Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development Brian Jean says the economic prosperity of communities like Grande Prairie are among his top priorities. Jean, who was appointed minister by Premier Danielle Smith last month, says there are several points of action in what the provincial government is calling the “Renewed Alberta Advantage” that would benefit the Peace Country. Jean explains the new advantages like affordable housing for Albertans, and great employment opportunities across the province, including offering more training and skills opportunities to expand the workforce.
“I think it applies specifically to Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray in what we need to do for the future,” Jean says. “We have seen a huge growth in demand for employees by employers, and we have also seen significant growth in sectors that we wouldn’t believe that we would see them in.”
He adds Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray are two of the driving economic forces in Alberta with a diverse variety of sectors including oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, tourism, and growing technology sectors. In Grande Prairie, Jean says an example of the continuous evolution and growth in these and other sectors is the number of projects that are underway in the Municipal District of Greenview. He says that while some of the work that goes on in the MD happens under the radar, it has the possibility of increasing the quality of life for not only those in Grande Prairie but all of Albertans.
Jean says one of the items included in his mandate is creating opportunities for Albertans to succeed in the workplace. He argues one of the ways that is going to be accomplished is by allowing Albertans to take part in training programs designed to add to or build on their existing skill set and allow Albertans to successfully take part in a continuously diversifying economy. He says that this will also help employers as the workforce shortage is putting a strain on these companies and businesses, which in turn also puts a strain on the employees that are currently a part of the workforce, causing a burnout cycle that the government is hoping to end.
“That is why we are working with partners like the Grande Prairie Chamber of Commerce on the Regional Workforce Development strategy and trying to help bring more employees into the region and keep them in the region.”
Jean says another item on his mandate is to work with Parliamentary Secretary Martin Long on creating a plan to help and support small businesses. He explains that there are several hurdles facing small businesses at this point, and in northern Alberta, the main struggle is labour shortages.
“The participation rate is also something that we could work on and should work on, and that is to get more people to participate in the workforce,” Jean says. “And to encourage them to do so by training or retraining, and other things to accommodate them so they do get back into the workforce.”
Another highlight of Jean’s mandate that will affect those in Grande Prairie is the pursuit of creating a major roadway from Grande Prairie to Fort McMurray, connecting the two major northern populations and economic centres. Jean says he will work with the Minister of Transportation and Economic corridors on this project.
Jean adds that he is looking forward to heading to Grande Prairie before the year’s end to tour several different businesses, along with the area, while also meeting with leaders from the region.