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Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA asked to help support rural film industry

"Vitally important" for communities outside large centres to have film industry rural incentive put in place
MVT Wynonna Earp-1
Camera assistant Ivona Mikulic, left, and assistant cameraman Cory Budney set up a camera on a camera jib arm while preparing for a scene during the filming of Wynonna Earp in Didsbury a couple years ago. File photo/MVP Staff

DIDSBURY - Town councillor Bill Windsor has called on Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP MLA Nathan Cooper to push for more support for the rural film industry.

Cooper appeared for half an hour before council at the July 13 council meeting, discussing a number of issues and answering questions from mayor Rhonda Hunter and councillors.

Windsor said more provincial government support for the rural film industry would benefit many local communities, including Didsbury.

“We had the occasion to tour the facility that the film industry is using right now, buildings in the community, and one of the things that came out in the discussion that was involved in the tour was the restriction that the lack of a rural incentive for the film industry is causing for the film industry and not being able to expand outside the urban centres or the cost associated with expanding outside the major urban centres,” said Windsor.

“It is vitally important to communities like ours that are outside those centres to have this rural incentive put in place. The rural incentive would help considerably, so if there was a message I would like to send with you back to the legislature it would be that this rural inventive item would be critical for the expansion of the film industry right through Alberta.”

Didsbury has hosted numerous TV and film projects in recent years, including the series Fargo and the series Wynonna Earp. As well, new series, Under the Banner of Heaven, will be filming in town this summer.

MLA Cooper said he will bring up the matter with MLA Nat Horner, the recently appointed associate minister for rural economic development.

“I’m not sure what the potential rural incentive would look like, but I know that he will be looking at ways that we can encourage economic development in communities like this, both on and off the Highway 2 corridor. I’m happy to bring it up with him as he is looking for new ways to do that,” said Cooper.

Council recently passed a motion calling on administration to further explore film industry opportunities for the community.

Pandemic discussion

Coun. Dorothy Moore commented on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout program in the province.

“The province of Alberta has done a great job getting the vaccines rolled out and getting us to be the first ones to open up,” said Moore. “They have provided a great example of the balance between freedom and safety that is necessary. Hopefully life will get back to somewhat normal in time. I’m grateful and thankful.”

Cooper said the pandemic has “certainly been a challenge for all levels of government.”

“Has the provincial government got everything right over the past year? Absolutely not,” said Cooper. “Have we made mistakes that in retrospect we would like to have done differently? One hundred percent. I am sure pleased to see us taking an aggressive approach to reopening.

“The good people of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills were ready to reopen so I am thankful we will have a much better summer ahead of us than perhaps 12 weeks ago we believed to be possible.”

Coun. John Baswick called on Cooper to continue to advocate for provincial support for local projects and initiatives.

Police force review

Mayor Rhonda Hunter asked Cooper for an update on the possibility of the province creating its own police force to replace the RCMP.

Cooper said a report on a review now underway regarding the matter is expected later this summer. 

“There is a wide range of opinion on the police force of choice,” said Cooper. “I don’t fault anyone or any organizations for trying to get out in front of any potential challenges that they see coming with respect to a possible change to the provincial police force.

“I have said before and am happy to say it again that if there is a path where there is not a significant financial impact to the province or to municipalities where we would be in more control of our own police force across the province and not see a significant increase in costs to municipalities that I believe and I believe the majority of constituents in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills also would support more autonomy in respect to policing.”

Hunter says municipalities across the province are also interested in the results of the policing option review now underway.

Numerous municipalities, including Didsbury and Mountain View County, have sent letters in support of retaining the RCMP as the police force of choice in Alberta.

The mayor told Cooper the town welcomes grants, including MOST funding, recently provided by the province.

“We appreciate and value that,” she said.

Cooper told council that despite being the speaker of the legislature, and therefore having to remain neutral in legislature debates, he believes he is fairly representing the constituents and municipalities in his riding.

The recent rise in oil prices is having a positive impact on the province’s finances, he said.

Dan Singleton

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