By Lethbridge Herald on September 10, 2021.
Nathan Neudorf – MLA Lethbridge East
Lethbridge and the surrounding area play an essential role in Alberta as a gateway to the North-Western United States.
As the largest municipality within driving distance to the U.S. border, we are a central hub for international imports and exports in Alberta.
Some of our biggest commodities include not only potatoes, sugar beets, barley, canola, grain, hemp, beef, pork, and chicken, but also value-added food products like French fries, potato chips, sugar, and pasta. That is just scratching the surface!
Being home to 70 per cent of Canada’s irrigated farmland gives us a huge advantage in southern Alberta, and we are seeing this advantage grow (pun intended) with the $815 million of capital investment we announced last year, adding another 200,000 acres of irrigated land.
We are so fortunate to produce some of the best crops in Alberta (possibly even Canada) and have the capacity to produce world-class value-added food.
On top of agri-food, our manufacturing plants have an international and global presence with products from aircraft engines to cargo trailers, just to name a few.
With all the manufacturing, exporting, and importing that Lethbridge does, our infrastructure for both intra-provincial and inter-provincial travel, as well as international travel, is becoming essential.
With Lethbridge centrally located linking Highways 2, 3, 4, 5, we are a central hub for trade and travel in southern Alberta. Recognizing the vital role of our infrastructure starts right here at home, and that is why we announced that Highway 3 would be receiving $150 million of strategic investment for its twinning.
Looking ahead, Lethbridge’s agri-food sector and manufacturing plants have an international and global presence, from high-quality value-added food products to manufactured goods.
Now, we need to look at the role our southern border plays in our vital economic trade.
Jurisdiction of our borders and border inspections fall, of course, under the federal government; however, it’s critical that all levels of government work to ensure the preservation and growth of our vital trade relationship with the United States. Alberta exports more than $100 billion to the United States every year, with a large portion of that trade passing through or coming from Lethbridge.
Therefore, we need to ensure Lethbridge and those who are building the region into a global powerhouse of manufacturing and agriculture innovation are able to export products as quickly and effectively as possible.
I believe this is where the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Program comes into play.
FAST is a joint program between the Canada Border Services Agency and United States Customs and Border Protection that improves border and trade chain security, while making cross-border commercial shipments more straightforward and efficient. It is a voluntary program that offers dedicated lanes at border facilities.
FAST-approved drivers present three bar-coded documents to the border services officer (one each for the driver, the carrier, and the importer), are swiftly scanned through and are back on the road in a quick fashion.
Under FAST, eligible goods arriving for approved companies and transported by approved carriers using registered drivers are cleared into Canada or the U.S. with greater speed and certainty, reducing costs for participants.
Unfortunately, there are currently no dedicated FAST lanes along the Alberta border with the U.S., but I am hopeful that this is something we can work towards, especially at the Coutts/Sweetgrass Border Crossing — the busiest crossing on the entire Alberta-Montana border!
It is time to ensure reasonable, quick, and effective exportation for Lethbridge and area businesses working tirelessly to build the region into a global powerhouse of manufacturing and agricultural innovation.
Lethbridge and the surrounding area have a substantial global economic impact with room to grow. As we continue to navigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking great strides towards a stronger economy.
As of July, Alberta added 73,000 jobs since the start of the year and has recovered nearly 90 per cent of the jobs lost since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On top of that, the deficit for 2021-22 is $10.5 billion lower than reported in the budget, and the revenue forecast is $11.3 billion higher than reported in the budget; this is because of the hard work of Albertans.
Carefully planned, strategic investments like the ones we’ve seen, coupled with advocacy for future development, will continue to strengthen our economy in Lethbridge, Alberta, and even Canada.