Alberta NDP government announces $450K grant to help Hanna amid coal phase-out

Residents of Hanna, Alta. have erected a sign showing their feelings about government policies as seen on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016.
Residents of Hanna, Alta. have erected a sign showing their feelings about government policies as seen on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The provincial government announced Monday that the east-central Alberta town of Hanna would be receiving $450,000 to help stimulate economic diversification.

Rachel Notley’s NDP government announced in 2016 it planned to phase out Alberta’s coal-fired power generation by 2030. The phaseout is still a number of years away, but Hanna is home to hundreds of residents employed by ATCO’s Sheerness coal power station and the Westmoreland mine adjacent to it and is already feeling the impacts.

“The town of Hanna has a proud history of helping power a prosperous and industrious province,” Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous said.We want that to continue so people here can build a good life for themselves and their families.”

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“We know that Canada’s move away from coal has created a lot of uncertainty – that’s why we are working with local leaders and residents to support their made-in-Hanna plan for a resilient, diversified economy.”

The provincial grant will go to a project called Community Action to Create Diversification, which will create 10 so-called community action teams. According to a news release, the teams will each focus on different initiatives and opportunities outlined in a report by the Hanna Climate Change Strategy Task Force commissioned last year.

Hanna Mayor Chris Warwick says they will 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,” he said.

“Our message is clear – diversification must be a priority as we work together to build an economy for the future.”

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.

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“We accomplish more when we work together,” said Trisha Sewell, economic development officer, Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation.

“When it comes to creating new local economic opportunities during this transition, local people know best.”

“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,” Sewell added. “Rural communities have always been important to this province, and when our economies do well, Alberta does well.”

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.

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