Another New Year is now upon us – with all the hopes of better times to come and also hopes that some of the unsettling events and developments of the past year will quickly vanish into memory.
Red Deer has been enjoying a good boom, but the recent dive in oil prices has created a huge black economic cloud on the horizon. There have also been disturbing acts of terrorism with the worries that much worse may lie ahead.
Things were much different on the eve of 1975. Red Deer had just entered one of the greatest booms in its history.
The initial boost came when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (O.P.E.C.) decided to flex its economic muscle and impose major increases in the price of oil. At nearly the same time, several Arab oil-producing nations instituted an oil embargo in retaliation for the west’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
The result was a near quadrupling of oil prices. While this sudden huge price hike struck a crippling economic blow against many parts of North America and Europe, oil producing regions such as Alberta experienced a sudden avalanche of wealth.
The economic boost was quickly felt in Red Deer and across Central Alberta.
New residential subdivisions began to spring up on the north and eastern sides of the City. New businesses sprang up everywhere.
One of the biggest impacts came in the political sphere. The PC provincial government faced its first election since its dramatic victory over the long-standing Social Credit government in 1971. The provincial government now found itself awash in cash. That made it possible to make a wave of credible pre-election promises.
On Dec. 28th, 1974, Red Deer MLA Jim Foster and the Progressive Conservative government placed a large ad in the local newspaper detailing a truly impressive list of projects that had “been commenced or committed.”
One of the biggest promises involved the construction of a large new regional health care complex.
The Red Deer General Hospital had not kept up with the tremendous growth in the community. The existing facility was badly overcrowded and, in many places, badly outdated. Major renovation, expansion or replacement was long overdue.
Another major institution needing attention was the Alberta School Hospital/Deerhome complex (later renamed Michener Centre).
One sixth of Red Deer’s population either lived or worked at A.S.H.
Plans had already been set for a major upgrade and refurbishment to the facility. At the same time, work began on increasing the discharges of residents to group homes and other forms of communing care.
The government also began to give greater attention to services and housing for seniors. Consequently, an announcement was made of a new $1 million seniors’ lodge in the new Pines subdivision.
Government services were expanded and improved. Work began on a new Treasury Branch building on Ross Street.
Plans were announced for a major expansion of the Alberta Government Telephones facilities. Hints were made that a new government services complex would be announced shortly.
The most significant announcement came in the realm of provincial industrial strategy. The government realized that the great oil boom could not last forever.
Hence, the Alberta economy would have to be diversified to ensure future prosperity.
One of the fastest ways to start diversification would be to encourage the development of an Alberta petrochemical industry. Consequently, an announcement was made that two world-scale petrochemical plants would be built in Central Alberta, northeast of Red Deer.
Thus, as 1975 got underway, the future of Red Deer and Central Alberta looked extremely bright.