Broadband still top priority

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Broadband services and infrastructure remain the top rural priority for Big Lakes County.
At its regular meeting June 22, council approved a motion to select broadband connectivity, lack of skilled labour, and improved healthcare services as the top rural economic development issues in the county.
The motion responded to a letter from federal Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs, shadow minister for rural economic development and rural broadband strategy.
“These are the top three topics brought up in the past by council,” said Brett Hawken, county director of community and protective services.
The Alberta MP asked the municipality to submit its three most important issues impacting economic development in Big Lakes.
“Other economic development issues include, but not limited to, tourism, infrastructure, immigration, housing and First Nations / Metis settlement partnerships,” Hawken added.
Stubbs is pushing to promote rural economic development.
“The economic contributions from rural communities are integral to Canada’s success,” Stubbs wrote in a letter to council.
“Rural areas are home to many key industries such as manufacturing, forestry, agriculture and energy.
“Yet, municipalities under 20,000 residents receive less support from the [Liberal] federal government in comparison to their much larger counterparts.”
Red tape duplication and certain application requirements disproportionately burden small rural communities with very few staff, she noted.
“This is unfair, unjust and needs to be addressed urgently,” Stubbs wrote.
She added a virtual townhall session is also being planned to discuss and promote problems and priorities from municipalities.
“We will use this feedback to ensure our work for rural Canada is as productive as possible and will determine the agenda for our townhall,” Stubbs wrote.

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