As the nine-term MLA for Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Ken Kowalski has seen a lot since being elected in 1979. It is that experience year over year that helps him evaluate 2010 with an eye to how 2011 will shape up.
For Alberta as a whole, 2010 was a good year, Kowalski said. Speaking to the agriculture sector, he said things panned out well considering early appearances.
“We had a pretty positive year last year, despite the fact the spring looked so bad,” he said. “Even in September, the first of September didn’t look really good.”
In terms of building infrastructure projects, Alberta, and the Westlock area in particular, had “a heck of a year,” he said.
He highlighted the Spirit Centre project as a major infrastructure initiative. Joining it on a list of major projects in the Westlock area in 2010 are the now-completed low-cost housing project and approval for the $5.2 million improvements to the Pembina Lodge long-term care facility, Kowalski said.
“I think 2011’s going to be a continuing improvement,” he said.
He stressed that oil and gas prices are at a level that benefits Albertans, while natural gas prices need to be massaged. He said the price for the commodity has been bolstered, but remains fairly soft; a 10-cent increase in price would yield $1 billion for the province, so the government wants to try to boost the price in 2011.
Other than those three resources, Kowalski said all other segments seem to be in positive territory going forward.
In terms of specific milestones for 2011, Kowalski said it’s more important to look at the big picture.
“I usually look at these things over a four-year segment,” he said, adding he likes to view such milestones in terms of projects either started or completed.
It’s been mentioned before, but the Spirit Centre is key among those projects, he said. Construction is underway, and that’s something people can actually see happening.
Another goal is to keep the funding in place to allow Alberta’s municipalities to succeed, he said.
“We’re moving forward in a positive but steady way,” he said. “It’s not a 40 per cent increase or anything like that, but all we have to do is look at the rest of Canada and the rest of North America and the rest of the world and say, ‘Hey, in Alberta, things are not bad.’”