BONNYVILLE – The Town of Bonnyville Council is continuing its support of the Northeast Alberta Alliance for Growth and Opportunities (NAAGO), with Mayor Elisa Brosseau describing it as an important advocacy group for the region.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to get together with those municipalities and communities that have the same, not just issues, but things going on that are up here in the northeast . . . We know that we get forgotten and so the louder voice that we can get the better.”
Speaking during the Jan. 23 council meeting, Brosseau said upgrades to Highway 28 and health services are two priorities the group is addressing with subcommittees having been formed to address these areas of concern.
Coun. Phil Kushnir said he likes where things were going with NAAGO.
“I think we got some traction with Highway 28, and I think anytime we can get together with the rest of the municipalities in the area and even outside of our area, this is a good thing.”
In 2023, the Town contributed $1,200 to NAAGO for its Highway 28 lobbying efforts and voted in favour of the $1,400 membership for 2024. Funds will be used to continue joint lobbying efforts on behalf of the NAAGO region.
NAAGO brings together the voices of more than 30 municipalities in the northeast region and 12 Indigenous communities with a strength in numbers approach to lobbying the provincial government.
Coun. David Sharun asked if anything has been forthcoming from the provincial government since “the minister said they were going to get the ball rolling” on Highway 28 improvements.
Administration informed council that it appears some headway is being made. Recent conversations with the regional transportation representative indicate Highway 28 is in the engineering stage, according to CAO Bill Rogers.
“Typically, when you do engineering for a roadway, you could expect construction within 24 to 36 months,” Rogers informed council, adding that timeframe is “ a pretty standard practice” to ensure information gathered during the engineering phase is still current.
Rogers said it is his understanding the stretch of Highway 28 east from Highway 63 to Bonnyville is what is being considered first. With the roadway between Bonnyville and Cold Lake being considered as a separate project.
Highway 28 is what brought many of the NAAGO members communities together to form the lobby alliance. Seen as a key economic and transportation corridor, connecting Edmonton north to Highway 63 and the oilsands and east to Cold Lake and Saskatchewan. Highway 28 is the common thread weaving through the region.
NAAGO’s ask is not a small one. In a document prepared by The Canadian Strategy Group, NAAGO outlines some impressive goals for the highway upgrade include passing lanes every 10 to 20 kilometres, twinning near the communities of Redwater, Waskatenau, Smoky Lake, Vilna, Spedden, Ashmont, and Bonnyville, the total twinning between Bonnyville and Cold Lake, upgrades to all major intersections and a permanent funding pledge for surface and road rehabilitation for Highway 28. The group also has on its wish list a $500 million commitment for surface and road rehabilitation over the next three years for all northeast Alberta roads north of Highway 16 to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and east to the Saskatchewan border.
In presenting its advocacy plan in early 2023, NAAGO set about painting a clear picture for the provincial government of the northeast region’s importance to the province – an area which generates a third of the province’s GDP.