We have more details now on the balanced Alberta budget. In fact government officials say we now have a $500 million surplus compared to a $3.2-billion deficit in the last budget. The province says Alberta Health will be seeing an infusion of $600-million this year and will grow by a total of $1.8-billion by 2024-25 in order to scale up capacity. Officials say there will also be an extra $100-million with some of the funding going towards new intensive care unit beds which they say will lead to reduced surgery wait times. The budget also included a $750-million contingency which will help address the surgical backlog. Just over $170-million over three years will expand student enrolment in areas with skills shortages. Around 7,000 post-secondary seats will be created in areas including health care, engineering, aviation and computer science.
The leader of the opposition NDP, Rachel Notley, says the budget fails to address the needs of families burdened by high energy bills, hefty insurance premiums and higher fees for school, tuition and camping.
Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen gave a thumbs up to the Alberta budget. One issue that has been discussed for our region is the potential of a new third bridge being built in our city. During the last municipal election over 60 per cent of voters said yes to building a third bridge prior to 2030. The estimated cost would be $175 to $200 million. Hyggen says he has heard that the province knows the city could potentially be looking into building a third bridge and there are options as to where the money comes from.
“As I’ve said numerous times, I would not support a bridge on the back of hikes in taxation. I would never support that. Looking at all options, and speaking with the province and the federal government for that matter. We hope that we can have something coming forward.”
If the city was footing the bill for a new bridge, Hyggen says that could mean a municipal tax increase of nine to 11 per cent totaling up to 2.75 per cent per year for four years.