2015 was a year of adapting to growth and growing pains in Grande Prairie, according to Mayor Bill Given. After the completion of a municipal census the city’s population jumped from 55,000 at last count in 2011 to nearly 69,000 people. The city also climbed to the number one ranking for crime and violent crime per capita in Canada. Given says some of our greatest strengths like being a regional hub, having a young population, and a high standard of living also come with a flip side.
“That also makes it a good place for all other sorts of criminal activity, and I think we recognize that our unique position that we have in Grande Prairie leads to the potential for these kind of things, but getting to the top of the list like that isn’t something that we relish at all.”
Council is also in the midst of twinning projects for both 92nd Street and 68th Avenue, both of which Given says are driven by the need to better accommodate the city’s growth. There has also been a lot of focus on preparing for the Downtown Enhancement project which will see the transformations of 101st Street and 101st Avenue begin next year.
“It will cause some short term impacts, but at the end of it, Grande Prairie residents are going to have this great new public space and are really going to have public areas in the downtown that demonstrate council’s vision of how we want the core of our city to look for the next 50 years and I think people are really going to enjoy it.”
After the price of oil began to falter in the last half of 2014, the oil and gas industry in Alberta has continued to struggle, with numerous jobs cut and projects shuttered in 2015. Given says that while the natural gas industry here in Grande Prairie is certainly feeling the pinch like the rest of the struggling energy sector, the Swan City is uniquely positioned to weather these economic ups and downs.
“We see companies continuing to spend in the Grande Prairie region, so that part of our economy is doing alright; it’s not great, but it’s doing alright. We also have a forestry sector that’s very robust and doing very, very well, and in the Grande Prairie region we also have agriculture and the fact that we serve as a regional service centre for so many smaller communities.
Given finishes by adding that 2015 was also a year of adapting to political changes as Conservative governments were voted out and replaced by NDP and Liberal governments at the provincial and federal level, respectively.