Notes from the MLA: Alberta’s best kept secret may not be secret for long

Danielle Larivee
MLA for Lesser Slave Lake

Whenever I travel the province, I invite people to visit “Alberta’s best kept secret.”

Living in Lesser Slave Lake, it’s easy to take for granted just how incredible this region is and keep that secret to ourselves. But I got a firm reminder of just how special this place is when Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism, visited earlier this month.

As the man in charge of promoting tourism, Ricardo knows a thing or two about the hidden gems throughout Alberta. He has heard me brag before about my home turf, full of beautiful vistas and fishing hot spots, but as we kayaked on the Lesser Slave River, he admitted to me that he was completely blown away.

“This was gorgeous,” he said. He shared that he plans on returning to vacation in what he called “the Puerto Vallarta of the north.”

Earlier in the day, he’d heard about even more potential opportunities. We met at my Slave Lake constituency office with First Nations and municipal representatives from all across the region. The conversation touched on countless other sites, including the potential for Indigenous tourism. Everyone wanted to share Alberta’s best kept secret and showcase our many natural, cultural and historic markers.

Minister Miranda talked about how Banff and Jasper are maxed out with people, about how Alberta needs to showcase other parts of the province too. There are few candidates better than Lesser Slave Lake, with its vast forests that sustain so many of our families, but could also attract visitors.

Treaty 8 was signed in this riding, near Grouard and Kapawe’no First Nation. And with 12 First Nations and three Metis Settlements, our region is home to incredible, diverse communities and the most amazing celebrations. Leaders spoke about taking tourists into a teepee, feeding them bannock and dried meat, taking them fishing and showing them how to drum.

Throughout the day, I had difficulty pulling Ricardo away from our stops.

We visited Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, where the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation is one of the most incredible facilities in the province. Tourists already flock to the region to watch the gorgeous migratory birds we see in the spring and fall, and our government’s investment in the facility is ensuring this spot will be a gem for decades to come.

You’d be hard-pressed to find sandy beaches anywhere else in Alberta that rival those of Lesser Slave Lake, and every summer we see many families coming from all over the province to enjoy them – not to mention the canoeing and kayaking opportunities. There are great reasons to get out here in the winter too. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are all major draws.

Alberta’s economy is improving. We’ve added 90,000 new jobs last year, and we’re growing faster than anywhere else in Canada. While not everyone has felt that recovery yet, the past four years have demonstrated the need to diversify our economy.

Previous governments put eggs in one basket, then told us to “look in the mirror” when oil prices began to tumble. For the past couple of years, many in our region have struggled to find work in the energy industry. We know things are turning around, but there’s still work to do to make sure this economic recovery reaches everyone.

During his visit, Minister Miranda had an opportunity to see with his own eyes how our government’s investments, including parks and tourism, is making life better for Albertans.

We capped off the days with spectacular brews from Slave Lake’s own Dog Island Brewery, a shining example of the diversification happening right here in Slave Lake.

The future is bright in our region and I look forward to seeing the continued fruits of our efforts to diversify and strengthen our local economy.

Wherever I go, I’ll continue to tell people about Lesser Slave Lake. It won’t remain a secret for long.

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