The federal government has announced another round of funding for communities affected by the transition away from coal-fired power generation through its Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) program.
The Town of Bienfait will receive more than $1.6 million, with the bulk of it being used for work on its fire hall, but also to restore a couple of tourist sites: a museum located in the town and the old steam locomotive off of Main Street.
The RM of Estevan, meanwhile, is going to get nearly $4 million for the paving of two key roads: Kensington Avenue from the north edge of city limits to the Estevan truck bypass, and the road that runs from the Estevan Regional Airport to Highway 47.
These are not projects that would be described as absolutely essential, except for possibly the new Bienfait fire hall. These communities have more than survived with the projects above in their current state. But they are important projects for these communities to move forward.
In the case of Bienfait, the museum and the locomotive won’t be big draws, but could serve as good attractions if given the opportunity. They showcase the town’s history and give people a reason to stop in the town if museums and history are their thing. (And there are lots of those people out there).
They also provide some history on the area for those who are new to the community.
As for the new fire hall, you only have to ask the people of Estevan or Carlyle to find out the impact a new fire hall can have on the community and its fire department. It’s something you can provide for the existing fire department, and it’s yet another incentive that the fire department can offer when recruiting. And when dealing with a volunteer or paid on-call force, you want to make sure you have a healthy contingent of members.
The two roads in the RM of Estevan have been gravel for a long time, but that doesn’t mean they should always be gravel. If you want to have increased development along these roads, then a paved road is a more attractive feature than gravel.
It wasn’t necessarily a good look to have Kensington paved to the city limits, and to have the truck bypass paved, but then to have a short stretch of gravel.
Nor did it look good for those coming in and out of the Estevan Airport to have a short stretch of gravel road between Highway 47 and the airport.
If you want to attract investment, then make it as inviting as possible. Some people don’t “get” the reasons for a gravel road.
Yes, it means that you have to maintain asphalt, and in a number of years, it’s going to have to be resurfaced. Given the amount of heavy trucks that will be using these roads, longevity will be a challenge, but that doesn’t make this poorly-spent money.
We’ve seen PrairiesCan step forward with support for southeast communities previously. It’s supplied big support to the Town of Coronach for its diversification projects, and it has contributed to a number of local efforts, including the downtown revitalization planning. (It is worth noting that revitalization in Estevan won’t proceed without support from other governments).
It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves in a situation in which PrairiesCan is providing support for a transition from coal. Estevan, Bienfait, Coronach, the RMs surrounding those communities and other locations are receiving funding because the government has decided to phase out conventional coal power by 2030, 12 years earlier than the initial plan.
But communities can’t say no to this support. The money from the feds is allowing things to happen. Yes, they have to fit under the guidelines set out by the feds, but they’re still projects that enhance communities.
So it’s important for communities to go for this money, even if they might not like why it’s available to them in the first place.
Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and seek out all of the options available to you, especially when you’re in public office.