Paving the road for Alberta's future

An interview with Luke Ouellette, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation

Alberta's 13th premier, Ed Stelmach, knows how to set priorities. Focused on building a stronger Alberta and improving Albertans' quality of life, Stelmach's administration will follow the five priorities of the 'Alberta agenda.'

'Alberta's strong economy allows us to help improve the quality of life for the people of this province,' said Stelmach in a press release. 'Like every Albertan, I want this province to be the place where our children and grandchildren choose to live.'

He also issued letters to each cabinet minister, outlining priorities and tasks he expects to be accomplished. On Dec. 15, 2006, 'the Honourable Luke Ouellette,' Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, received a letter from the premier stating:
''¦as Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation you will have some very specific priorities which will assist us in achieving our collective goals.' He also outlined three specific priorities Ouellette must address in his new role.

In early January 2007, Ouellette took a few minutes out of his extraordinarily busy schedule, to offer his preliminary thoughts on his new role.

ACM: How will your ministry contribute to the premier's five priorities for Alberta?
Luke Ouellette: Managing growth [pressures] is one of Premier Stelmach's priorities and my department is very involved with trying to deal with some of the pressure on our roads and other provincial infrastructure. One of my goals for the new year is to ensure my ministry continues to meet the high expectations of all Albertans. My initial meetings with my staff have shown me that there are some excellent people in our department who are working very hard to accomplish the goals we have set. My wish is for Alberta to continue to be recognized as a leader in infrastructure and transportation.

ACM: Each newly elected cabinet minister receives a letter from the premier outlining priorities. What is your mandate?
LO: The mandate I received from Premier Stelmach outlines three priorities that I am committed to as Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation:

  1. Expand the capacity of Alberta's highway system to address growth pressures.
  2. Implement a provincial traffic safety plan to reduce the number of collisions on Alberta roads.
  3. Develop a new provincial aviation strategy to explore options to ensure the viability of small airports in Alberta.

ACM: That's a huge undertaking. How have you started to get your head around your portfolio?
LO: The first thing I did was talk with all the officials from my department and find out where the pressures are. I'm also looking at where our responsibilities come in now that funding goes directly to schools and funding for hospitals go directly to health. I'm learning the big-picture stuff.

ACM: What are your thoughts on the state of Alberta's construction industry?
LO: With the economy as hot as it is in Alberta, everybody's stressed to the limit. I want to make sure that we get good value for every tax dollar we spend on construction. I want to make sure we keep addressing the shortage of skilled labour. I want to ensure we address the range of growth pressures.

ACM: How will you educate yourself about the growth pressures?
LO: I plan to visit the areas where we have large pressures. [For example], I want to visit Fort McMurray as soon as possible. I want to look at all of the areas because I want to make sure we're fair.

ACM: How do you plan to work with Alberta's construction industry?
LO: Our department has huge challenges. I feel good about working with the Alberta Construction Association, [as well as other associations]. I'm very open to ideas. I also look forward to working with the construction companies. We have some super success stories in Alberta. I'll be looking towards these companies to build on past successes.

ACM: The 'Made-in-Alberta' approach to P-3s is one way Alberta has been able to rise to the challenges before us. For instance, the P-3 approach to Calgary Courts Centre and Anthony Henday Drive SE. Will we see more P-3s?
LO: We'll look at all the different ways of doing things that make it best for the taxpayers. We want Albertans to get the best value for their dollar.

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