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COUNCIL COLUMN: We need to stop waiting for the next oil boom

I am still hearing from families who are worried about jobs and the economy.

By Coun. Morgan Nagel

When I talk with Cochrane families about the political issues on their minds, I am still hearing from families who are worried about jobs and the economy. Many people - myself included - are hoping that our new provincial government will be able to help get our economy back on track.

Furthermore, there’s no doubt that the upcoming federal election is going to impact things, one way or another.

But I really get the sense that a lot of people are waiting for a magic switch to be flicked on, causing jobs and wealth to pour back into Alberta. Unfortunately, I don’t think that a magic switch exists. Even if the provincial government implements all the right policies and by some miracle our federal government starts making radical changes in Alberta’s favour, we still would all be wise to have some healthy doubts that oil will be the silver bullet solution that it once was.

While I am of course a proud supporter of Canada’s energy industry, I think our municipal government needs to start taking serious action in other sectors. For starters, it’s no secret that for a community of our size, we already have a formidable local tech industry. I am looking forward to enthusiastically supporting technology initiatives such as the upcoming tech incubator and working with the private sector to connect us to fibre optic internet.

Just west of us, we have world-class natural beauty that can attract tourism from across the globe. I sincerely believe that our regional tourism industry is barely a fraction of what it could be one day.

While we aren’t actually in the Rockies, there are serious discussions going on about connecting Cochrane to Banff and Canmore via rail transit. Relatively speaking, the proposal is quite affordable. A project like that would be a huge boon to all of our local businesses.

That’s just a couple of examples, and I know we can find more. There is so much opportunity around here that we have forgotten.

For the rest of my term on council, I am going to do my best to continue thinking outside of the box when it comes to economic development. Oil is an answer for our economic problems, but it’s not the only answer.