Last week, Nathan Neudorf—the UCP MLA for Lethbridge–East—wrote an editorial in the Lethbridge Herald. In it, he highlighted several recent project funding announcements.
I thought I’d go through each of them to fill in a few things that he left out.
Last week, I had the honour of joining Alberta’s premier and minister of Agriculture to announce a $27.8-million investment in a new agri-food hub for Exhibition Park. This long-overdue project will create numerous construction jobs in Lethbridge and is expected to create employment opportunities when the project is complete. Not only that, but the expansion of Exhibition Park will update this hub’s economic and social development for years to come as it attracts more private investment and economic activity.
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As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, this $27.8 million covers only a portion of the $70 million project cost. Unless the city or the feds step in with the rest, it won’t get built.
As well, given that most of the jobs required for the project will be trades jobs, they’ll be filled by tradespeople who are already working on other projects and who’ll work on new projects once this one is over. So, it’s misleading to say it’ll create multiple construction jobs.
And the ‘employment opportunities” are 50 full-time equivalent jobs. That means that won’t necessarily be 50 full-time jobs. They could all be part-time jobs. Or since the Lethbridge College will use the facility for applied learning for their culinary arts programme, perhaps some of them won’t even be paid.
Second, the twinning of Highway 3 almost needs no explanation and makes sense for southern Alberta, and specifically for Lethbridge. The investment of $150 million to twin the highway from Taber to Burdett will strengthen infrastructure in our agricultural corridor, aid economic diversification, and provide safer highways for Albertans to travel on.
There’s not much to say here. This highway has needed twinning for a long time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough. East of Taber, this highway isn’t twinned until the Medicine Hat airport. This project will twin less than half of that stretch.
Functionally, they’re moving the bottleneck from Taber to Burdett. And that’s not even mentioning the 100 kilometres that should be twinned between Fort Mcleod and the BC border.
It’s needed, but it’s not enough.
The $20-million investment in long-deferred maintenance for the university boilers and of future spending to upgrade the mechanical systems at the college will serve to support advancement in the agricultural sector for years to come.
Except, he left out the part about the University of Lethbridge losing over $20 million in provincial operational grants between 2019 and 2023. It’s great that the 50-year-old boilers are getting an upgrade, but functionally, it’s really just transferring funds from the operating budget to the capital budget.
Finally, Lethbridge’s arts, culture and civil society scenes are also receiving support for continued programming this year. Fifty artists and community groups throughout the City of Lethbridge are receiving support through the Community Initiative Program totalling over $1.4 million to keep these cultures thriving.
That’s awesome. Artists should be adequately compensated for their labour.
I’d just like to point out, however, that $1.4 million ÷ 50 = $28,000. Maybe it’s just me, but $28,000 a year doesn’t sound like very much for an artist salary.
But I guess it’s better than $0.