Just recently I wrote in this blog about the highway that is the lifeline for my region. That highway has come to dominate many things, including the local press, local conversations in local coffee shops, local politics, and local thoughts. It is a highway that garnered national media attention, particularly after a horrific collision in April that killed seven people. It is Highway 63, a highway that has become dotted with memorial crosses as lives have been lost over the years. And on Friday October 19th Highway 63 got a date. That date is 2016.
What is the date for, you wonder? The autumn of 2016 is when the Alberta provincial government has committed to completing the twinning of Highway 63. And that date is, in my considered opinion, not a moment too soon.
I know there has been some controversy in other parts of this province over twinning Highway 63. I've had those conversations myself, having people from Calgary or Edmonton ask me why THEIR money should go to pay for MY highway. It seems they need a little remedial lesson in how these things work, so let's start at the beginning.
Why should their money go to pay for my highway? Well, why should my tax dollars go to pay for their hospitals? Why should my tax dollars pay for anything in their region or community? Because that's just how it works, folks. My tax dollars might be allocated to your regional needs just as your tax dollars might be to mine. But there is a far larger reason at work here. Where EXACTLY do people in this province think the money in our economy is coming from? Who is the economic driver of this province? What is the economic engine?
The answer is not Calgary or Edmonton. The answer lies further north, up in the oil patch, and particularly in the oil sands where the industry continues to grow and contribute larger and larger amounts to our provincial, and national, economy. That industry is expanding quickly, and so is the population needed to operate it - and with that expansion and growing population comes infrastructure needs, like a highway adequate for the traffic it sees. A highway just like Highway 63.
Sometimes I get a little irritated with these discussions. Once I had one with someone who was protesting the use of "their" money to twin "my" highway, and who then went on to tell me that they operate a business that conducts business in the oil sands. They didn't even seem to see the problem with that, this view that they could profit from the oil sands and my community and derive income from it but not give anything back to it. That attitude needs to stop because this isn't about "your" money and "my" highway - this is about "our" province and "our" economy.
I recognize that there are other needs in this province, and that where you live has some needs, too. The reality is, though, that the money to meet those needs is coming from right up here in Fort McMurray, home of the oil sands, and if we are to continue to fuel the provincial economy then we need some infrastructure to make it happen. Let's stop with the "yours" and "ours" rhetoric, and just get on with meeting the needs that exist - like twinning the little highway that ensures that oil, and money, keeps flowing into the Albertan economy.