Premier Rachel Notley got to see and hear a lot about life in Fort McMurray on Friday.
The Premier visited the city for the first time since her election victory last spring, joined by Finance Minister Joe Ceci as they held a virtual pre-budget town hall.
Notley commented on the community’s “resiliency” in the face of the latest oil price shock, and said she was impressed by the environmentally friendly practices employed in the RMWB.
The Premier also suggested that the economic slowdown in the region could provide certain opportunities.
“Maybe there’s some benefit to not growing as fast,” she said. “We’re going to try and work with that and see if we can get some infrastructure projects that will get Fort McMurray ahead of the game when and if the next push comes for development.”
Notley and Ceci kicked off their day by touring the Father Mercredi Catholic High’s science and technology centre, taking particular interest in the robotics division. They congratulated the all-girls robotics team, who are heading to the USA to compete in the VEX world championships soon.
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) March 4, 2016
From there the Premier and finance minister went into a closed-door meeting with Mayor Melissa Blake and councillors to discuss the needs of the municipality. Councillor Tyran Ault said that several potential projects were discussed, as well as the need for pipelines.
Community leaders and students then packed the Grand Ballroom at Shell Place for the virtual town hall, where Notley and Ceci responded to questions both from locals and from citizens across Alberta on social media about the NDP’s policies and future plans. Notley referred to the need for better midwife access in communities like Fort McMurray when it comes to health care, and emphasized the need for investment and not slashing costs in these tough times.
“We are not going to restore the price of oil by laying off teachers, laying off nurses,” she said to a round of applause.
The Premier then wrapped up the day by checking out a practice by the Noralta Skating Club and having a roundtable discussion with community organizations housed in Shell Place’s Redpoll Centre before heading off to the airport.
She says she’ll be back though, and with new guests next time.
“I might be able to bring some premiers out here from other parts of the country,” she said. “To educate them a little bit about Fort McMurray in a more positive way as we work on our pipeline efforts. I’m going to be trying to make that happen.”