The provincial government used a Wednesday morning news conference to make official what everyone in town already knew – Fort Macleod had been chosen as the preferred site of the Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre.
“The people of Fort Macleod should be extremely proud of their efforts to put together a tremendous proposal,” said Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko. “The community’s proud policing history provides a strong foundation for a training centre that will serve the needs of Alberta’s law enforcement community for years to come.”
Mayor Shawn Patience and members of town council listened to the announcement together and were ecstatic.
“I’m still tingling, I have to tell you,” Patience said. “It’s finally official. It’s very nice that now it’s on the table and we can deal with it.”
Economic development officer Gordon MacIvor, who Patience praised for never losing faith in the bid, said the day was like a birthday.
“You’ve waited so long for it to come and now it’s here,” he said. “As everyone has been saying all day, we did it.”
Cenaiko pointed to many factors that put Fort Macleod’s bid ahead of the others, including proximity to a major city and international airport, the town’s site at the crossroads of two major highways, the two aboriginal reserves bordering Fort Macleod and the incredible community support shown for the bid.
“I think at the end of the day it was the people’s desire to have the facility located here that won the day for us,” Patience said. “All 3,000 people in this town need to be congratulated for the effort they put forward.”
As an example Patience pointed to July 25, the day of the MLA site selection committee’s visit.
“On very short notice we had 700 community members show up to the theatre on a Tuesday morning in the middle of summer,” he said. “That’s very indicative of the support that was shown in a town of 3,000 people. I could not have asked for more.”
Later in the day at the Fort – Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Patience recalled that he said those were two of the most important hours in Fort Macleod’s history and that he stands by that assessment.
MacIvor said the college will bring economic spinoff to the town.
“It will be gradual, but within I’d say three to five years the impact will be profoundly significant,” he said.
MacIvor expects the facility to create hundreds of new jobs, increase population and bring an influx of businesses in the service industry to town.
“Potentially we’re going to have a Tim Horton’s here and all the other services like that,” he said.
“Fort Macleod is going to prosper and we are going to enjoy the success of this day for decades and decades to come,” he said.
“This is exactly the economic boost Fort Macleod needs right now,” chamber of commerce president Emily McTighe said. “The development of this college is going to build huge
investor confidence in Fort Macleod and southern Alberta.”
The $100-million training centre is the vision of Cenaiko and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Dave Coutts promised him that Fort Macleod would not disappoint.
“Fort Macleod will make sure that this will be the primary, the best, the most-advanced police training college not just in Alberta, not just in western Canada, but in the entire world,” he said.
Coutts also promised that Cenaiko would be the honourary parade marshall for this year’s Santa Claus Parade, an honour Cenaiko happily accepted.
Surrounded by the history of policing in the Fort -Museum, Patience looked toward the future.
“We now not only hold the history of the North West Mounted Police and the history of policing in western Canada, we now are going to be an integral part of the future of policing not only in the province but in the country,” he said.
The training centre will see 400 police officers and close to 1,000 peace officers trained here each year, including sherrifs, transportation officers, corrections officers, fish and wildlife officers and conservation officers.