Redford: Land, traffic improvements coming
Oct 28, 2011 at 8:45 am in Business, News by tyler.king
While short on specifics, Alison Redford’s first speech as Premier in Fort McMurray pledged action on the vital housing and transportation files.
Speaking to a packed Sawridge Inn & Conference Centre on Thursday night as part of a PC Fundraising Dinner, Redford reiterated support for the region, and especially controversial initiatives to better its development.
Redford dismissed oil sands criticisms as “exaggerated,” while pledging to do more to combat them. She also re-stated support for the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway oil sands pipelines.
Her speech made mention of previously-announced initiatives in the region, such as the upcoming 100-bed continuing care facility and two new K-6 schools.
Her biggest round of applause came when she categorized the twinning of Highway 63 as “not fast enough,” pledging that her cabinet would seek to accelerate the process.
In a media conference following the speech, Redford insisted her government would address issues for which the provincial government has been criticized in the Wood Buffalo region, such as releasing more land to bring housing costs down.
“That was part of the discussion [with Mayor Melissa Blake] today,” she said. “What I’ll tell you is that [Ministers] Jeff Johnson and Doug Griffiths, and the Mayor, are working very closely on this. I think you’re going to see some good progress on that in the short term.”
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo currently controls less than 1% of its available land. When asked whether there was a level that the province would see as acceptable, Redford didn’t want to cite a specific percentage.
“I will actually take it back, because it’s worth having that discussion,” she said. ”It didn’t come up in the discussions today, but I think it’s a good perspective to have.”
“We can’t have this situation continue,” she added.
When asked when the municipality can expect crown land to begin to be released, Redford tried to avoid setting a specific time.
“We can’t do timeframes anymore – timeframes are just frustrating for everyone, including me,” she said. “We’re not giving people 30, 60, 90-day frameworks – we’re saying ‘get this stuff done.’ And we will.”
On the omnipresent issue of traffic in the region, Redford said she was open to the municipality’s idea of stationing tow trucks near the Athabasca River Bridge to more quickly clear it when problems arise.
“It’s a provincial highway, so the provincial government has that jurisdiction,” she explained. ”The municipality has said, rightly so, I think, that it’s much easier to manage local issues at a local level, so that’s one of the issues that [Infrastructure Minister] Jeff Johnson is taking away from discussions today.”