The next Alberta government needs to invest in rural roads and bridges — not just infrastructure in urban centres, says Alberta Cattle Feeders CEO Bryan Walton.
“There was a commitment in the budget of $20.5 billion over the next five years, starting with $6.7 billion on a capital program (for roads and bridges),” said Walton. “But the question is: How much of that is devoted to rural infrastructure? The intensive livestock industry is in need of good infrastructure — roads and bridges — and we’re seeing some fallback there.”
Proper maintenance is just as important as rebuilding, he added.
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“We have some concerns about the need to keep up with maintenance, building, and repair of our rural infrastructure,” said Walton.
“If you have bridges that are falling down and aren’t usable, that’s an issue. If the roads are not being maintained, that’s an issue. We need to be sure we can get our product to market and get the inputs to the feedlots.”
Putting money into rural infrastructure should be viewed as a way to “embrace diversification” in a province that has too many eggs in the energy basket.
“When the oil and gas sector goes south, everyone turns to agriculture as an example of how we’re diversifying the economy. And in the livestock industry, I think we’re all concerned that we make sure we make the proper investments in the future infrastructure of this province.”