On July 24th I was honoured to have the Honourable Christina Gray, Minister of Labour and Democratic Renewal visit our riding as part of a Northern Alberta tour. Minister Gray toured the Northwest Refinery and dropped into Redwater to speak with Mayor and Council. MLA Jessica Littlewood for Fort Saskatchewan -Vegreville also came along for the visit and it was wonderful to see her as well. It was a great day- despite the awful weather!
The NWR Partnership is presently completing construction of Phase I and is in a testing/monitoring phase prior to start-up later this year. As a matter of fact two of the boilers were live and producing steam the day we went. Great to see the incredible progress they’ve made over the past couple of years.This project has been a driving force in construction activity in the Industrial Heartland over the past several years, providing employment for 5,000 – 7,000 people.
They are now starting to work towards approvals for Phase II which will once again drive construction in the area. Minister Gray had the opportunity to meet with Ian McGregor and other plant officials before touring the refinery itself. The tradespeople she met were great advocates for the project, and the pride they have in being part of it shone through.
Minister Gray had originally planned to visit Agrium as well but unfortunately this did not work out. Agrium is one of the largest fertilizer complexes in North America, and the largest private sector employer in Sturgeon County.
I was very proud of the reception the Minister and MLA Littlewood received from the Town of Redwater. Mayor Smith and Council have a special talent for being completely forthright in their concerns while never failing to be the epitome of courtesy and respect. They made a great pitch for Phase II, but also expressed their questions and concerns on such issues as electoral boundaries and rural representation, labour legislation, nonprofit fundraising.
Later that day I returned the favour and accompanied the Minister and MLA Littlewood to Lamont where we met with a large group of municipal officials. Once again, an excellent and frank discussion was held on such issues as rural depopulation, Bill 17, senior supports, among many others.
Minister Gray showed herself to be an adept and sympathetic listener, but also well informed on all aspects of government policy. I know she found this tour to be a valuable exercise and the participants seemed to agree. I am quite sure though that we all agree that she is welcome back any time!