MLA Bob Wanner Year Ahead
By Bob Wanner, MLA for Medicine Hat
There is no denying the past two years has posed significant challenges to a number of Alberta and Medicine Hat families.
I’m extremely hopeful - and I believe for good reason - that 2017 will see a significant change in the fortunes of this province.
In closing out this year there are number of positive signs the Hat and Alberta are heading for a sustainable economic recovery.
The Statistics Canada Medicine Hat-specific job numbers for the second month in a row show a year-over-year increase in the number of Hatters working.
The approval of two new pipelines will improve market access to Alberta crude. In addition, the decrease in the price differential between Western Canadian Select and West Texas Intermediate oil (the so-called Bitumen Bubble) demonstrates another promising indicator.
The number of companies looking to invest in southeastern Alberta to take advantage of this area’s abundant renewable resources continues to grow. Suncor, Fortis, Capital Power, NaturEner, Joss and BluEarth are some, but not all, of the companies who either have projects approved or awaiting approval within the area. This investment in the energy sector in southeastern Alberta represents well-paying jobs and the economic spinoff for this city’s small businesses. The wind and solar projects currently on the Alberta Electric System Operators books between Brooks to the west, Schuler to the north, Burdett to the south and Irvine to the east represent more than half of the renewable energy capacity the provincial government legislated to add to the grid by 2030.
Like the majority of Hatters, I’m a strong supporter of the city’s publicly owned and managed utilities. My hope is the city takes advantage of the opportunities in sustainable energy production which will power the city for the next century like natural gas has for the last. A collaborative effort between our city, college, private business and the province with renewables could see the municipality continue to be self-reliant in meeting its energy needs into the foreseeable future.
I have advocated on behalf of greenhouse operations and believe good news is coming that will ensure this area remains the greenhouse capital of Alberta.
Late September saw disaster strike area beef producers in the form of bovine tuberculosis. Agriculture Minister Carlier and I met with several of the affected ranchers earlier this week. I felt the uncertainty these families are feeling.
I am pleased to hear of Minister Carlier’s assistance and advocacy with the federal government to quickly deal with families going through these difficult times. I hope the situation is now turning the corner, although, much hard work is yet to come rebuilding herds.
This year has been tough for many Hatters. I am encouraged at the resilience of southeastern Albertans and have complete confidence we will be able to make the most of the opportunities 2017 will offer.
On behalf of my extended family I wish and hope all our citizens enjoy a peaceful and happy new year.
First published in the Medicine Hat News, Dec. 23, 2016.