With a provincial budget being prepared for early 2021, the County of Grande Prairie has a new advocacy plan to seek funding for local infrastructure.
County council identified the Beaverlodge Hospital, Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum and highway projects as priorities to advocate for under the plan approved last week.
“A lot of our residents outside of the Town of Beaverlodge are benefactors of the west county health facility, and we want to make sure our voices are heard,” said county reeve Leanne Beaupre.
“Our advocacy is important to this project.”
Late this spring, Beaverlodge established the Mountview Health Complex Committee (MHCC) to pursue hospital replacement utilizing private funds through the company P3 Capital Partners.
Beaupre said she believes MHCC can “absolutely” make a difference and noted county councillors Bob Marshall and Peter Harris have joined the committee.
Mayor Gary Rycroft told the News in June P3 is known for building hospitals, schools and other infrastructure and then leasing the projects to the Alberta government to recover costs.
The health complex would be built on the 22 acres donated to the town by the McFarlane family, approximately a decade ago.
While MHCC is looking to get the complex privately built, Beaupre said the county still needs to advocate for Alberta Health Services to outfit and operate the facility when it’s complete.
This involves presenting a solid business plan to AHS, she said.
“It’s not going to be operated as a private hospital,” Beaupre said.
“It has to find that balance between what AHS is mandated to provide and what somebody is willing to build, and what is going to work for the community.”
A second major priority for the county is provincial support for Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.
“We recognize this is a museum of significance, and other museums in the province of Alberta receive operational funding because of their significance,” Beaupre said.
“A lot of displays in the Currie museum are actually provincially-owned.”
She said the county has received capital funding and occasional provincial grants, but no annual operational funding for the museum has been forthcoming from the province.
While the Beaverlodge facility and dino museum are both west county-based, Beaupre said most other priorities in the county’s new advocacy plan affect the entire county.
Critical transportation is a key concern.
One project highlighted is the completion of Highway 43X and the construction of a Hwy. 40X connecting highways 40 and 43.
“A bypass from Hwy. 43 to Hwy. 40 ... is an integral part for that network,” Beaupre said.
Hwy. 40X would see a link from the west side of Hwy. 40 outside the city, to Richmond Hill on Hwy. 43.
Currently large commercial vehicles coming off Hwy. 40 flow onto Wapiti Road, she said and noted Hwy. 40X would allow industrial traffic to better bypass the city.
Also on the list of highway projects is the twinning of Hwy. 40 and a new bridge over Wapiti River.
Though the county has already approved $10 million in funding for the twinning and Greenview and the province committed to the balance, Beaupre said it’s important the project is moved forward in “a timely fashion.”
Rounding out the list of priorities are economic development, including infrastructure improvement, fighting rural crime and increasing the county’s profile within the Alberta government.
How the county undertakes its advocacy can include raising issues with provincial ministers and appointing county councillors to external committees, Beaupre said.
She noted Coun. Karen Rosvold is the chairperson of the provincial Family and Community Support Services board and Coun. Corey Beck chairs the provincial Agriculture Service Board.
Mountview Health Complex Committee is another example, Beaupre said. County council previously approved an advocacy plan in 2019.
Beaupre said last year’s version listed many of the same priorities, but the new plan is updated to reflect the Alberta government’s recent focus on development during COVID recovery.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News