Alberta Senator Doug Black virtually visited Wood Buffalo.
Due to public health guidelines from COVID-19, he made his annual trip to the region via virtual means.
“While nothing will replace the value derived from visiting Alberta’s beautiful and unique municipalities in person, this virtual tour will allow me to stay closely in touch with the issues affecting various parts of our province and assess how I can best advance provincial interests in Ottawa.”
Black spoke with the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation, Members of RMWB Council, business owners, and residents.
To date, he said he visited eight communities in the province on his virtual tour.
“While each community has individual issues, the overwhelming impression is one of resiliency and compassion throughout the communities. Fort McMurray has a list of challenges, but what I’ve seen through it all is that people are resilient, they’re digging down both in their family lives and business lives, but they’re also paying attention to their neighbours and the concerns they’re having.”
Black said it’s gratifying to hear those responses from residents.
He added flood insurance continues to be a concern for Fort McMurray’s neighbourhoods.
Getting insurance at competitive rates is also a concern for the business community.
In late April 2020, spring flooding impacted several neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray.
Black said various people mentioned the strains on the social service network, in particular on mental health.
“We have to be very attentive to that challenge to ensure that the resources are available to the community.”
RMWB Council recently passed a motion titled “Energy Industry Advocacy”.
The Municipality will ask the government of Canada to formally recognize the energy industry, which Mayor Don Scott said is the region’s primary economic driver.
The motion also requests the federal government refrain from increasing regulatory burdens on energy and supporting carbon emissions-reducing technology.
“In terms of the oil industry, we have to change our language a little bit. We have a [federal] government that does not approve of the oil industry [and] is not prepared to support the oil industry. In my opinion, for us to continue to use the same language and arguments to date to get support will not make any real difference.”
Black said the region has a story to celebrate about reducing emissions
“We need to celebrate all of the initiatives that are being taken to reduce emissions. Something like 60-65 per cent of all energy, research and development, innovation dollars spent in Canada are spent in Fort McMurray. We need to indicate that we are making progress year over year in minimizing our carbon footprint.”
He said he shared his viewpoint with some community leaders.
Senator Black said the region is a remarkable community.
“[They] have been the engine of the Alberta and Canadian economy for close to two decades. Yet, nature has been cruel and policies from the federal government has been cruel to Fort McMurray. In spite all of that, the community continues to work together, find ways to be constructive, solve problems collectively, and to be very considerate of their neighbours.”
See you tomorrow, Fort McMurray! Looking forward to connecting with folks across the community as part of my Alberta Virtual Tour