BLOG | A hopeful conversation with High River minister Rick Fraser

There is a lot of chatter going around High River, a lot of progress has been made since the devastation of June 20, and now our children are back in school and life feels a bit more normal.

Local blogger interviews provincial minister about the town's road to recovery

Rick Fraser, associate minister of regional recovery and reconstruction, inspects a family living unit at temporary living facilities that were built just outside of High River in July. (Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh )

There is a lot of chatter going around High River, a lot of progress has been made since the devastation of June 20. Now our children are back in school and life feels a bit more normal.

However there is still speculation of what will become of High River — will we fully recover?

I know I personally have good moments and bad moments, I love my town and I’m happy our house is slowly being fixed.

But I am worried that not all services we had before will be available and feel of the town may never be the same.

A slogan reminding peeople to keep their heads up has become popular in High River.

I have emailed, tweeted, Facebooked and called several people since we got back home in hopes of finding answers about our family's step and the town’s next step.

For me, I am not concerned with what party a politician represents. I am just a resident looking for answers and open to anyone willing to give them to me.

Rick Fraser, the associate minister of regional recovery and reconstruction, has taken my calls.

Recently I met up with him at his High River office and asked him a few questions I and others had about what tomorrow may bring for our town.

What is your role?

Fraser: As minister, my role is to make sure there is proper representation from the town through to the provincial government, particularly the bureaucratic side, to make sure we are understanding the need on an ongoing basis.

That has happened right from the beginning in the provincial state of emergency phase and continues now in our current recover-rebuild phase.

My specific role in High River and in my office here is, if people feel they need an advocate they can come and seek me out, and I will bring concerns to the task force.

What was the focus of the first week the town was evacuated and when did everyone realize this is more than just another flood?

Fraser: I am very people-oriented and my focus is on the people and will continue to be on the people. What we have seen is not only major structural damage to homes, buildings and infrastructure, but people’s lives were affected more so, and we tried and keep trying to address people’s needs and be sensitive to what they are going through.

During the first week the main goal was to make sure everyone was safe and their basic needs were being met, and how we were going to get things back online in town.

As it progressed and it went from the town being in charge to the provincial government — and I think the mayor of High River made a very courageous choice by allowing us to take over and move forward — we had to figure out not only how to safely get everyone back into town but to get over a billion gallons of water out. Was it organized chaos? You bet.

Even now information is constantly changing as we keep addressing existing and new hurdles that arise. Our focus is still the same though — get High River and its residents safely home and begin rebuilding.

There is still a lot of fear that High River will become a ghost town. Do you agree?

Fraser: If you look at places that went through disasters similar to this that were not able to respond as quickly as our government in terms of getting things back online and going, they all recovered.

It may have taken longer and in some ways still recovering, but they did not die out. New Orleans still exists and the economy is booming again.

Albertans have always had the can-do attitude and that is very evident in High River. I can tell you right now, there are people waiting to come into High River and see it as an opportunity and the town can rebuild High River in a way that is best for everyone.

I think there will be lots of milestones that High River will reach and as the years pass more and more milestones will come and go. I know that we have a ways to go and in a lot of ways may seem like we are static but lots of working is going on in the background and will take some time. This is the rebuilding phase.

My Outlook

After talking with Fraser I felt hopeful about the future of High River but also had more questions.

I think that it's normal — nothing this extreme has ever happened in High River.

Every day is a new day and I am taking it as it comes, good or bad and am hopeful High River and its residents will overcome.