Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson said he’s very much aware of the local campaign for a local hospital expansion.
But Anderson is also aware of perceived hospital shortages in other Alberta communities, such as the Leduc hospital in his own fast-growing riding of Leduc-Beaumont.
During his recent tour of Alberta, Anderson said “pretty much every single town and county told us they are feeling neglected (for provincial funding), and they’re fighting for what’s needed for their areas.”
While local MLAs Kim Schreiner and Barb Miller have been vocal about Red Deer hospital’s needs – including a cardiac catherization unit, Anderson said, “we are constantly having to balance what we are doing because there’s only so much money.”
Schreiner vowed to keep the local hospital issue “on the front burner” while two health service reviews are being done for Alberta Health Services. But she noted her NDP government has committed to other funding for Red Deer – including a new local courthouse, three new schools, and Gaetz Avenue-Hwy 2 interchange.
Anderson was in the city Thursday gathering informal feedback. He spoke to members of Red Deer city council and the chamber, as well as selected business people, including Roland Forsland, the co-owner of Dose Coffee.
Among the various topics discussed was local windstorm damage and the provincial decision not to provide disaster coverage. Another ongoing issue is getting city charter status for Red Deer to match what Edmonton and Calgary are receiving. This would provide our municipality with more autonomy.
Anderson said he’ll be keeping an eye on how things go in the larger centres, with the aim of making charter city status available for Red Deer and possibly other mid-sized cities in future.
Meanwhile, he said he will look at ways to provide a more permanent funding base to Alberta municipalities once the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program is gone.
The minister got a sense that Red Deer’s economy is showing signs of revitalization, noting some diverse local industries exist, including a solar power company.
Forsland said his downtown coffee shop, which expanded to a second location last summer on 47th Street, across from the Red Deer River, is thriving better than a year ago. There are plans to start a third, neighbourhood Dose location in the next few years.
But Forsland acknowledged coffee is a “small luxury,” compared to a car purchase, for example, so it’s hard to know what’s happening at the macro level.