A milestone achievement for Central Albertans, particularly the Red Deer community, was marked last week with the official groundbreaking of the Gary W. Harris Centre for Health, Wellness and Sport.
The Centre is a crucial facility for hosting the 2019 Canada Winter Games, and is an addition to the Red Deer College (RDC) Campus, officials say.
Premier Rachel Notley, Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt and many more dignitaries attended the launch at RDC last Friday. Notley brought with her the official announcement of $20 million from the Alberta Government to support construction, which is expected to be completed in the summer of 2018.
“It gives me pleasure to be able to invest in infrastructure that will serve this community for generations, while providing significant economic benefits for the region. The Gary W. Harris Centre will be a crucial athletic performance and training venue, both during the 2019 Winter Games and long after,” Notley said to a crowd of several hundred at the RDC Arts Centre.
“There are many intangibles as well including raising the profile of those host communities and exposing other Canadians to some of our hidden gems – communities just like Red Deer.”
Many partners have come together to support the funding of the Gary W. Harris Centre, including the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, the Province of Alberta and a number of private donors. The facility will bring a number of new learning spaces, athletic training facilities and new programming availability for students.
Joel Ward, president of RDC, was excited for the announcements and introduction of the facility to the community.
“One thing we’d like our Premier to take back to Edmonton is the passion that this community has for this institution and the communities within Central Alberta which we serve,” Ward said.
“We have spoken with mayors and councils, reeves and school divisions and they support what we are doing here at RDC. They are partners with us, and we absolutely respect and admire their support. What you’re seeing in this project is the commitment of Central Alberta and more to the success of this college.”
Ward explained RDC had been planning a Centre of this calibre for nearly 40 years. He said the new facility would open opportunities for not only a great 2019 Canada Winter Games, but also for RDC to host national championship tournaments in hockey, basketball, volleyball and track.
Notley recognized the Centre’s potential to create approximately 2,000 jobs during construction, to benefit the province economically during the Winter Games and its lasting legacy in the Central Alberta community.
“Beyond the immediate economic benefits of this project, the centre will help strengthen the already impressive post-secondary options that Red Deer College provides. The future health professionals trained in this building will go on to serve others in countless other communities around our province, and our health care system will be stronger for it,” she said.
While the premier was available, local media gathered to question the provincial perspective on issues such as the carbon tax, problems at the Red Deer Regional Hospital and the current economic status of Alberta.
“There is no question that all of Alberta is going through probably the most difficult economic times we’ve seen in decades,” Notley said.
“When it comes to the government’s role in the economy, we’re focused on ensuring stability and we continue to provide basic help to communities that need it. We’re also investing more in capital and infrastructure to provide job opportunities for people who are otherwise losing their jobs because of this slow down in our economy.”
When asked if the province would support upgrades and repair costs at the Red Deer Regional Hospital, Notley said the local hospital was not the only one in the province suffering from a lack of funding.
“The problem actually reveals a bigger problem and that is for many, many years the government hasn’t actually put funding into hospital upgrades,” she said.
“We do have a backlog – a tremendous backlog – in health care upgrade needs. We’re in the process of looking into those upgrades but that has to be done with some care.”
Notley also commented on the carbon tax.
“Whether or not (the carbon tax) will be revenue neutral on a sector-by-sector basis is complicated. Our fundamental principle is that every dollar that comes out goes back in, and it goes back in in the form of either an adjustment – which supports people that are particularly struggling with the cost – families, small businesses, people of exposed industries. It will also be invested, to help all those people and others to make investment in emission reduction strategy.”