BY Charles Lefebvre
Southern Alberta Newspapers
All candidates in the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding would like to see an increase in hours of operation at the Wild Horse border crossing.
The Wild Horse has been an issue for a number of years, with the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce and the city calling for it to be open 24 hours. Presently, the crossing is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (8 a.m. to 9 p.m. through the summer). The Coutts border crossing is the only one in Alberta open 24 hours all year. The Piegan-Carway Crossing in Cardston is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round. Other crossings in the province have varying hours depending on the season.
Conservative candidate Jim Hillyer says the subject of Wild Horse has been one he’s been familiar with for a number of years.
“It’s one of the first things I heard when I started to head into Medicine Hat, even before I won the nomination,” he said Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s important for everyone in this area … I think it is worth an investment.”
In July, the Conservative Party announced an estimated $113.65 million in improvements to infrastructure in the prairie region, including the Wild Horse crossing facility, part of a $440-million funding announcement in November 2014. Construction could begin for the project as early as 2017. Hillyer says he personally supports a 24-hour border crossing at Wild Horse, and says it would be convenient for travellers and help take pressure off other crossings.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction, if we continue to push whatever the government may be to the next step and get it to be a 24-hour border,” he said.
Liberal candidate Glen Allan says the border crossing is important, as it gives access to markets for goods.
“It should be part of an overall transportation plan,” he said. “There’s the eastern corridor from Fort McMurray down, so if we can look at some sort of a comprehensive transportation plan, Wild Horse would become a part of that.”
Allan added, “It would take pressure off infrastructure in that Edmonton-Calgary-Lethbridge corridor. Right now, companies in our area are at a disadvantage.”
When asked about changing Wild Horse to a 24-hour crossing, Allan said switching to seasonal hours year-round would be an improvement, adding a need for a 24-hour crossing should be shown before it’s implemented.
NDP candidate Erin Weir says the entire situation surrounding the border crossing, including hours and infrastructure, is worth examining.
“It definitely is worth looking into and seeing what would be the best way to make it the most viable,” she said.
Weir says there is a need to improve the infrastructure around the crossing to ensure large vehicles are able to travel on the highway, which will require discussion with the United States.
A 24-hour crossing option at Wild Horse would be good for the east side of the province, Weir said, and for those travelling north and south.
“It could help ease (traffic at Coutts), and it would be nice for those trade routes to not have to go over to Coutts if they could, especially if they’re heading up north,” she said.
Independent candidate John Clayton Turner is also in favour.
“We only have the Coutts border, we should have at least another one in Alberta,” he said.
Brent Smith, running for the Green Party, could not be reached on Wednesday.