Nate Horner, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, has becomes associate minister of rural economic development, under the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation.
Cabinet changes were announced July 8th.
“I’ll be working closely with Minister Doug Schweitzer, and I think that the big takeaway is that it’s one of our most important ministries right now as we are trying to come out of COVID and recession, and we are trying to have a relaunch and recovery in our province,” he explained.
“I also think that the associate minister role that I’ve been given – I am ecstatic to see that the government, the Premier and other leadership agree that they want to see that much focus and emphasis on rural (areas) especially,” he said.
A government released noted that Horner would be, as mentioned, supporting Schweitzer, “In making sure Alberta’s Recovery Plan delivers results for rural and remote Alberta communities, working across government on important strategic initiatives such as expanding rural broadband Internet and irrigation networks.
“I think most of the things that I campaigned on and that I talk about in caucus meetings fit in this bucket. So it’s a perfect fit – I feel like they made it for me,” he added.
He said the new post will provide more resources and ability to focus on the described areas.
“There are a lot of good news stories that are going to be coming,” he said, adding that he expects news about the expansions to rural broadband Internet to be at the forefront right out of the gate.
“I think it will really blow some people away,” he said.
“Not having been in this role before, I’m also grateful that I was a private member first – it’s allowed me to learn the ropes not just in the chamber but also to be able to continue building those relationships in the riding,” he said, adding he is also confident in his team and the strong lines of communication that have been built over the past couple of years to know that he will have the support he may need going forward.
Horner added that he also sits on the Treasury Board, which provides him with a constant reminder of the fiscal state of affairs of the province.
“It is absolutely imperative that we continue to move towards sustainable, operational spending within the province,” he said.
“Our operational, day to day spending still needs to come into line with our comparative provinces if we are going to get back to running balanced budgets.
“So it’s two-fold – we have to spend money right now, and we have to spend it smartly building for the future. And part of my role now is focusing (even) more on rural economies – I want to make sure that the fair share of spending gets done in rural Alberta.”
Horner added that he feels like some people are increasingly adopting a more rural lifestyle as we emerge from the pandemic, and that with bolstered rural connectivity for example, some are seeing the potential of running businesses from smaller communities.
Meanwhile, Horner is forward-focused and very much aware of the challenges that lie ahead as society continues to return to some sense of normalcy. But there are certainly plenty of high points along the way, he added.
“Some of the most rewarding moments are when you can get a file moved for a constituent that no one else knows about, ” he said.
“It’s just them coming to you telling you they’ve had this problem for multiple years and then you are able to knock on the right door and maybe get that file moved ahead,” he said.
“It makes you really appreciate the victories.”