Economic diversification is a topic on the minds of many Albertans, none more so than residents of Hanna who are facing changes to the nearby Sheerness Generating Station.

To avoid losing an estimated 200 full-time jobs in the region, the provincial government gave Hanna's Community Action to Create Diversification group $450,000 to create 10 Community Action Teams charged with coming up with a plan to shift the economy away from one that is coal-centered.

With serious discussions under way last week in Hanna, Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman revealed his own hopes for diversification in rural Alberta.

"I've been trying to use the negativity associated with climate change to use it as a wedge issue for the greater development of offshooting irrigation projects," he revealed. "There's lots of water available for [the] Sheerness Coal Mine and there is the potential for other irrigation developments within the Special Areas and also in the M.D. of Acadia."

He pointed out that irrigation projects in Alberta are not new. In fact, he said, the projects have proven to be quite successful at creating stable, diversified economies.

"Some 60 years ago, there was the initiation of the development of irrigation in southern Alberta -- very similar to what we have in the Special Areas -- that have been such immense forms of wealth creation in the province and stabilized long-term, without the boom-bust cycle relating to energy and the oil field developments."

Strankman, like thousands of people in east-central Alberta, are eager to see what the action teams come up with.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the results of [those Community Action Teams]. They have facilitators hired there. The government has given them significant amounts of capital to try and look into certain things. But, that is only fruitful when actual, positive development comes as a result of that."

For more information about the Community Action Teams or the Community Action to Create Diversification, contact Trisha Sewell, Economic Development Office for the Cactus Corner Economic Development Corporation at [email protected]

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