Wednesday, February 18, 2015

MP John Barlow visits Pincher Creek Town Council

Toni Lucas

Macleod  Member of Parliament John Barlow appeared before Council for the Town of Pincher Creek during their regular meeting on Monday, February 9. Barlow said that he wanted to touch base and find out if Council had any questions. He discussed his new office in Fort Macleod, art on display in his Ottawa office, Crestview Lodge issues, grants and infrastructure projects, pipelines, and free trade agreements.

Councillor Wayne Elliott said that he liked Barlow's art initiative, the showcasing of works by artists and photographers from the Macleod riding in his Ottawa office that demonstrate the beauty of the area.  Barlow expressed that he thinks the project is working well. "A couple of other MP's are stealing our idea."

Barlow said that he will be opening a Constituency Office in Fort Macleod to open March 1. "We also looked at Pincher Creek, we couldn't find anything in terms of office space that we could use that was affordable. I have a pretty tight budget for what I can spend of office space." He said he is determined to have a presence in southern Alberta. "I spent all day today in my current south office, which is Tim Horton's in Pincher Creek," he said.

Barlow asked if the Town of Pincher Creek had their application in for the new Building Canada Grant. "There are some issues, I think with the administration side with the Province, so what I have done basically is I have said don't worry about that, get your applications ready." Barlow said he is taking a proactive stance, not wanting to miss another building season. CAO Laurie Wilgosh said that she has contacted a number of different government offices to obtain an application form and they were not available. Barlow said that he would track down the proper paperwork.

Councillor Doug Thornton brought up the topic of  Crestview Lodge, built in 1962. Thornton said that the Town of Pincher Creek and the Pincher Creek Foundation have tried repeatedly to have it replaced with an updated facility. Barlow said that he and Alberta Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson will be touring all the seniors facilities in the riding in March. Barlow added that Minister Johnson has indicated that there is funding available in the Province that will not be cut, and currently they are setting priorities. Mayor Don Anderberg offered to provide background information about Crestview Lodge, including the application package that has been previously sent to Minister Johnson, to Barlow's office before the March tour.

Council indicated to Barlow that the infrastructure priorities coming up for the Town are a water plant upgrade, a sewer/lagoons upgrade, and other projects. Barlow replied "It seems like water and wastewater is going to be the focus of the new Building Canada Plan, this segment. If you've got ones that you've done the engineering, and they are ready for a shovel in the ground, that definitely helps me." He added, after some discussion, "The fact that you've got those things ready to go is a bonus." Barlow said that he understands some of the concerns of many municipalities is grant funding, and finding out about it. "When I started calling everybody a couple weeks ago about the new Building Canada Plan I was really shocked that there were several municipalities that had never even heard about it." He discussed various grants upcoming for municipalities. "We can do a better job of being proactive, and not expecting you guys to do all the homework all the time." He offered to try to find a way to have the dates, links and purposes of various grants posted on his website. "I think a big part of it is that in large municipalities they have a designated person, that is all their job is, to find grants, and apply for grants. A lot of the smaller ones, specially all of you in my riding are small and don't have that manpower." He suggested a call to his office if council was unsure if a project might qualify for a federal grant.

 There was discussion about how smaller communities do not have the tax base to approach a number of projects on their own. "That's why we have legislated the gas tax. We want to make sure that you have stable long term funding so you can make those plans not just today but ten years down the road." Barlow said that he would like to see improved communication. "Obviously I'll tell you what's going on in Ottawa, but Ottawa also needs to know what's going on in Pincher Creek, so it's going to have to be strong communications, both ways."

Councillor Wayne Elliott mentioned that there is a lot more shipping of oil by rail in the area recently. Councillor Doug Thornton asked if this was instead of pipelines, specifically the Keystone Pipeline. "That's right," said Barlow. They talked about the movement of coal and oil, and that Barlow recently went to Taiwan, and met with a delegation from Turkey. "There is obviously some obstacles there," he said indicating transportation and trade. "Keystone I think will happen, after Obama's gone." "I think the eastern pipeline is probably more realistic, in the short term, than the western."

Councillor Thornton asked about Free Trade. "It's going well," Barlow replied.  "The Prime Minister will be meeting with the German Chancellor this week."

"South Korea was ratified in January, and I think a lot of people overlook the significance of that."

"South Korea takes about 6 million dollars in Alberta beef right now. We are seeing over $36 million dollars, in the next two years, and that's just for Alberta beef."  Barlow said the federal government has signed 32 free trade agreements since 2006. "We are seeing a lot more markets for our products."   He also talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnerships (TPP).  TPP is a proposed regulatory and investment treaty that has included 12 countries involved in negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.   "I think 41% of global GDP (gross domestic product) will be in that partnership."

Before leaving Barlow said that he enjoyed being part of the street hockey game in Pincher Creek last November, and asked to be kept up to date on events in the area.

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