“We’ve spent a lot of time working together on projects with somebody else’s money. Maybe it’s time to work on a project using our own money.”
That was how Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman introduced the economic development agenda item at the Regional Tri-Council meeting on Sept. 17.
The question has been ‘in the air’ for some time. Born out of the ashes of the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire disaster, the tri-council (town, M.D. and Sawridge First Nation) first got together to discuss how to spend the disaster relief funding provided by the provincial government. That money has all but run out, so the obvious question for the group is….“what now?”
“It’s time for us to decide if we’re going to continue,” said Chief Roland Twinn at the meeting. “It’s been good, but it’s starting to peter out.”
Economic development means different things to the parties, Twinn continued. But he thinks there are projects all three could get behind. Something tourism-related on the river, for example.
Twinn pointed out that on “70 per cent of the days, it’s too windy to get out on the lake. Is that an opportunity?”
Warman was all for it.
“We’re overdue for a bit of action,” he said. “If we put our heads together, I think we can come up with some things that would benefit all of us tremendously.”
M.D. reeve Murray Kerik agreed.
“Let’s sit down and see what we can come up with,” he said.
It was pointed out more than once at the meeting that tourism infrastructure at the west end of Lesser Slave Lake is a lot more developed than at the east end. Twinn also made a point of saying that the role of local governments is not to spend money doing the actual developing, but to “entice the people with money to come and build the infrastructure.”
What that might be remains to be seen, but the terms ‘campgrounds’ and ‘marina’ get tossed around a lot.
M.D. councillor Brad Pearson interjected a note of caution into the proceedings. If the fish don’t last, he said, “It’s money in the wind.”
In other words, fishing is what brings people to the area. If they can’t fish (or perhaps if they can’t keep any fish), they won’t come.
Warman disagreed: “There are lots of other things besides fish,” he said.
The group approved a motion to have the CAOs come up with a process for identifying project opportunities.