The things we take for granted

Nathan Cooper Non Partisan Cutout

As Interim Leader of the United Conservative Caucus, one of my top priorities is building our Official Opposition. As part of the process, I have launched a summer tour of communities across our province, to gather input from regular folks on the best path forward for our conservative movement. When it comes to consultation, a lot of politicians talk the talk. I want to walk the walk.

That’s why, during the first week of my tour, I visited several coal communities to meet local workers and tour the electric plants that power our province. I must admit, prior to these tours I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect. Over the past two years the NDP government has vilified Alberta’s coal-electric industry. I wanted to see for myself, so I personally visited the Sheerness Generating Facility near Hanna, and Battle River Generating Stationnear Forestburg.

I was more than impressed with what I saw.

The facilities I toured were very clean, employing hundreds of people who are genuinely proud of the work they do to provide affordable and reliable power to Albertans. Some are second- and third-generation coal workers, who have seen technology refined and improved to the point that today’s plants are complex and precisely controlled engineering marvels.

This industry meets and exceeds the most rigorous of environmental and health standards, providing the majority of Alberta’s power while employing more workers than any other electricity source in our province.

This is the kind of progress that is only possible to achieve through experience, and here in Alberta we have a lot of it. For example, the Battle River plant has been in operation since 1954, and has been a proving ground for technological advancement with several older units retired to make way for newer and more efficient production. Today’s newer coal plants can also ramp up production much quicker, responding to demand from the grid instantaneously, providing our province with the necessary redundancy to keep Alberta energized under any weather conditions.

What impressed me most during the tour of the Sheerness facility was the impact of the plant on daily community life. Sheerness, jointly owned by ATCO and TransAlta, directly employs more than 200 people in the Hanna region, as well as hundreds of contractors from across Alberta. These are the high-paying, quality, full-time jobs on which sustainable communities are founded. The Sheerness cooling pond is also home to a popular regional tourism destination. Prairie Oasis park offers more than 100 campsites, a concession, and employs about a dozen students over the summer. In addition, the 40-kilometre water pipe constructed to feed Sheerness also services many of the surrounding communities and provides irrigation for more than 10,000 acres, with the capacity to expand with advances in conservation practices.

I have heard it said that the things we take for granted are the things that most deserve our gratitude. Affordable, reliable electricity on demand definitely falls in this category.

Folks in Hanna and Forestburg have good reason to be proud of their electric plants, and I am grateful for their contributions to our province. Our United Conservative Official Opposition stands ready to provide these workers and their communities with a voice inside and outside Alberta’s Legislature. They work hard for the benefit of all Albertans, and we will never take them for granted.