Alberta Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women and two-term MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore Leela Aheer was in Lacombe on her first official visit to the city to commemorate Alberta Culture days, which is celebrated the Culture and Harvest Festival in the city.
During her visit, which was part of a province-wide tour during Culture Days, Aheer reaffirmed a UCP government promise to grow the culture economy by 25 per cent, which she said help keep people living in the province.
“Culture is work and art is work. These are valuable items that can be very easily exported out of this province. The premier sees that as a wonderful benefit, but not only that, we also want people to stay here, keeping people in the province and working those jobs,” she said.
Aheer said a strong economy in fields like oil and gas and agriculture bring people to the province, but culture plays a hug part in convincing people to stay in Alberta.
“You have to have a healthy economy and healthy economy is stimulated by people staying in our province and working here. It is very symbiotic and very important,” she said.
One of the first pieces of legislation that will begin the process of growing culture economy will be the Status of the Artist, which according to Aheer is an initiative intended to ensure artists are paid fairly.
“We will lead by example at the provincial level to ensure artists are being paid their value and also we will honour and illuminate the value that art culture brings to our province,” she said.
During her time in Lacombe, Aheer was toured around the city by MLA Ron Orr and Mayor Grant Creasey. The tour included stops to the Central Alberta Woodworkers Guild and other Culture and Harvest Festival locations.
Aheer said she has been overwhelmed by what she has seen during Culture Days in Alberta, which has included several municipalities with many different cultural celebrations.
“I have been so touched and I have been in tears more times than I can count. I am not a crier, but people are so generous in spirit and time. It has been really overwhelming,” she said.
She added she hopes celebrating culture will becomes a year-round celebration in the province.