By Trevor Busch
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Another year has come and gone in southern Alberta and Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter has flipped the calendar, but not before reflecting on some successful achievements for his UCP government in 2023.
“I would say we’ve stabilized our leadership, we made a decision, and we were able to have a decisive decision on who’s going to be the leader of our government. And Danielle Smith won that and I support her 100 per cent. And I’m quite pleased with the work that she’s doing. I think she’s representing Alberta well, she’s working hard, I’m quite impressed that she’s getting out there and meeting with Albertans to listen to what others have to say. So that’s great to see.”
Albertans in the deep south have long considered the full twinning of Highway 3 to be a sacred cow in terms of government priority, and the political mandarins in Edmonton have finally given their stamp of approval for the project.
“Into the successes we have had this year, I would say that we were able to make the case for the full twinning of Highway 3 from province to province, which was great. Just recently the RFP was granted to the company. And so we were able to get that assigned, which was great to see that that’s going to start in the spring – shovels in the ground in the spring.”
Hunter also highlighted a handful of schools that have been approved with projects underway in the riding.
“The other thing that we were able to do for our areas is we were able to get some schools announced and started to be built, which was great. So we’ve got three schools that are on the go. One is in Coaldale, one is in Raymond and one in Milk River. And so that’s exciting. Obviously we’ve got pressures in these areas that will need to be addressed so kids have good schools to get in to.”
Characteristically, Hunter reserved most of his enthusiasm for the continued development of the Highway 3 agri-food processing corridor.
“But all in all, I would say probably the biggest win we had has been moving the agri-food processing corridor forward. I’m so excited about this. I really do believe that this is going to be one of the most important things we do in the coming decades, for our future children and grandchildren, for work opportunities to business opportunities for growth in existing businesses. I just think that the work that we do on this file, not just will help in terms of the businesses we have here, but businesses that will be coming as well. You think about adding over 300,000 irrigated acres, that’s storage – really most of that is going to be stored. So we’re adding, almost doubling the size of Chin Reservoir, we’re doing the Dead Horse (Reservoir) north of my riding, that was able to be moved forward this year. So there’s going to be four full big storage projects that are going to be done. But there’s also the work that we’re able to do on the Horsefly Spillway and that whole drainage system. So all of that is going to help in terms of water storage, which I think is the most important thing we can do. Right now in the world, I really believe water storage is going to be the most important thing. And so you could see that this year, because of the water storage that we have. We were able to get some bumper crops. I think that the value proposition for having more storage is certainly there. And we’re even going to look for more storage. If we can find good plays and good opportunities, we’re going to look to more storage. The premier is very interested in this.”
Looking forward to 2024, Hunter pointed to reform on the health care front as one of the top priorities for his UCP government.
“One of the big focuses is going to be the refocus of Alberta’s health care system. Obviously, people need to have a doctor, they need to be able to have less wait times. They need to have good acute care. Primary care has to be there, people have to have family physicians. And so you’re gonna see a lot of work being done on that. You’re going to obviously see a major focus on the mental health and addiction issue. This is something we’ve got to get ahead of, this opioid crisis in our province, actually going on all over First World, is absolutely appalling. And we need to help people where they’re at. And so you’re going to see some some record amounts of money being put into that. And continuing care, we need to make sure that our seniors are taken care of, that they have good facilities. So we’re going to invest in making sure that we have low cost housing, the proper amount of low cost housing, so that we have people that can have a home for their children. And that’s something we’re going to also focus on.”