In early August, I took a small trip to NW Alberta to visit with stakeholders as part of my role as Shadow Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
After an overnight stop in Hinton to meet pulp mill workers, I was off to Jasper for breakfast with the local Chamber of Commerce. There are jobs available in Jasper right now, if you don’t mind sharing accommodations or paying $2,200 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. Jasper is concerned about land release and infrastructure renewal. Money is flowing out of the community as hotel tax and park gate fees but not coming back to replace ageing water and sewer pipes.
I travelled up Highway 40 to Grande Cache. This road has no shoulders, needs to be rebuilt, and handles many tractor trailers. The local power plant and metallurgical coal mine are closed. The local sawmill can’t get permission to harvest enough wood. There’s only one fibre optic line and it’s been known to get cut, stopping medical diagnosis and bank cards from working. The town hopes the provincial medium security penitentiary will have its lease to the federal government renewed in three years.
In Grande Prairie, I toured Canfor’s lumber mill and met with the Mayor, Member of Parliament, Chamber of Commerce, Seven Generations Energy, and others. Because of the lack of pipelines to export west, Grande Prairie is eyeing the petrochemical industry to turn their rich natural gas liquids into value added products. Crown land release is essential for these strategic opportunities.
I also visited the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Wembley. If you are ever in the Peace Region, please visit this facility. 30% of the Royal Tyrrell collection comes from this area.
My last stop was the Millar Western Pulp Mill in Whitecourt. Forestry and conventional oil and gas industries are very concerned with the government’s Caribou Management Plan.
This is a small sample of the economic conditions in Alberta right now.
Prasad Panda, MLA Calgary-Foothills