Empty storefronts and a smaller selection of businesses are issues former NDP candidate Doug Hart feels need to be addressed in rural Alberta. The rural lifestyle has changed and Hart would like to see some of that return.
And it starts with the symposium Towards a Sustainable Rural Alberta: Creative Solutions for Strong Rural Communities. Organized by the Alberta NDP Rural Caucus for March 2 at the Camrose United Church, Hart was quick to say the event is not meant as a forum to bash the current government but to find a way to support small town infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. “All stripes or no political stripes.”
“How can small town Alberta…sustain itself?” he asked.
One of the challenges rural communities face is having young people leave their hometowns when they grow up. The symposium hopes to find ways to keep them in their towns and for local businesses to thrive.
With the majority of the Alberta population living in the cities but the majority of resources coming from rural areas, Hart also feels these communities need better government representation. “Rural communities are mostly represented by back-benchers.”
He also feels agriculture has taken a back seat to the oil and gas industry. Diversification now means selling oil and gas into other markets, stated Hart.
The symposium is a first for the rural NDP caucus and Hart believes ideas garnered from the conference can be taken to the provincial government. During one session a panel will hear ideas from participants, which will be presented to MLAs.
These are the speakers at the conference:
Donna Wilson has a PhD in nursing and deals with rural health care delivery and specializes in health services with regard to aging and end of life care.
Natalie Gibson is a public speaker who finds ways to stimulate rural economies.
Brenda Barrett will speak on community resilience and share how to be self-sustaining.
Gil McGowan has experience in political and labour activism and will speak on the impact of major capital projects such as in Fort McMurray.
Andrew Nikiforuk is the keynote speaker and is an international author and journalist. He will speak on the environmental impact of Alberta’s oil industry and on the government “racing to sell to the highest bidder,” explained Hart.