Despite an ‘up and down’ year economically, the mayor for the Town of Drayton Valley says 2018 was a positive year for the community.
Michael Doerksen says positive momentum was building for the first three quarters of the year until economic hardship set in from falling oil prices.
“The last quarter of the year has been hard to swallow,” admits Doerksen.
“From a Town council perspective, I would say it was a positive year, we made some good strides and put our community on a path of which will hopefully lead to future success. Things that I’m particularly proud of haven’t really come to fruition in 2018 and I can’t even talk about them yet because it’s not 100 per cent done.”
Doerksen says 2019 should reveal some of those exciting developments.
“It’s been just over a year since the election and it takes a lot of politicking to move some of these forward so it’s hard to quantify one particular item from 2018,” states Doerksen. “But overall, I would say the way we went about our budget, we really focused on a few key areas and that was just kind of reducing our budget and putting a little bit more money into reserves and putting our focus on the future.”
While planning for that future, Doerksen says the Town is doing its best to limit expenses during this time of economic uncertainty.
“We’re putting some money aside for some capital projects, upgrading some roadwork, things like that, really focusing on economic development, mostly around industrial hemp,” he explains. “We’re also looking at some ideas to improve the possibility of post-secondary education in Drayton Valley, so those are a couple of things coming in 2019.”
Upcoming federal and provincial elections in 2019 are also creating political uncertainty adds Doerksen, especially the provincial one.
“The MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative), grant dollars that each community gets based on population in Alberta, has been kind of a contentious issue,” says Doerksen. “The current government has extended the program but there’s no real long-term plan for it. It’s been 10 years where we’ve been getting these grant dollars and every municipality is putting that into its budget, so if they were to take that away, many municipalities would be struggling with that.”
Outside of circumstances beyond the Town’s control, Doerksen anticipates 2019 to be a positive one for Drayton Valley.
“Obviously, the oil and gas side still has the biggest question mark,” says Doerksen. “But I’m hoping early in the New Year I’ll have the ability to make a couple of announcements with one related to the hemp side. A business is looking at moving to Drayton Valley to set up an operation which I would say would have a significant impact on our region.
"On the education side, (we're) looking at some (post-secondary) options and moving forward with that, possibly in September of 2019.”
With Drayton Valley being the centre of the pro-pipeline movement and kick-starting calls for government support of the oil and gas industry, Doerksen feels it’s a movement growing larger by the day.
“I’m just proud of our community for coming together and making that happen,” says Doerksen. “Maybe a year from now when there is a federal election and we’re having massive rallies across Alberta and Saskatchewan, it’s something we can say and point to that it started in Drayton Valley because we finally had enough people that had enough and wanted to fight back.”
In the meantime, Doerksen says both he and Town council are behind the oil and gas industry 100 per cent.
“We’re doing everything that we can to lobby that initiative but we’re also kind of keeping an eye on the future to insure that our community stays vibrant and busy, even during the downturn,” he exclaims. “So we’re trying our best to help out as much as we can and encourage anyone to reach out to us that has any ideas moving forward.”
Doerksen says residents can expect an event early in the New Year outlining calls for help for oil and gas.
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