A Vision for Vibrant Rural Development

Myles Chykerda

September 15, 2020


Our Shadow Minister – Infrastructure and Transportation, writes about the importance of rural infrastructure.

Originally published in the Airdrie Today on September 9, 2020.

Dear editor,

Alberta needs a plan for rural development. By empowering our communities, we can build a strong, prosperous province that no longer spins around two major centres, but has a varied, vibrant life province-wide. This requires the provincial government to provide a framework that allows our municipalities to take advantage of their strengths and work for their constituents.

Each town needs to identify its purpose, an understanding of the history of the region and why the town exists. From this, the town’s residents need to agree on a vision for the region. Most importantly, towns need the financial tools necessary to complete projects so they can accomplish their goals between election cycles. Rural communities will attract new residents and inspire new businesses when their travel, communication and infrastructure systems are best in class.

Many communities have local hospitals and community health services. Communities need to determine where they want to be and make it attractive for residents of Alberta to work or start a business there. As soon as a hospital is closed in a rural community, it is difficult for these communities to attract investment.

We must create a way for the digital revolution in communications – and the economic benefits that stem from it – to reach all Albertans.

Small communities throughout Alberta aim to attract service industries including call centers, finance, entertainment and other operations that can leverage Alberta’s super-net. Each village and town has an opportunity to become the next intellectual and innovation hub. In doing so, each town, as an early adopter, may enjoy a global advantage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that significant numbers of students can learn effectively online. This allows students to stay in their hometowns longer. While completing online training, students can invigorate their rural economies by embracing new advances and allowing the technology to gain a foothold within their community. To do so requires reliable, high-quality, high-speed Internet, something the Alberta Party has a long history of advocating for in our rural areas.

Our communities need services, not rhetoric.

Alberta must embark on an infrastructure plan that ensures our economy can thrive province-wide. It is important, however, that municipalities decide what to build. As much as possible, the province of Alberta needs to recognize the purpose of these towns and municipal districts and encourage alternative financing tools to support local initiatives. There is a better way to help our rural communities grow and enable economic growth that goes beyond blanket corporate tax credits.

We must allow strategic financing to inspire innovation and economic growth. By identifying areas with slower growth as opportunity zones we can level the playing field and strengthen communities.

We will invite Canadians to invest in Alberta through opportunity funds. These funds will be tailored to the needs of rural Alberta. Investors will receive a better return the longer their investment remains within an opportunity fund. Crowdfunding techniques should be leveraged. Local governments should identify opportunities to build a brighter future for their residents and have the tools to expeditiously execute local projects using alternative financing models.

Vern Raincock

Alberta Party Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transportation