The Town of Hanna is partnering with residents, local business leaders and economic development experts to attract investment and create new jobs and opportunities for local economic diversification.
The project, called Community Action to Create Diversification, is receiving an approximately $450,000 grant from the Alberta government to create 10 Community Action Teams. They will focus on initiatives and opportunities identified in a recently completed report by the Hanna Climate Change Strategy Task Force commissioned last year.
Hanna plans to begin hosting community meetings to establish the teams in the coming weeks.
“Our community members have been bringing forward suggestions for economic development opportunities for some time and this project provides a structure to take these ideas from concept to action, said Chris Warwick, mayor for Hanna. “Our message is clear – diversification must be a priority as we work together to build an economy for the future.”
Recognizing that effective diversification efforts require a regional approach, the Community Action Teams will be led by the Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation, which includes members from the Town of Hanna, the Special Areas Board, the Village of Youngstown and the Hanna Learning Centre.
The teams will also partner with the Rural Alberta Business Centre in Hanna, which helps more than 65 entrepreneurs and startups in the area each year.
“Residents here have shared their ideas with our task force, and getting funding for this project means we can make those ideas a reality in various economic sectors of opportunity. Rural communities have always been important to this province, and when our economies do well, Alberta does well,” said Trisha Sewell, economic development officer, Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation.
The work of the new Community Action Teams will also incorporate feedback from the Alberta government’s Advisory Panel on Coal Communities, which is expected to complete its report this fall.
The panel has consulted with economic development organizations, workers, labour leaders, local governments, and First Nations to identify community challenges and opportunities that come with Canada’s transition away from coal – and to recommend ways to support regional economic development, retraining and other opportunities for workers.
Canada is one of many countries moving towards natural gas and renewables – while moving away from coal-powered electricity.
In 2012, the Harper government approved regulations to end coal-powered electrical generation at Battle River and Sundance in 2019, at Keephills in 2029, and at Sheerness starting in 2036.
In 2014, the Harper government introduced regulations that would have prevented all Alberta coal plants from converting to natural gas.
The Trudeau government has since shortened Canada’s coal phase-out deadline to Dec. 31, 2029.
The Alberta government is working to ensure coal communities continue to power our province, by securing exemptions from the Trudeau government that will allow coal plants to continue operating past federally mandated end-dates by converting to natural gas.
This lines up closely with the Alberta government’s Climate Leadership Plan, which will create 7,000 jobs by transitioning to renewable and natural gas-generated electricity by 2030.
The province also commissioned a coal transition report from world-renowned energy expert Terry Boston. He has worked on complex energy issues for decades on four continents. Boston oversaw the successful transition off coal for one of the world’s largest electricity grids.
Based on his recommendations, the Alberta government reached agreements last fall that ensure power companies:
• fulfil their existing and future legal obligations to affected employees, including severance and pension obligations
• keep their head offices in Alberta
• continue to generate power for Alberta’s electricity market
These steps provide options for transitioning to new electricity generation that would see coal communities continue to power Alberta and create new long-term, local economic opportunities.
Recognizing that both communities and workers will be affected during the transition – even with construction and operating jobs in natural gas conversion – the province also appointed an Advisory Panel on Coal Communities.
The panel will provide recommendations to support retraining and other opportunities for workers – and to support regional economic development.
The government will share the panel’s feedback when the panel completes its report this fall.