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Tourism, transportation and cannabis facility funding announced

The province has announced nearly $4 million in funding for 62 different projects around Alberta, including three for the Grande Prairie area. Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous was in Grande Prairie Monday to make the funding announcement as well as to attend an event hosted by the Grande Prairie Chamber of Commerce.

The dollars are part of the Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) Program. It is intended to support locally developed projects that promote long-term economic growth and diversification.

Some of the funding will be going to support Grande Prairie Tourism. They are receiving $35,000 to create a “Destination Management Plan” that will highlight tourist attractions and will also work on a marketing and management strategy.

More than $90,000 was also committed to the Van Horne Institute, which independently develops trade, transportation and infrastructure. Van Horne wants to set up the Peace Region Access to Container Transportation Project, to look at the potential for rail shipments between the Peace region and central Alberta using a container terminal in the Peace Country. Bilous says it will strengthen and diversify Canada’s supply chain, something he calls absolutely critical.

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The city was also awarded funding to work on attracting a cannabis processing facility. According to Bilous, the $35,000 will be used to attract a hemp plant. He says this is a great example of the diversity of projects they support.

“Some of the projects, like the one for cannabis, is looking at again what does a region need to do to be along the value chain with cannabis. So more of a study that may lead to a future ask for infrastructure dollars.”

“So some of these projects,” he continues, “either will become self sustaining or were to fulfill a certain need. Others, like the tourism association is to promote the area and encourage tourism here. So they’re all very, very interesting.”

The scale of the projects vary as well. Funding ranged from just over $8,000 to the Louis Bull Tribe in Maskwacis all the way up to $800,000 to the City of Edmonton. Bilous says that varying scale is something unique about the CARES program. He also thinks it is a great way for the province to support local projects.

“So, a community comes up with the ways they want to try to diversify their economy and they come to the province to say ‘now we need some support’. I love the model of this program. It’s not me or bureaucrats sitting in Edmonton deciding how to diversify economies around the province; it’s local leaders and communities coming together saying these are our strengths.”

Bilous says based on the success of the CARES program they have decided to continue it for another two years. He expects to see another intake period this summer. The region has benefited from the funding in the past including $210,000 to support the Tri-Municipal Partnership and $46,000 for the MD of Greenview for petrochemical project study.

The minister’s visit was also just ahead of the expected emergency motion Rachel Notley is anticipated to introduce Monday. The motion is an effort to move the the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project along.

Sunday, Kinder Morgan announced it is suspending any non-essential spending on the project and will be considering scrapping it all together if an agreement can’t be reached by May 31, 2018. Bilous says Premier Rachel Notley has been very clear that the pipeline will get built and the province will do whatever is needed.

“That includes bringing in legislation… we’ll be doing it very, very soon, as well as even looking at ideas like potentially an equity stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would ensure that it moves forward.

Bilous was also in Grande Prairie to discuss the provincial budget with Chamber of Commerce members. He says the government has tried to make up for a lack of infrastructure spending over the last decade, something he also says they are easing off of as economic indicators around the province continue to improve. He adds they plan to continue to focus on the economy and jobs.

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