Clutching at straws on Highway 88

These days it seems conversations often turn to the topic of how much oil production activity is going on in the Marten Hills. It’s tapping into something called the Clearwater Formation, and it is very busy out there. Much of the oil is being trucked out via the Marten Hills Road, we hear, and on south via Hwys. 88 and 2.

And which is the worst piece of highway in the province? If it isn’t the first 30km or so of Hwy. 88, it must be a contender for that title.

Who knows, maybe it wasn’t built properly in the first place. Whatever it is, all the patching in the world isn’t going to keep up with its rate of decay. It needs major surgery.

This point is being made to provincial officials. Millions in provincial revenue is coming out of our area, so why can’t we have some decent roads?

Then there’s the by-now locally popular story of the province spending a couple of million dollars down south so some ranchers’ cows can pass under a highway. Good for them, but again – how about our infrastructure up north?

Government spending tends to go where the population is – that’s always been the case and it’s easy to see why. And a government with a solid majority lacks incentive to hand out favours (pavement, for example) to small, rural ridings.

In other words, we lack leverage. But eventually, something is bound to give.

How about by way of a pre-election handout? Stranger things have happened.

For that scenario to unfold in favour of our area, a couple of things would have to fall into place. One would be polls showing the NDP closing in on the UCP, provincially. With the prospect of a tight race for control of the legislature, the Smith government could resort to the ages-old tactic of shelling out the cash in an effort to get more votes.

A long shot? Probably, but all it takes is a couple of trips up and down the southern part of Hwy. 88 and you’d be willing to clutch at any straw that appears.

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