Premier announces $8.25M for HTC

Government of Alberta Photo
Scott Elliott, a wildfire management training specialist based out of the Hinton Training Centre, takes Premier Jason Kenney through a simultation during an Aug. 4 visit where the province announced $8.25 million for renovations to the HTC.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Premier Jason Kenney visited the Hinton Training Centre on Aug. 4 to announce a provincial funding investment totalling $8.25M towards updates and improvements of the facility.

Funds for the project come from the capital maintenance and renewal budget of Alberta’s infrastructures capital plan, Kenney explained.

“It is normally about a billion dollars and we doubled it to about $2B to help create jobs to deal with the recession,” Kenney told the Voice.

“Overall we’re spending about $10B on capital this year, of that, $2B is capital maintenance and renewal, that’s where this is coming from.”

The government capital maintenance and renewal projects in Hinton are expected to create more than 50 construction jobs over the next two years, support the local economy, and maintain provincial infrastructure.

“It reinforces our confidence in this institution going forward as an important provincial institution, which is quite appropriately located in Hinton,” Kenney added.

With B.C.’s forestry industry in crisis, Alberta has a huge opportunity to take some of that investment and create more forestry opportunities in the province, he noted.

Work will commence shortly on $3.8M in updates to maintain the Hinton Training Centre. The first phase of this project is already under way with the exterior of the Mountainview and Valleyview residences. 

The other two phases, which are expected to begin this fall, involve upgrades to the interiors of residences, which are being tendered this month, as well as replacements of major parts of the physical plant of the centre’s main academic building.

The Training Centre develops and delivers technical and safety training programs for forest and wildfire management, providing services to more than 10,000 clients each year. 

The commitment to combat mountain pine beetle, the commitment to expand access to fibre for forestry companies around Alberta, to cut red tape, and reducing taxes on businesses is going to bring more forestry jobs to Northern Alberta, Kenney said.

“The timing I believe is very important. In the past few weeks Hinton has been questioned, whether it’s from the federal government or other organizations, regarding our natural resources, and I’d like to thank Premier Kenney for his continuous fight to keep jobs in Alberta,” stated Mayor Marcel Michaels after the announcement.

When asked about the previously proposed renovation and expansion project of the Hinton Training Centre that was estimated at $75M, Kenney said the project is still in the provincial capital plan, but was unsure of when exactly it will be done.

“At this stage, we are spending unprecedented amounts of tax dollars on capital and infrastructure,” he said.

This project invests in updated HVAC systems and replaces interior finishes.

The training centre first opened its doors in 1960, and is a self-contained technical training facility that sits on 14 hectares in and around Hinton.

The centre designs and delivers more than 60 wildfire management training courses annually, including seasonal wildland firefighter training, and also delivers forest management training.

One of the training programs delivered at the centre from 1983 until it was cut this spring was the Rappel Program (RAP), part of the Wildland Firefighters.

“Advice we got from officials in the wild fire service at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) was that the particular skills of that team was used quite rarely and essentially that we could operate the service more efficiently without that particular investment,” Kenney said.

He added that due to the fiscal crisis, some savings needed to be made, while capital maintenance are one-time expenses and create jobs. 

“In the future, we have got to operate our operating expenditures better because we’re in an over-$20B dollar deficit this year. That’s one of the reasons AAF came forward with that recommendation,” he said.

Kenney mentioned that this has been a good year so far for wildfires, with only six burning as of July 30. He noted that this investment will pay off in training firefighters in years to come.

This recent project is part of the more than $10B infrastructure spending announced as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, including $6.9B Budget 2020 capital spending, $980M accelerated for Capital Maintenance and Renewal, $200M for Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program and water infrastructure projects, $600M in strategic infrastructure projects, $500M in municipal infrastructure, and $1.5B for Keystone XL.

Following his update, Premier Kenney toured the training centre and tried out the flight simulator.