Commentary – What’s in store for 2024?

Richard Froese

The first month of a new year is almost over and many people are wondering what 2024 will bring.

Many are hoping for a year better than 2023.

Last year, the news was headlined by wildfires that hit many regions of Alberta, British Columbia and other parts of Canada. Dry warm weather and economic challenges plagued much of everyone’s life.

Locally, what will be the big news in the High Prairie, Falher-McLennan, Peace River and Slave Lake regions in 2024?

Residents in the High Prairie region will be closely watching what will develop at the former site of the High Prairie Health Complex on Highway 2, the main highway running through town. Located in the middle of the community, it will surely be a centre of activity and attention when development starts.

Wind is in the air in the Smoky River region. ABO Wind Canada proposes to construct a wind farm north of Falher which has generated opposition as the Smoky River Wind Concerns Group leads the charg. All wind projects in Alberta were put on hold last August after the provincial government placed a six-month moratorium that ends Feb. 29.

Will amalgamating rural municipalities be on the agenda of many local councils in 2024 – or at least discussed?

The issue was initiated by the Village of Donnelly last September. An e-mail sent by Donnelly to the M.D. of Smoky River, the Town of Falher, the Town of McLennan and the Village of Girouxville asked each local council if they are interested in a “potential collaboration” Donnelly is exploring.

Meanwhile, Big Lakes County council was asked by a resident to examine amalgamation. During interim budget meetings Dec. 4-5, council was urged to consider amalgamating with the Town of High Prairie to reduce costs and duplication of services and equipment for both neighbouring municipalities.

The request came from Diana Oliver, who served as the mayor of High Prairie from 1992-98.

Will more municipal councils talk amalgamation – or at least residents asking them to consider?

Social issues and crime – including rural crime – continue to be challenges for many local communities.

Peace River, Slave Lake and High Prairie are dealing with homeless people.

Everyone hopes and trusts solutions come sooner rather than later to make communities safe and welcome for everyone.

Could a former Lesser Slave Lake MLA become the next leader of the provincial New Democratic Party? Will former MLA Danielle Larivee take a run at the NDP leadership to succeed Rachel Notley, who announced Jan. 16 that she would resign from her top role when a new leader is elected?

Larivee served as the MLA when the NDP was in power after being elected in 2015 in the only NDP government in Alberta and reigned until the United Conservative Party was elected government in 2019. She served almost all term in cabinet, appointed as minister of municipal affairs and minister in charge of Service Alberta on Oct. 22, 2015 and shuffled to minister of child services on Jan. 19, 2017.

Larivee showed strong leadership in her portfolios and was well respected throughout the riding for her support of communities.

Sitting MLAs may have an advantage, but leadership races always attract candidates from outside caucus.

Political pundits have already mentioned a few potential candidates, including Sarah Hoffman, who has family roots in Kinuso and served as deputy premier from February 2016 to April 2019.

Only time will tell what will happen in the NDP leadership race and various issues in local communities in the coming months.

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