By Lethbridge Herald on January 14, 2022.
NATHAN NEUDORF – MLA for Lethbridge East
First, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I can’t think of a time when a fresh start was needed more, and I’m confident that 2022 is our year. I know I’m not the only one hoping that we will finally ‘get past’ COVID and return our focus to things other than the pandemic.
I believe that we have several things to look forward to in Lethbridge. It’s worth noting that, despite a rough couple of years, Lethbridge’s economy has been stable and, along with the rest of Alberta, now leads Canada.
Throughout our city and across the province, businesses are posting signs looking for more labour to help meet new growth and demand — a welcome problem to have after some challenging years. In addition, post-secondary enrollment is up, which is good news for Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge. Both have almost recovered to pre-pandemic enrollment levels and plan to continue growing their sector-leading programs.
In December, educational services witnessed the most significant gains of all industry sectors in our area this month as employment jumped by 1,200 from November. Province-wide, Alberta gained a total of 130,000 jobs in 2021.
In Lethbridge specifically, transportation and warehousing gained an extra 500 jobs this month alone, the first monthly increase recorded since May 2021! Lastly, the sixth consecutive monthly increase in public administration saw a growth in employment by 500 jobs in December.
Lethbridge’s housing market has been on fire, in the best of ways. More than 2,300 homes were bought and sold in Lethbridge and the surrounding area last year, a solid jump from 1,666 in 2020. According to the Lethbridge and District Association of Realtors, the total value of all homes sold was a record $1.1 billion.
While the past few weeks have been a bit on the chilly side, it is great news to see our snowpack building up. Let’s hope that it continues so that whatever weather we face in the spring, summer, and fall we will be able to have a strong growing season.
While 2020 was one of the best years on record for moisture, 2021 was extremely dry in our southern zone, and we relied heavily on our irrigation to make it through. Good management by our irrigation districts, farmers, and ranchers has been essential, but having a buildup of moisture in the ground and the mountains is more than welcome.
With agriculture being such a key sector in Alberta, it’s exciting to see 2021 shaping up to be a record year for Alberta’s farmers – with farm cash receipts (FCR) coming in at their highest levels ever.
Alberta ranked first across Canada in total FCR, livestock market receipts, cattle and calf receipts and program payments. Alberta’s total third quarter FCR increased 15.8 per cent from the same period in 2020, to a record $13.3 billion. Crop market receipts were up 18.7 per cent to a record $6.5 billion, largely due to exceptionally strong prices. Livestock market receipts increased 14.1 per cent to a record $5.8 billion.
In Alberta, we will also see the impact of some incredible investments unfold in our province. First in engineering and construction, and then in development and production – hydrogen, film and television, financial technology, renewable energy, and petrochemical manufacturing saw billions of dollars invested. Not to mention Lethbridge is part of and a partner in four major regional collaborations capitalizing on our natural strengths. We can expect growth in agri-food, transportation and logistics, technology, and finally, renewable energy.
One of my roles is to represent Alberta at the Council of State Governments, West, Mid-West and National. This year I was able to strengthen those relationships and celebrate our investment with the opening of trade offices in the three cities of our largest trading partners – Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado and Seattle, Washington.
In a typical year, Alberta would see approximately $50 billion a year of trade with these three states combined. In total, Alberta averages about $100 Billion in trade with the United States each year (when not impacted by a pandemic), and strengthening these relationships on topics like energy, water, and environment are significant. I also spoke with representatives from California, Alaska, Michigan, Quebec, and Saskatchewan and offered invitations to host them all to come see what makes Alberta great.
While this New Year has started cold and near the end (hopefully) of a two-year pandemic, there is a lot to look forward to for Lethbridge and Alberta! No matter how it has started, may this year end as your best one yet!