose on Highway 4 on June 29.
Troy and Carissa Gasper, along with their three children ages six, four and two, were killed in the crash.
The driver and lone occupant of the other SUV, a 71-year-old woman from the Swift Current area, was also killed.
Gasper played for the Broncos between 2009 and 2011.
8. Fire pits hot topic at Saskatoon city council
Fire pits were a hot topic at Saskatoon city council as councillors debated whether to restrict the hours fire pits could be used in the city.
Councillors eventually voted in favour of restricting fire pit use to between the hours of 2 p.m. and 11 p.m., but it was a close 6-5 vote.
Veteran councillors called the debate one of the most divisive issues they have seen at city hall, with Coun. Darren Hill saying the bylaw “was not our best work.”
Advocates of the restricted hours said it provides some predictability on when people with health issues can enjoy the outdoors.
7. Firefighter killed on duty
Residents of Rosetown were left shaken after a volunteer firefighter was killed in the line of duty.
Darrell Morrison, 46, was at the scene of a crash between two semis on Highway 4 on Nov. 21 when he was struck by a passing semi.
Morrison was rushed to hospital in Rosetown where he died from his injuries.
His daughter, Cheyanne – who is also a volunteer firefighter, penned an emotional Facebook post, saying she “lost not only my dad, but my number one fan.”
Over 300 firefighters paid tribute to Morrison at his funeral.
6. New Saskatchewan political leaders
Both of Saskatchewan’s main political parties chose new leaders in 2018.
The Saskatchewan Party had to decide on a replacement for outgoing premier Brad Wall, who announced in August 2017 he was retiring from politics.
Party members chose Scott Moe over four other contenders to take over the reins of the party – and become the 15th premier of the province.
Third time was the charm for Ryan Meili as he was elected leader of the Saskatchewan NDP.
Meili, a doctor from Saskatoon, previously lost leadership races to Dwain Lingenfelter in 2009 and Cam Broten in 2013. Lingenfelter and Broten resigned after losing to Wall in provincial elections.
5. Carbon tax battle
One promise Scott Moe made during his leadership campaign was to fight the federal Liberal’s carbon tax – a promise he kept.
Moe has called the carbon tax, which comes into effect in 2019, a “vote-buying scheme,” and has launched a court challenge on whether the federal government’s plan to impose it on the province is constitutional.
Saskatchewan said its climate change plan will reduce emissions without a carbon tax being imposed.
The province has been joined by Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick in its fight against the carbon tax, while the British Columbia government supporting the federal government’s carbon pricing in the court case..
A number of groups, both for and against the tax, have been granted intervenor status by the court.
The case will be heard by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in February 2019.
4. Pay-as-you-throw garbage tossed
Saskatoon had a new waste utility – and then it didn’t.
The pay-as-you-throw waste utility, where homeowners would be charged with how much trash they throw out and not through property taxes, was another hot topic at city council.
After a contentious debate, city counsellors narrowly passed the motion by a 6-5 margin. Days later, however, Coun. Darren Hill had second thoughts and asked to have his yes vote changed, causing the motion to fail.
The city says it’s back to the drawing board for waste management and to come up with a new solution in order to extend the life of the current landfill.
3. Cannabis legalization and shortages
Thousands of customers paid a visit to legal pot stores in Saskatchewan on Oct. 17, the day recreational cannabis became legal in Canada.
It did not go off without a hitch. Only six stores opened in the province that day – none which were in Saskatoon or Regina, however some stores have since opened in those cities.
Stores that did open on Oct. 17 faced supply shortages from licenced producers.
In the lead-up to legalization day, Saskatoon changed zoning bylaws to restrict where stores could be located, approved a $20,000 cannabis business license fee, and set the boundaries on where pot could be smoked.
2. Gerald Stanley second-degree murder trial
Gerald Stanley enters the Court of Queen’s Bench for the fifth day of his trial in Battleford, Sask., Feb. 5, 2018.Saskatchewan rancher Gerald Stanley was found not guilty in February of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.
Stanley was charged after Boushie was shot and killed on Aug. 9, 2016 on Stanley’s farm west of Saskatoon.
A jury acquitted him of the charge on Feb. 9 after a nine-day trial.
Boushie’s family was outraged over the decision, and rallies were help across the country denouncing the verdict.
The federal government said the country must and can to better and changes were announced to the way juries are selected.
A camp was formed on the grounds of the Saskatchewan legislature shortly after Stanley was acquitted.
It was taken down by Regina police on June 15, only for it to be back up a few days later, sparking a legal battle.
A judge ordered the protesters to immediately leave the park on Sept. 7, the 192nd day of the camp.
1. Humboldt Broncos bus crash
The evening of April 6 started with news of a crash in eastern Saskatchewan involving a passenger bus and a semi.
It was learned it involved the Humboldt Broncos, who were on the way to Nipawin for a SJHL playoff game.
The magnitude of the crash became known the next morning when RCMP said 14 people had been killed and 15 injured in the crash – two who later died from their injuries.
People across the province, country, and around the world paid tribute to the team by leaving hockey sticks on their front porches to remember and send thoughts to the Broncos.
FULL COVERAGE: Humboldt Broncos bus crash
Thousands of people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, attended a vigil on April 8 at Elgar Petersen Arena – and millions more around the world watched.
A makeshift memorial was set up at the crash site, and a committee will be discussing a permanent memorial.
The team vowed to be back on the ice for the 2018-19 SJHL season, and lost 2-1 to the Nipawin Hawks on Sept. 12 in an emotional season opener.
The story of the Humboldt Broncos, those killed in the crash, and the ongoing recovery of the survivors, continues to resonate with people, and will continue to do so for years to come.
The driver of the semi, Jaskirat Sidhu, was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The case is still before the court.
With files from David Baxter, Meaghan Craig, Katie Dangerfield, Ryan Kessler, Rebekah Lesko, Thomas Piller and Jessica Vomiero.