MLA Report: City needs community leaders who can see the opportunities

By Bob Wanner, MLA for Medicine Hat.

It has been a tough 12 months for Hatters after seeing high unemployment and depressed resource commodity prices plague our city and province. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and the toughest challenge right now is getting our civic leaders to see it.

Medicine Hat has seen a net increase of more than 4,000 Hatters employed in the past year and across the board there are positive trends within employment indicators, according to Statistics Canada’s latest Medicine Hat-specific job numbers. Yet there are those who are responsible for promoting our city and region who are refusing to see the trends despite employers starting to raise concerns about their ability to secure workers.

My life has taught me that when good people work together good things can happen.

The employment data is supported by the number of active drilling rigs in Alberta which closed in on a 24-month high this month and by provincially-funded projects such as the two new schools being built in the Hat and two others being expanded. Frontline health-care services are being maintained, companies like Meggitt are creating manufacturing jobs and there is an expansion of greenhouses in the region.

Strong beef prices and the agricultural sector continue to buoy our economy. The city’s large industrial players are taking advantage of the low natural gas prices for production of their products. There is also a massive amount of electricity projects on the cusp of breaking ground around Medicine Hat which will bring thousands of direct jobs over multiple years along with hundreds of millions in economic investment.

Civic leaders are silent when it comes to mentioning the $20 million this city has received in federal Infrastructure Canada funding in the past 14 years. That is compared to the province committing $14 million in MSI funding in 2016 alone directly to the municipal government. Those provincial funds are being used to build new fire halls, new roads, replace aging sewers and are creating jobs. Nor has there been much mention of the positive support this government has provided to those affected by the bovine tuberculosis situation.

Community leaders are also staining the honest reputation of our city by characterizing 17 different ministers visiting southeastern Alberta in the past 18 months, an unprecedented amount, as an example of how this area is being forgotten by the province.

Former premier Peter Lougheed once said, "Our whole approach as a political party was to talk not so much negatively, but we wanted to talk about the future of the province and we wanted to talk positively." There has been negativity spread in this city and we are in desperate need of community leaders who have the ability to see opportunities in any economic situation.

My life has taught me that when good people work together good things can happen. It has also taught me those who only cloak themselves in a shroud of negativity are individuals who will never see the light of opportunity no matter how bright it is.

First published in the Medicine Hat News, Jan. 27, 2017.