By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
With January 2023 well underway, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter has had a few weeks to reflect on the previous year. As usual, the past year was filled with ups and downs like any other, but overall, Hunter was excited by the work done by the provincial government. In terms of excitement level, Hunter stated that further development to the agri-food corridor is the thing he was most happy about.
“I think we’ve moved forward on the agri-food corridor — that was obviously something that is near and dear to my heart and something I think will benefit our area. Everywhere from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat will be greatly benefited because of the work we do there. We’ve been able to identify what needs to be done to make sure we are firing on all cylinders and having the agri-food processing companies come in and hit the ground running, so we’re working on that. There will be some announcements coming out about that work,” he said.
While 2020 and 2021 were dominated by COVID-19, 2022 saw the end of the pandemic and things got back to relative normal. It’s not completely gone, but Hunter was happy to see progress being made to get back to everyday life in 2022.
“I think we certainly have been able to turn the page on COVID. I think people are more comfortable, especially in my riding, with the feeling we have the right approach with COVID and making sure people have the ability to go to weddings and funerals. Obviously, they still have to be careful because COVID is still around and there are new variants. All-in-all, I think 2022 ended well,” he continued.
One of the bigger news developments in the province in 2022 came from Jason Kenney announcing he was stepping down as the premier. After a leadership race, Danielle Smith was declared the 19th premier of Alberta. While it’s only been a few months, Hunter gave his initial thoughts on the new premier.
“I think it was a decision made by our party members whether Jason Kenney should stay or go. The party members made the choice and we respect that. There was a leadership race and Danielle Smith won fair and square and I back her fully and expect she will work hard to make sure Alberta is the freest and fastest growing market in North America and that it’s a place where people can start and business, grow a family, and do very well. I think she has tried to get her legs underneath her and for anyone who is a leader, it takes some time, so I am confident. She is a smart, articulate person and I believe she will be able to do that.”
On a personal note, Hunter also shared some new developments.
“On a personal note, my daughter had twin boys and we are excited to become grandparents again,” he said.
With eyes toward 2023 now, Hunter has plenty on the go. With the spring session set to commence on Feb. 28, Hunter has plenty of goals to accomplish in the new year.
“For the constituents for Taber-Warner, I think it’s very similar with the rest of the province — it’s affordability. That’s the number one thing I hear, so we have the affordability package that was rolled out last year,” he said.
Further work on the agri-food corridor is also on its way. While no official announcements have been made yet, Hunter gave a brief update on what the area can expect.
“What we are doing right now is the work that needs to be done — the preliminary work for when companies come in and they want to expand in our area. Whether that’s Lamb Weston, Lantic Sugar, Cavendish Farms, or whoever — they can take a look at our packages and see what we’re offering,” he said. “For those companies who are looking to come and want to create a new plant, whether they have plants in other areas and they want to set one up (here), we have to be able to make sure they can do that quickly and efficiently. We’re in competition with other provinces and other states for that investment and capital dollars, and I think Alberta is at the right crossroads to provide that package so people say ‘Alberta is the place to set it up.’ We certainly know what Alberta’s advantage is — lower taxes, lower regulatory burden — and these are the things we’ve been working on over the last four years. There are certain things that we’ve needed to tweak and make sure we are competitive with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and other jurisdictions down in the States. I think we’re getting really close.”