- Medicine Hat’s unique approach to its energy resources and social programs gets international attention
- A progressive approach to energy resources led to stability and a dividend-paying heritage fund
Smith discovered Medicine Hat’s Heritage Savings Reserve in a similar way that the Canadian Pacific Railway found gas in 1883: by accident. Initially, the city’s success in ending homelessness spurred Smith to hop on a plane, arriving with sparse knowledge about the Gas City, apart from its successful social programs.
“I prefer going into a new place without knowing a lot about it,” said Smith, who spoke with locals and visited the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre when he arrived. “It allows the people to educate me and I can do research without an opinion formed beforehand.”
Ending homelessness is a global and national movement and Medicine Hat’s success made it stand out among other cities, including New York, that have tried the same strategy. The challenge, Smith noted, is to get all stakeholders working together.
“It’s interesting to me that Alberta and Canada have taken this housing first idea and implemented it in a way that is cohesive and better funded than the US, Europe and Australia,” he said.
While getting to know Medicine Hat, Smith noticed the city’s management of its own energy resources.
“Even though the gas prices are low, I was struck by how the city held onto resources,” said Smith. “I thought it was very smart.”
The City of Medicine Hat is one of the only municipalities in North America to own and operate its own electric utility, oil and gas production division, wind farm and solar thermal system. With natural gas prices expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, a plan is in place to invest up to $45 million over three years in exploration and drilling of new oil wells. According to the Natural Gas and Petroleum Division of the city, early results from a Western Saskatchewan project has significantly exceeded expectations.
Additionally, funds for future projects will be set aside in the city’s Heritage Savings Reserve, which was established by city council in February. Money from the city’s energy resources will be put into the reserve, which is governed by Alberta’s public fund manager. Last year, 9% was returned across its $40-billion dollar portfolio.
Medicine Hat’s progressive approach to energy and residents’ wellbeing is getting attention. Investment, progressive social programs and now an endowment fund has the New York Times’ Smith keeping an eye on the city and its future.