Premier Jason Kenney has shuffled his cabinet, and MLA for Drumheller Stettler Nate Horner has been added.
On July 8, Horner was appointed Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development.
“It is a different role and challenge,” Horner told the Mail. “The Associate Ministry will be within the Ministry of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation, under Minister Doug Schweitzer. This is a new Associate Ministry and brought on because of the place and time we are with the economic relaunch. Coming out of COVID here, we are hoping to direct resources and energy into the relaunch.”
He says while the traditional rural industries of agriculture and energy are important for economic development, he also says diversification is paramount.
“I think a lot hinges on the big rural broadband status, and I hope we’ll have something big to announce over the next term regarding rural internet, which we think is the real linchpin that links all of those opportunities,” he said.
“There are people that believe it could actually change the migration direction, with those going from the big cities to smaller towns as long as there is good enough quality internet to run their businesses from home.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an eye-opener for companies and workers, and the ability to work from home.
“COVID brought back some appreciation for small-town living,” he said. “There is a lot of people trapped in condos in concrete. I think a little more space and slower pace may be sought after in a real way.”
He is comfortable in the new role.
“I think I am fortunate when I look around at the other portfolios that people are passed with. I think this is really right in our wheelhouse, there are things that I campaigned on and ran on in this initiative, and even more broadly speaking, it is needing someone who can be a bit of a fixture in rural Alberta. It is hard to have thriving economic communities in Alberta if you are lacking in regard to healthcare. Hopefully, we can encompass lots of ministries and try to work to make rural work a little better for people.”