Idea OK, location disputed by High Prairie councillors

County economic development meeting called in Slave Lake

Chris Clegg
For the Lakeside Leader

Efforts to form a new regional economic development group are proceeding, despite concerns from some members of High Prairie town council.

Big Lakes County is the driving force behind the formation of the new group, and called a meeting in Slave Lake for July 17.

The fact the meeting was in Slave Lake drew the attention of town councillors at their July 10 meeting.

“Why is this taking place in Slave Lake and not here?” asked Councillor Donna Deynaka. “We’re the central point … and everyone has to travel to Slave Lake. “It somewhat upsets me this is happening in Slave Lake,” she added. “It bothers me as to where it’s taking place.”

Mayor Brian Panasiuk also questioned the decision.

“I don’t understand the rationale either.”

County Reeve Ken Mathews says Slave Lake is more of a central point for all parties invited to the meeting. He adds the county invited all original partners of the Lesser Slave Lake Economic Alliance (LSLEA) to be part of the new group, although the latter vows to survive without government money.

The county’s letter of invitation written July 3 verified Matthews’ statement, inviting parties from Wabasca and Desmarais to High Prairie and all points in-between. Swan Hills is also invited. The Slave Lake venue is also perplexing to some, who believe that Slave Lake wants no part of the new group, yet the meeting is being held in their community to their economic benefit.

“Slave Lake has indicated that they have other initiatives for regional economic development; therefore, is not expressing an interest in the collaboration at this time,” wrote High Prairie Councillor Debbie Rose in her report.

“Slave Lake was looking at having their own,” added Deynaka.

“I haven’t heard anything official,” said Matthews regarding Slave Lake’s intention.

However, Big Lakes County and Slave Lake were among the first to pull out of the LSLEA years ago.

Aside from the venue, most of town council supports the county’s proposal and is sending Councillor Judy Stenhouse and CAO Brian Martinson.

“I think this is a good idea to have,” said Deynaka.

Meanwhile, Stenhouse remains loyal to LSLEA.

“I really like where LSLEA is going,” she said. “I see some potential there.”

Councillor Brian Gilroy offered another option.

“There is no law that says we have to choose one or the other,” he said. “I think we should belong to both.”

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