Mayor Craig Copeland says he’s disappointed but understands the decision not to have Exercise Maple Flag at 4 Wing next year. The Royal Canadian Air Force announced on December 11th that the annual exercise would be put on hold for 2019 to allow for planning and study into the event. The Cold Lake mayor says he’s just as disappointed as anyone but can grasp the thought behind the decision.
“I totally understand where the wing commander and his staff are going. We need to have a hard look at investing money at the Air Weapons Range and at the Wing in order to bring a higher level of attraction for other countries to come in.”
An economic impact is expected to be felt in the city as the exercise often brought over 1000 air force personnel and visitors to the region. Copeland expects hotels, restaurants and others to feel the pinch next year.
“Definitely people are going to be hit hard. That was several weeks of the hotels being full. It was also the flavour of having people from around the world in your community. It was pretty exciting.”
The RCAF says it’s too early to say what a 2020 exercise or beyond might look like. Copeland is hoping some funding and planning might see a return of Maple Flag that will be better than previous years.
“I’m optimistic it’s going to be short-term pain for long-term gain. Let’s hope the federal government comes in and invests some significant money on the Wing.”