LETHBRIDGE – Tuesday’s budget from Alberta’s NDP government has some good news for the education and health sectors in Lethbridge.
Major projects at both post-secondary institutes are getting a financial boost. The Trades and Technology Renewal and Innovation Project at Lethbridge College is set to receive $20 million in 2015/16, $14 million in 2016/17 and $10 million in 2017/18 for a total of $44 million over the next five years.
“No surprises really in that we were promised that there would be sustainable funding in the next couple of years,” said Dr. Paula Burns, president of Lethbridge College.
At the University of Lethbridge, the Destination Project is in line for $5 million in 2017/18, $20 million in 2018/19 and $46 million in 2019/20 for a five-year total of $71 million.
“We are very pleased the government has recognized the Destination Project as a critical piece of infrastructure for our community’s continued economic success and has included its construction in its capital plan. This project is “shovel-ready” and we will continue to work with the government to ensure the funding schedule matches the project’s construction schedule,” said Dr. Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Lethbridge.
In health care, Chinook Regional Hospital will get $24 million in 2015/16, $9 million in 2016-17 then nothing for three years after that for a five-year total of $33 million. Local health officials say they are still unclear as to where the money will be allocated.
Mayor Chris Spearman is pleased with the budget. He was at the Legislature in Edmonton as the budget was presented on Tuesday.
“What we are really pleased to see was the continuing commitment to MSI [Municipal Sustainability Initiative]. So we will continue to invest infrastructure in our city. It’s going to be $50 million dollars added into each of the two years to MSI over and above,” added Spearman.
Social programs to address domestic violence will receive an additional $15 million dollars in province-wide funding. Over the past year the women’s shelter in Lethbridge has had to turn away more than 1,200 women.
Businesses owners are also set to benefit from grants up to $5,000 for each new job created over the next two years. Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce President Melody Garner applauds that incentive, but she says the details still need to be reviewed.
“From a business perspective, we look at the new job tax credit or each individual hired. We need to unpack the announcement more and see if they heard the message that businesses have been hit with a lot of increases with tax, minimum wage and a lot of levies, so we need to have something to offset that.”
The budget contains a record $6.1-billion deficit, with plans to run a surplus by the 2019/20 fiscal year.