By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
The growth of agri-food has been booming and southern Alberta is hoping to see several large facilities migrate to the area. With the announcement that Highway 3 would be twinned from Taber to Burdett in 2020, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter is excited for the future of this industry in this region.
“One of the things I have been working on for this area is the agri-food processing corridor between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. There’s still lots of work to be done there — we need to make sure we can twin as much of that road between Saskatchewan and B.C. as we can because that will be critical. As you know, the flooding that happened in B.C. and the roads being washed out, the need for another crossing into B.C. is more important than ever,” explained Hunter. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the Highway 3 Twinning Association, not just in Alberta but also in B.C. and there seems to be more of an appetite for working on that strategy. I don’t know where B.C. is in terms of the timeline because I know they have to fix up the TransCanada Highway there going through B.C., but they certainly recognize the importance of that.”
Before those businesses do come to this region though, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done. Hunter says the government is working on several things that will speed up the process of getting them in place as well as working on needed infrastructure.
“The other thing needing to be done in the area, we need to make sure we have potable water between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat so those agri-food processing companies can come in and have access to industrial quantity water. We’re working on that area being, between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, being a pre-approved agri-food processing zone. So what that means is, we will do all of the regulatory work prior to businesses coming in,” continued Hunter. “We’ve done that just east of Edmonton and the pre-approved industrial zone, we did that as a beta test, and now we’re ready to implement it down here as well. The good thing about that is it will allow businesses to be able to come into this area and not have to spend years and years jumping through regulatory hoops, whether it’s transportation and municipal affairs, or any of those things that take forever to deal with. That will all be done prior to.”
And while the provincial government is excited at what this will bring to southern Alberta, they see it bringing tons of benefits to all of Alberta. Hunter says the need to have more than one way to stimulate the economy should be a major focus for the province. Oil and gas may have been the big money maker in the past, but Hunter says the government shouldn’t just stop at agri-food.
“The benefit to Alberta is obviously growth and good-paying jobs, but the nice thing about what we’re going to do here is it will allow us to diversify our economy. As we saw a couple of years ago when we were giving away, and in fact, paying people to take our oil and gas, we recognized at that point you can’t continue to have a government model on oil and gas royalties. Being able to diversify that economy in the area with agri-food processing, I think it’s absolutely critical for this province to move forward,” he stated. “We have a situation here where there’s going to be 11 billion people in the world by 2050, from what I understand, and those people are going to have to be fed. You will need to have security of water, land, and good practices — and we have all of those here in southern Alberta.”
Work on the twinning between Taber and Burdett is still in its planning stages, but it has been stated by the Highway 3 Twinning Development Association that construction could start as early as this fall.