Considering recent provincial activity in the St. Albert area, it seems more likely than ever that an election call is imminent.
On Monday, Pembina Pipeline Corp. announced it is proceeding with a proposed $4.5-billion petrochemical plant in Sturgeon County.The province said it will contribute $300 million in royalty credits for the new plant, which will create more than 3,000 construction jobs and will eventually employ 200 full-time workers. Once complete, the facility will process about 23,000 barrels per day of propane into polypropylene.
The multibillion-dollar project is undoubtedly a major economic boon for the region. It has the added effect of giving Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP some great news to promote before they have even hit the campaign trail.
With Alberta still feeling the effects of an oil price crisis late last year, the NDP is getting what many may perceive as an unfair jump-start on campaigning by touting its latest contribution to economic development – never mind that the royalty credits for the plant were first approved in 2016.
The provincial government is regurgitating a three-year-old decision and touting it as if it were something new – a strategy political pundits are all too familiar with when a government is preparing to fight to hold onto its power.
The announcement coincided with Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous’ visit to the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, where he teased the possibility of an announcement coming soon on provincial funds for the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive.
If this in itself wasn’t an obvious attempt to curry favour in a constituency known for leaning right, Bilous removed any doubt about his intentions through his framing of the potential announcement.
“If the news happens to be good news, please keep in mind that you really do have strong MLAs in this region who are advocating on your behalf,” he told about 30 representatives of St. Albert’s business sector.
“We know this is critical to the region and we will have something to say very, very soon.”
How convenient for the province.
Improvements to Ray Gibbon Drive have long been near the top of St. Albert city council’s wish list – so much so that, with a seeming dearth of provincial support, the current council finally decided in December to front-end the costs of twinning the road by approving $780,000 for engineering and design work. Another $7.91 million is currently earmarked for 2020 if council decides to put that design work into action and twin the intersection from LeClair Way to the southern city limit.
With the NDP facing a major challenge from Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party, the government has suddenly taken an interest in a project it has eschewed for years. If the province wants to help twin Ray Gibbon Drive, it should simply do so – not wait until the cusp of an election when it can use this important local issue to buy votes.
Both the petrochemical plant and the prospect of provincial funds for Ray Gibbon Drive are great news for our region. The timing, however, gives cause to raise a collective eyebrow.
Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette's editorial board.