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MLA Grant Hunter visits Lethbridge County council

Posted on February 8, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Heather Cameron
Sunny South News

Grant Hunter, MLA for the riding of Taber-Warner, visited Lethbridge County Council during their meeting on February 1.

During his visit, MLA Hunter stated the Highway 3 twinning project between Taber and Burdett is going to progress forward this spring and that the government is excited about it, as any work on Highway 3 is a good thing. The RFP, Hunter said, has been awarded, and it can move forward in the spring as far as work being done.

In terms of the functional studies that are being done for the other parts of the project, Hunter said, that is all well underway. Hunter stated that he spoke with Darren Davidson of Alberta Transportation recently and Davidson assured him that the studies are being moved along to make sure that the necessary parties have the information they need to twin the highway from province to province. 

The Highway 3 Twinning project, Hunter said, will be well over $2 billion dollars, but he believes that the parties associated with it will see to it that the project is done within the timeframe that the Premier has established, which is about a 10-year build out. Hunter established that he has also had opportunity to meet with some of the Ministers to see how they are going to support the corridor.

Hunter also emphasized that the 12 communities within the corridor are working together to make this project happen and encouraged Lethbridge County Council to ensure that they recognize the value in the collaboration that is involved in creating the corridor. Hunter explained to Council that any time that the region and neighbouring regions and province can show the government correlation and coordination of efforts, in terms of the economic corridor, that actually plays higher in terms of acquiring financial assistance for it. 

The ultimate goal, Hunter said, is to be able to make between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat an area similar to a Designated Industrial Zone. This, Hunter said, was done east of Edmonton in the industrial heartland where coordination was done to create a Designated Industrial Zone. The region, Hunter said, is currently working with the Ministry of Environment and Protected areas to have a designated AgriFood Processing Zone in the area, which would follow the same kind of structure that the Designated Industrial Zone up north has. 

That structure, Hunter said, would be helpful for when companies come in, for because the companies that want to come in, there will be a standardized process that will help them to be able to do it quicker. Hunter said that the businesses he has talked to about this are actually quite excited about it because the companies can go anywhere, and Hunter hopes that this move will allow the region to be as competitive as possible.

The other part, Hunter said, that makes the region very competitive is the Agri-Food Processing Tax Credit and companies that are interested in expanding can take advantage of that if they want to.

When MLA Hunter opened the floor for questions, Council asked him his thoughts on the twinned highway affecting Frank Slide and so many people in that area being opposed to that, and they also expressed concern about the expense involved in the operation. MLA Hunter responded by saying that the twinning will be beneficial even if people don’t realize it right now, and with the flooding that happened in B.C., there is a necessity in having another corridor going west and it’s expensive to do any kind of transportation corridors through mountains. However, Hunter said, as provinces grow up and get bigger and their economic needs increase, they need to have it. The corridors, Hunter emphasized, are absolutely critical in a sophisticated environment and economy like Alberta’s.

MLA Hunter and Council also briefly discussed water, and MLA Hunter stated the region does not want to have to fight over water, they want to be able to make sure they work together with other regions collaboratively to figure out the issue if needed precipitation doesn’t come. Hunter said that some really good conversations regarding the issue already exist and that committees and councils are being created so that people can work collaboratively to decide what can be done. Hunter said that his goal is to be able to increase water storage and he has done much work, including pitching ideas to the Treasury Board four years ago, to try and achieve that goal. 

Alberta, Hunter said, is up to over 300,000 irrigation acres that could be expanded that has not yet been allocated out. Each year, Hunter said, each district will decide about what they are going to allocate out depending upon what they feel there is storage for, and what there is the ability to do. That determination, Hunter said, is being left in the hands of the irrigation districts, and when it comes to storage, they will build it, but the governments and the rate payers will fund the projects. Hunter stated that it is a good thing that more water storage is being built because last year, 58 per cent of Alberta’s water went to Saskatchewan instead of the usual 50 per cent. Hunter said that his argument for those who ask about irrigation land is to tell them that more storage capacity is being built. 

Council thanked MLA Hunter for his visit, expressing appreciation for his time.

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