Editorial – Province must sing from “our songsheet”

Jeff Burgar
As hard as our MLA Danielle Larivee works to prove she is doing a good job for the people of Lesser Slave Lake and the New Democrat government of which she is a member, her own NDP works against her.
First, there are two big issues facing the people of Lesser Slave Lake, or particularly, the people at the west end of the riding. Keep in mind, there are many other issues, such as better high speed Internet to local communities, but these are two that keep coming up in people’s minds.
First is the so-called Integrated College concept of Northern Lakes College, High Prairie School Division, and Holy Family Catholic Regional Division.
As things stand now, NLC says they have money for a new campus in High Prairie. There is no money listed so far in the provincial capital plans for additions to this facility by either Holy Family or HPSD. This can change, of course, in next year’s provincial budget.
Meanwhile, all three partners are chugging along as if they will all have the cash to build, and very soon at that.
Make no mistake, this is a big deal, especially for the extended High Prairie region and NLC. A bigger, better education facility that keeps young people closer to home as they pass from high school to higher learning and skills is nothing but good for our region. It’s good jobs. It stems the “brain drain” of the best and brightest to other towns.
Even towns like Slave Lake where NLC operates. High Prairie is the service centre for a large number of communities and is the obvious location for expanded education services, just as it is was the obvious location for this part of Northern Alberta’s expanding medical services.
How our provincial government treats the planning and desire for an integrated facility, which by the way has been on the drawing board for about two decades or more, will continue to be a big deal in the coming months.
Remember, expanding NLC campus was a key part of the new hospital once upon a time. That didn’t happen. It’s going to be a crime in Edmonton if a new High Prairie campus built with an eye to the future doesn’t happen either.
The second big issue is local kidney dialysis. No matter how Alberta Health Services tries to spin this, it makes no sense to have two shifts of dialysis in Slave Lake, while High Prairie has zero.
A few weeks ago, Alberta Health Minister Sara Hoffman said AHS is watching numbers to see when or if a dialysis program is needed in High Prairie. It’s long past time that the existing numbers, along with backup information like community of origin, is released to see exactly when and where a High Prairie program stands.
The High Prairie region has long-standing needs and good projects that should move forward. One government or another will get the credit when they are built.
Or promised. Saying “No” is not really an option.

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