BY ERIN FAWCETT
The provincial budget, which comes with a $10.3 billion deficit, was tabled in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.
“Community leaders have been clear that building a new courthouse is a priority for [Red Deer],” said Finance Minister Joe Ceci, adding traffic court in Red Deer has been taking place at the Baymont Inn and Suites. “The previous government failed to act on this urgent and well-known priority. We won’t repeat that mistake.
“This year we are going to get to work on building a new courthouse in Red Deer.”
No further details on Red Deer’s new courthouse were given.
Funding for the Red Deer Regional Hospital was absent in the provincial budget, however, the budget did include $400 million towards a hospital in Edmonton.
Other projects announced in the budget include 24 new and modernized schools throughout Alberta and a 200-bed long-term care facility in Calgary for people with complex care needs, among other projects.
The government also announced securing the approval of two new pipelines to get Alberta resources to the world market, attracting $6 billion of new private investment in Alberta with royalty credits for new petrochemical plants, modelling a new program for craft distillers on the craft brewing program, offering new tax credits to spur diversification and growth for small- and medium-sized businesses and cutting the small business tax rate by one-third.
“Alberta’s economy is stabilizing and jobs are returning. Now is not the time to let our steady hand waver. As our economy recovers, we will continue to bring the deficit down to balance, and we will do so without sacrificing the supports and services families need,” said Ceci.
The NDP also announced ways they will help make life more affordable for Alberta families as part of the budget. These initiatives include reducing school fees by 25%, saving families $54 million in the next school year, maintaining Alberta’s $8.7-billion tax advantage over every other Canadian province, freezing tuition fees for post-secondary students for a third year in a row and capping electricity rates to protect Albertans from the price-swings of the past.
Meanwhile, the Wildrose Official Opposition responded by saying, “The NDP budget is a debt-fueled disaster packed with higher taxes and more of the same economic policies that will cost families and hurt Alberta’s prosperity for generations to come.”
“This is an NDP budget fantasy stuffed with more of the same economic experiments that have failed Alberta for two years straight. The NDP remain completely out of touch with life for real Albertans who are suffering today,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean. “Eighty-one thousand full-time jobs have vanished since the NDP took power, but they’re doubling down on a high tax, high-debt agenda that will cost families thousands of dollars every year and suffocate our economy’s ability to create the jobs it’s capable of.”
He added the NDP budget also hits families with a 33% increase on the carbon tax. The carbon tax is now more than 50% of the total projected cost of natural gas in 2017, said Jean, adding prices at the pumps have increased by nearly 100% since March 2015 and 50% since the NDP government took power.
“The deficit rings in at $10.3 billion with a $35.5 billion drop in Alberta’s net financial assets in just three years. Alberta’s contingency account is set to evaporate next year. Despite the NDP promising that hiking personal and business taxes would increase revenues, both are set to drop significantly compared to projections from last year’s budget,” said Jean.