Posted on Dec 4, 2017

Questions to the Minister of Economic Development regarding CARES Program

On December 4, 2017, I was able to ask the Minister of Economic Development questions regarding the CARES program.

Community and Regional Economic Support Program

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Community And Regional Economic Support program, or CARES, has allocated $30 million to support economic growth and prosperity throughout our province. In my constituency the town of Stony Plain recently received $40,000 in CARES funding to help support business development and create high-value jobs. Given the importance of this program in creating jobs and diversifying the economy, to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade: what new projects have been created as a result of the CARES program?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I’ll thank the member for her question and also for being such a strong advocate for this program and other economic development opportunities within her riding. Dozens of communities across the province are creating jobs and diversifying their communities through the use of the CARES program. I can tell you that at AUMA two weeks ago I announced funding for 50 new initiatives. Some of those include a small-business incubator focused on supporting entrepreneurs looking to start social enterprise in Calgary, an indigenous pipeline monitoring program in Edmonton, an entrepreneurship mentoring program in Canmore, and a training program for small Alberta businesses . . . [interjections]

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.

There seems to be a culture of using the desks as objects, but we have not yet crossed over that Rubicon about clapping.

First supplemental.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that one of the goals of CARES is to support diversification of the economy, especially in our critical industries, to the same minister: how does CARES encourage that diversification?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You know, I just want to talk for a moment about the importance of this program. These are initiatives by local leaders and community leaders coming to government and saying: we have ideas on how to diversify our economy. Now, for some reason the opposition seems to think that they know better than the local leaders who have received funding all across this province, including in every single one of their ridings. I’d love for them to have a conversation with their local leaders to find out how they feel about CARES funding. These are critical diversification projects they have not been able to move forward on. Just because you guys don’t believe in diversification, the rest of Alberta does.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Ms Babcock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The CARES program is also very popular with municipalities, with over 80 applications from communities across the province. Given that co-operation between provincial and municipal officials is key to delivering programs successfully, to the same minister: what incentives are there for municipalities to both work together and work in tandem with their local MLA?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Bilous: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I’ve been going around the province promoting this program – we’ve now had three intake windows for CARES – I made it very clear to local municipal leaders, including entities like Alberta’s regional economic development alliances, who can all apply for CARES funding, that what we want to encourage is a regional approach to economic diversification. We know there are 344 municipalities in the province of Alberta. What we’d like to see are municipalities working together with each other in order to compete on the world stage. And you know what? This program has been very successful. I look forward to announcing the next round of CARES successful applicants and encourage all communities to apply.

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