Getting it There

The province of British Columbia, the western neighbour of Alberta, suffered heavy rainfall and flooding in the autumn of 2021. Alberta sends and receives goods to and from Pacific Ocean ports through B.C., and the extreme weather further challenged supply chains already left fragile because of COVID-19. Disrupted industries are left to ask whether supply chain issues will remain. It’s a question for Alberta’s REDAs (Regional Economic Development Alliances) too. But, rather than waiting out the storms — pandemic or climate caused — the groups are forging ahead with growth strategies to stimulate long-term economic development in rural and urban communities alike.

“National disasters and trade challenges — even the [2021] blockage of the Suez Canal — are increasing and require resiliency and adaptability,” says the Northeast Alberta Information Hub (Alberta HUB) Executive Director Perry Phillips. “The pandemic revealed how vulnerable we are, receiving not only luxury items from foreign suppliers but products necessary to our health and livelihood. In a province with an economy based on natural resources, we have settled for a model where we allow production and value adding to take place beyond our borders.”

According to Quentin Randall, spokesperson for Palliser Economic Partnership, communities and producers in southeast Alberta took it upon themselves to develop rail yards that connect to national railway giants Canadian Pacific and Canadian National in order to more efficiently reach markets abroad.

To address the supply chain challenges that affect the central Alberta region, Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) is bringing stakeholders together to discuss the development of a Connections Corridor, which could encompass developing routes for utilities, rail, roads and other modes of transportation and assets. This new economic corridor would ensure the area grows its competitive advantage, as Alberta currently offers cheaper land costs but shipping costs have increased.

Kimberley Worthington, executive director of CAEP, says “COVID has simply amplified the need for it.” CAEP is also developing a high-level study to assess the opportunities for an intermodal facility in the area.

“REDAs are positioned to support business and industry by highlighting challenges and opportunities, as well as relate these challenges to government to indicate where support and policy change is necessary,” says Phillips. “Some supply chain issues can’t be resolved locally, but many can. Our ability to respond will not only make us less dependent and vulnerable, it will also support growth in our communities.”