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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007

Year of Golden Promises arrives in Central Alberta

One of the most dramatic years in Red Deer’s history was 1974.

After a long lull in the local economy, the boom suddenly came roaring back.

The pace of growth and change became quite outstanding.

A set of international events set off the sudden surge of prosperity in Central Alberta.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to flex its economic muscle and impose major increases in the price of oil.

At the same time, several Arab oil producing nations, incensed over

Western support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War, instituted an embargo on shipments of crude oil to the West in October 1973.

The result was a sudden near quadrupling of oil prices. The moves caused great economic disruption across North America.

News broadcasts were full of scenes of long lineups of cars at gas stations as people tried frantically to purchase fuel.

However, while there was great distress in most areas, oil-producing regions such as Alberta experienced a sudden avalanche of wealth.

With a combination of dramatically increased oil and gas prices and increased royalty rates, the Alberta government suddenly found itself awash in cash.

With the new Progressive Conservative government up for re-election in early 1975, there was a wave of promises of new projects and new facilities.

Red Deer was not left out.

An advertisement by Red Deer MLA Jim Foster and the Progressive Conservative Party in the Dec. 28 edition of the Red Deer Advocate, spelled out the impressive list of projects that had "been commenced or committed."

One promise was for a new hospital and health services complex.

The Red Deer General Hospital had not kept up with the tremendous growth in the community in the 1960s. It was overcrowded and, in many parts, badly outdated.

Major renovation, expansion or replacement was long overdue.

Work had already begun on a long-overdue refurbishment and improvement of the Alberta School Hospital/Deerhome complex.

One sixth of Red Deer’s population either lived or worked at the newly combined institution.

The multi-million-dollar capital upgrade and enhancements therefore had a huge impact on the community, over and above the boost to the local construction industry.

With an aging population, government began to give greater attention to services and housing for seniors.

Consequently, an announcement was made of a new $l-million seniors lodge in the new Pines subdivision.

Troubled youth also got attention. Plans were announced for a youth assessment centre in the Glendale area in North Red Deer.

Government services were expanded and improved. Work began on a new Treasury Branch building on Ross Street.

Plans were announced for a major expansion of the Alberta Government Telephones' facilities.

Hints were made that a new government services complex, including a provincial courthouse would be announced shortly.

The most significant announcements came in the realm of provincial industrial strategy.

The government realized that the great oil boom could not last forever.

The Alberta economy would have to be diversified to ensure future prosperity. One of the fastest ways to start diversification would be to encourage development of an Alberta petrochemical industry.

Consequently, an announcement was made that two world-scale petrochemical plants, costing $250 million each, would be constructed in Central Alberta.

To ensure an adequate water supply for this industrial development, plans began to be developed to construct a dam on the Red Deer River, upstream from the city.

Not all of the grand plans announced in 1974 got underway. While there was a promise of fine and performing arts centre at Red Deer College, several years passed before this project actually commenced.

In the private sector, a $7-million shopping mall in downtown Red Deer announced by Chateau Developments was never built.

In the wonderful heady days of the great new boom, few were bothered that some the grand projects never happened or that some of the great government promises were never fulfilled.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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