Ec/dev strangeness

It’s kind of strange to see that the Lesser Slave Lake Economic Alliance still exists. All the news in the past couple of years has been about one municipal member after another abandoning that ship.

Nobody ever says on the record what the problem was, but Slave Lake and the M.D. of Lesser Slave River washed their hands of the organization a couple of years ago. They – along with their Regional Tri-Council partner the Sawridge First Nation – are trying to make a go of a smaller economic-development group, one the province doesn’t want to fund.

Meanwhile, the County of Big Lakes also quit the LSLEA and is looking around for alternatives. According to a story in the July 4 High Prairie South Peace News, Big Lakes is talking about forming a new REDA, or ‘regional economic development alliance.’ There are several of these in Alberta, and the tempting thing about belonging to one of them is that the province has been funding them to the tune of 75 per cent. But that support wasn’t enough to keep the LSLEA from imploding.

It’s a weird situation. The SPN story quotes Big Lakes CAO Jordan Panasiuk saying the province no longer recognizes the LSLEA. However, the same story has LSLEA board chair Barry Sharkawi saying the LSLEA plans on ‘forging ahead.’

Forging ahead might be tough without provincial or municipal support, but good luck to them. There are still members, according to the LSLEA website (which may or may not be up to date). In any case, the lack of status puts them in the same boat as the tri-council group, which keeps prodding the government to recognize it and fund it as a REDA, without success. Too small, say the provincial people. Get bigger.

It would make some sense for Big Lakes and the tri-council ec/dev group to get together. It might shake loose some provincial funding. But on the other hand, it would also entail giving up some control, which the tri-council members have become fond of.

All of this begs the question about what tangible benefits have ever come out of such economic development efforts. Perhaps that will be the topic for another day.

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