July 20th, 2024

MLA Report: Diversification key to Hat’s workforce

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on July 28, 2017.

The Medicine Hat-specific unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent for the month of June, according to the latest Statistics Canada. That is an incredible eight per cent drop year-over-year.

Job growth in Medicine Hat continues to be strong with the latest Statistics Canada numbers reflecting an incredible turnaround over the past 12 months.

However, a recent article in the Medicine Hat News reported drilling in southeastern Alberta is at an all-time low which might lead some to question the economic outlook for our city and region.

But hidden within those two pieces of information is an economic gold nugget which has eluded provincial governments who have searched for it for the better part of the last four decades — diversification.

It stands to reason that if the Gas City’s sole success or failure rises and falls on the price of a gigajoule of natural gas or the cost of a price of a barrel of oil then the rig counts in southeastern Alberta would be reflected in the unemployment rate.

That’s not happening.

In fact, there are more than 5,000 Hatters employed now than there were in June 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

The idea of an Alberta with a diversified economic portfolio has been a political Holy Grail since the days when Peter Lougheed was premier. Now there are indications southeastern Albertans might be close to realizing this long-sought-after goal.

The City of Medicine Hat has been far ahead of provincial governments in developing energy efficiency rebates and providing funding for installing residential and commercial solar panels. Our college and private industry — in cooperation with this government — is now working to develop renewable energy technology. We have greenhouses, a robust farming sector and a continuing history of producing some of the best beef products on the planet.

Now we are seeing the integration of new technologies with established farming practises.

Last week, Global News reported on a Grassy Lake farm with what is believed to be the first solar-powered irrigation pivot system in the province.

But that is but one small opportunity.

There are a growing number of countries announcing a shift away from gas- and diesel-powered vehicles and towards electric-powered ones with the United Kingdom being the latest with a goal to make that shift by 2040.

Through our various levels of government and post-secondary institutions in southern Alberta, we have the opportunity to help develop both the technology and infrastructure to be on the forefront of this shift on this continent.

With some of the best renewable resources in the country within southeastern Alberta we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this shift while powering it with our wind and solar power at the utility-grade and micro-generation levels.

Medicine Hat has the opportunity to add another arrow to its diversification quiver.

That is good for our city’s, region’s and province’s economy and environment.

And we still have natural gas and oil resources we can develop as we transition.

We are Alberta’s Energy Central.

Bob Wanner is MLA (NDP) for the Medicine Hat constituency.

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