For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Leduc, Nisku, and Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce was able to host an in-person luncheon with business members from across all three areas able to attend.
The State of the Region address took place at the Best Western in Wetaskiwin, Alta., on March 18, 2022.
Policy Chair for the Leduc, Nisku, and Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce Wayne DiLallo spoke at the address about the Chamber’s policy update — including the Chamber’s continued efforts to find class 1 drivers. DiLallo says that finding new drivers is critical to many businesses success, and many are struggling with the current labour shortage. It is estimated that Alberta is short approximately 3,100 class one drivers.
As part of a solution the Chamber is recommending amending their policy to classify truck driving as a skilled occupation, which would make truck driving training eligible for student loans.
Next Chamber members heard from the County of Wetaskiwin Reeve Josh Bishop
“I’m super excited about the next couple years,” says Bishop. “Last year we were open for summer, this year I hope we are open for good.”
Bishop says that this year one of the big things the county is working on is updating the Municipal Development Plan, which was last heavily revised in 2010. He states that they are looking to engage with all the stakeholders and line up with what they and the county want going forward with the plan.
Bishop says that 2021 was an incredibly busy year for development in the county including completing an interim road project valued at just over $3.5 million and the county seeing a 74 per cent increase in planning and development applications from residents last year.
The county also continued its efforts into revitalizing it’s hamlets, including completing a new parking lot at Mulhurst Bay, a new Mulhurst Bay playground, completing a lagoon in Gwynn and plans to complete a Winfield lagoon in 2022.
Bishop was also excited to announce that for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the county will be bringing back the County of Wetaskiwin open house and barbeque May 6, 2022.
Looking at 2022 Bishop states that the County is focused on securing more provincial funding which he says is crucial for large scale projects like bridges. He says that although the County has seen a grant reduction policy from the provincial government however, Bishop states that the county is in a fair financial position thanks to budgeting decisions from previous councils.
“Over the years we’ve had some great councils, some great administrations who had the foresights that got us through these years.”
In 2022 the county also plans to bring in an auditor on a regular basis, part of their emphasis on a culture of improvement.
Deputy Mayor Bill Elliot spoke on behalf of the City of Wetaskiwin due to Mayor Tyler Gandam having COVID-19 and therefore was unable to attend the address.
Some of the key points Elliot spoke on for the city that took place in 2021 and are expected to continue to make impacts in 2022 included the policing grant, Wetaskiwin’s homelessness issues, and the development of Peace Hills Utilities.
In April 2021 the City of Wetaskiwin received a $5.1 million grant from the Government of Alberta for 10 additional RCMP members over three years. This was critical given that the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment responds to twice the provincial average of Criminal Code calls for service.
Local RCMP also established a six member regional crime reduction unit targeting high-risk and repeat offenders.
“We do not support a provincial police force,” Elliot says. He states that the city supports the RCMP.
In 2021 the city secured a $150,000 grant from the Rural Development Network and city council unanimously approved and additional $35,000 needed to secure trailers for the warming shelter that opened on Dec. 6, 2021 and began operating 24/7 on Dec.17, 2021.
Elliot said in his address that the Mustard Seed has extended their stay will continue providing shelter operations until the end of April 2022.
Peace Hills Utilities
The City of Wetaskiwin’s current lagoon system has been in operation for over 40 years and in order to meet the new regulations in upgrades and more the city developed a Municipally Controlled Corporation with Graham Capital and Aquatera to develop Peace Hills Utilities, Inc.
Elliot explained that this partnership allows the city to retain ownership of all assets related to the project while receiving the financial benefits of the ownership. In August 2020 city council successfully secured and signed a $12.9 million Alberta Provincial Grant to aid in funding the construction of the facility.
Elliot says that this May the city looks forward to celebrating 116 years of operation.