Continuing to grow the rural Alberta advantage

By Bruce Hinkley, MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose

Our government believes rural Alberta is key to the economy of the province and we have invested heavily in rural Alberta. Here are some of those investments as made by various ministries.

Advanced Education has invested $21 million for the new Northern Lakes College campus in High Prairie; supported state of the art Dairy Learning Centre at Lakeland College in Vermilion; provided $3.3 million for mental health services at colleges and universities across the province, froze tuition rates to make post-secondary education more affordable and moved funding to the University of Calgary’s veterinary medicine program.

Economic Development and Trade has invested $30 million over two years for CARES (small community development); created an environment for Amazon to locate its warehouse in Balzac creating 750 jobs; created environment for Cavendish Farms to invest $380 million in a new potato processing facility in Lethbridge, which has already spurred more agriculture investment; invested $4 million in roads and infrastructure to encourage Petfood to build its $250 million processing facility in Parkland County, creating 200 full time jobs; supported the expansion and development of the Alberta‘s Industrial Heartland; supported Unmanned Aerial Vehicle testing facility at Foremost with a $300,000 investment; and doubled the size of Alberta Agriculture’s food processing facility in Leduc - it is now the largest facility of its kind in the world.

Justice has announced a new Red Deer court house which is now in the design phase and is an investment of $97 million over four years; opened a new $5 million Fort Vermilion court house; and is providing support for policing outside major cities.

The Health Ministry is building a new hospital in High Prairie; a new Urgent Care centre in Sylvan Lake; a new hospital for Edson; a new dialysis facility in Lac La Biche, new satellite dialysis facilities in Hinton and Whitecourt; and announced $20 million to install lifts on ambulance vehicles to reduce injuries to reduce injuries to paramedics.

Energy continues its ongoing efforts to build a pipeline to tidewater; a new royalty to encourage new drilling; clean up abandoned oil and gas facilities that will protect the environment and landowners; and put a cap on power prices at 6.8 cents.

Transportation and Infrastucture reinstated the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program, investing $37 million in 50 communities for 87 municipal roads and bridges; invested $474 million in water and wastewater grants for Water For Life program in rural Alberta over four years; under the water and wastewater program communities under 45,000 and municipalities with a population under 1,000 pay only 25% of the program, the rest is paid by the provincial government; accessed $192 million of federal funding for transportation projects; committed $25 million a year to connect water to First Nations communities; invested $41 million in water and wastewater pipeline doubling from Sylvan Lake to Red Deer; invested $158 million on the new Peace River Bridge to keep industry moving; invested $5 billion in provincial highway networks, which are throughout rural Alberta; announced the twinning of Highway 15 bridge to Fort Saskatchewan to improve transportation flow to this key economic region.

Environment and Parks/Climate Change Office created Castle Mountain Park; restored $20 million for provincial parks; increased policing for public lands to ensure they don’t become a dumping ground for old refrigerators, or ripped up by off highway vehicles; purple fuel is the only exemption in the carbon levy; created municipal and on-farm solar projects to encourage energy efficiency;
invested money into rural communities with the Alberta Flood Resiliency plan.

Children’s Services implemented a $25/day daycare; and increased the Alberta Child Benefit.

Agriculture and Forestry supported farmers hit by bovine TB with $16 million to ensure the industry was able to regain its footing; expanded FireSmart program to ensure towns and cities can keep their communities safe from fire; expanded the brewers grant program, which has been so successful local brewers have increased from 21 to 68; and $10 million in grants through on-farm
energy programs to ensure firms become more energy efficient.

Education has opened 50 schools this fall; expanded the school nutrition program to all school boards; eliminated the $1,000 fee for the agriculture program, Green Certificate, it is now free for all students; expanded the Dual Credit program to allow students in rural schools to take college programs; and increased funding to ensure 12,000 new students had teachers.

Culture and Tourism announced $40 million for the new Reynolds Museum expansion in Wetaskiwin; $38 million for Community Facility Enhancement Program grants, used by communities across the province to upgrade halls, build playgrounds and other community facilities; support Culture Days, Open Farm Days and Rural Culinary Tourism; and support Film and Television grants
so programs like Heartland can be filmed in Alberta.

Indigenous Relations is investing $151 million of Indigenous Climate Leadership funds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow communities to save money; $120 million for off reserve housing; $110 million to improve water for all reserves; encourage Indigenous persons to apply for agencies, boards and commissions; we are using the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples to work towards reconciliation.

Community and Social Services has increased funding to FCSS by $25 million, the first increase in years. Increased FCSS funding helps 320 communities deliver community-based programming for children, families and seniors in need.

Increased funding to Women’s Shelters by $10 million; increased funding for PDD and AISH to ensure Albertans get the support they need; increased Albertans’access to service dogs. Invested $250,000 for a new training pilot and supporting more schools to train dogs. Making it easier for ownertrained dogs to get public access.

Municipal Affairs has provided stable capital infrastructure programs during the downturn in Alberta‘s economy; supported rural and regional libraries with capital and operating grants; helping rural municipalities create Intermunicipal Collaboration Agreements by providing resources and templates.

Status of Women created “Ready for Her” program which encourages women to become more involved in running for political office; created grant programs to and encourage more women in leadership programs.

Service Alberta is helping small towns apply for federal broadband money; announced new RFP for new provincial internet provider; improved First Responder Radio Service; engaging Albertans on ways to improve condominium living and banned door to door sales.

Seniors and Housing invested $1.2 billion in affordable house over five years; invested in 59 Rural Seniors Lodge Projects, including 19 now under construction; 31% of all affordable housing is in rural Alberta; 33% of all operating funding goes to rural areas; 97% of all social housing in rural Alberta is run by Alberta Government; and half of all loans for the Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program are in rural Alberta.

Labour introduced Farm Safety Legislation (zero farms have been closed due to Occupational Health and Safety interference; and no 4Hs have been shut down either. Wonder who thought they would be? However, more farm workers have received WCB compensation for injuries than before); have introduced legislation to protect gas and convenience store workers; expanded skill training programs in rural Alberta to ensure all unemployed, or underemployed Albertans, can get back to work.

Treasury Board and Finance has cut salaries and terminated bonus at Alberta‘s Agencies Boards and Commissions. Some salaries were more than $500,000/year. Introduced conflict of interest guidelines for ABCs; changed rules to make it easier for restaurants and cafes to open outdoor patio spaces; ended corporate and union donations to political parties; and cut small business tax by 33%.

Until next time take care.

First published Nov. 29, 2017, in the Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser