Posted on Mar 6, 2017

Question Period: Rural Economic Development and Coal Transition

On Monday, March 6th, I was able to ask questions to the Minister of Economic Development regarding resources in Rural Alberta and plans for the Coal Transition.

Rural Economic Development

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Rural Alberta plays a critical role in building a strong, resilient economy that all Albertans can count on. From strength in oil and gas, forestry, and agriculture to tourism, rural Alberta has opportunities across many sectors to build on. In fact, municipalities and industry groups in regions such as my constituency of Stony Plain have long been partners in securing jobs and economic growth. To the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. The economic downturn has hit rural Alberta hard. How are we supporting our communities to help build a diversified economy?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I’ll thank the member for the question. I know that she’s been a very vocal advocate working with businesses in her constituency and municipal leaders. I can tell you that last year we launched our two-year community and regional economic support program, or the CARES program. What this program is doing is partnering with municipal leaders, with regional and community organizations looking at opportunities to develop business plans to further economic development that are local to those areas. I’m very proud of the amount of applicants that we had in the first intake. The second intake opens April 1, and I encourage community members and municipal leaders to look at this program.

The Speaker: Thank you.

First supplemental.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: in these difficult economic times what is the minister doing to address

the unique challenges that we all see that rural Alberta faces to create good jobs in our communities?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I’ll thank the member for the question. There are a number of different tools and entities that we’re working with and working through. The regional economic development alliances: Alberta has 11 REDAs across the province, that are made up of municipal leaders, community leaders, and economic development organizations. That’s one of the ways that we’re working in rural Alberta and through these entities. We know that they have the expertise and the ideas. What they need from the government of Alberta is some support. I can tell you that REDAs were developed out of a need to stimulate long-term economic development and growth strategies in Alberta. We’re working closely with them along with the Northern Alberta Development Council.

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.

Second supplemental.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that Canada is one of the many countries moving away from coal-powered electricity and that Albertans whose livelihood depends on coal are concerned about their future, especially in my riding of Stony Plain, to the same minister: what does a made-in-Alberta plan look like for these communities?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We know that Canada’s transition away from coal is creating uncertainty in Alberta’s communities. We know that, and I know that because I’ve recently visited a number of plants and communities. We’ve met with miners, with mom-and-pop shops, and worked closely with mayors and councils. My message to them is that we have your back. In 2012, when the Leader of the Opposition was in federal government, the federal government prohibited coal plants from generating beyond 2030 and actually stopped the conversion of these same plants to natural gas. What our government is doing is we’ve reversed that so facilities can continue to . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon minister.

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