MLA Report: Southeastern Alberta will benefit from renewable energy investments

By Bob Wanner, MLA for Medicine Hat.

The latest Medicine Hat-specific employment numbers continue to show the strength of this community’s business sector as the city has added 4,500 jobs in the past 12 months, according to Statistics Canada. The latest numbers also reflect some of the lowest unemployment rates as well as some of the highest employment rates seen in the past 16 months in the city.

That is not to say there aren’t economic challenges ahead nor does it mean the road to a province-wide recovery won’t come without a few speedbumps. But it does counter the doom-and-gloom message regarding the state of the Medicine Hat economy being spread by some in our community.

In southeastern Alberta, the potential for increases in energy production projects under this government cannot be underestimated.

Budget 2017 does reflect the challenges our province is facing in the current low-priced hydrocarbon economy. It also reflects a change in how the province will be taking on such a challenge. This government has made it clear it won’t be closing down but building up schools, hospitals and municipal infrastructure to provide stability to the public services Albertans are receiving. In the past year, ground has broken on two much needed new elementary schools in Medicine Hat: St. John Paul II and Dr. Ken Sauer. This week, it was announced Ecole les Cypres will be replaced. There will also be a funding infusion of more than $4 million to improve Medicine Hat College.

Make no mistake, this preservation of a high quality of life for Albertans comes at a cost.

But that cost is far less than that incurred when you let your hospitals deteriorate. Providing less funding for education deprives this province’s youth of the opportunities their counterparts enjoy in other parts of the country. Underfunding municipalities will cost Albertans more in the long term than providing funds to fix what is broken in a timely fashion.

Alberta is an energy producing province that fuels the nation and powers Canada’s economy. And, the provincial forecast is that Alberta will lead the country in GDP growth this year and possibly next. The long-term economic indicators show the world will become more dependent on the energy resources we produce, not less.

In southeastern Alberta, the potential for increases in energy production projects under this government cannot be underestimated. Earlier this month, the Medicine Hat College and Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta hosted an incredible conference to highlight this fact. More than 40 per cent of the proposed renewable energy projects in 2016 listed with the provincial regulator are in southeastern Alberta, according to the report produced by the Southeast Alberta Energy Diversification Symposium.

There are those in our community who have a negative opinion of energy development in southeastern Alberta and who don’t see the economic investment and jobs it will bring to our region as something that will allow us to thrive. Investment in sustainable energy projects is a positive for the province of Alberta and few regions of this province or even this country will benefit more in its development than southeastern Alberta.

First published in the Medicine Hat News, March 24, 2017.