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Alberta budget 2024: What’s in it for Calgary?

Click to play video: 'Alberta budget tabled with modest surplus and spending'
Alberta budget tabled with modest surplus and spending
WATCH: We knew the Alberta budget would be one of fiscal restraint and the finance minister calls it a responsible plan. As Adam MacVicar reports, there are funding increases to health and education, and some tax increases as well. – Feb 29, 2024

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to change “Calgary Hospital Foundation” to “Calgary Health Foundation.” We regret the error.

Ahead of budget day, Premier Danielle Smith delivered a televised address last week that prepared Albertans for a spending plan steered by a philosophy of fiscal restraint.

Finance Minister Nate Horner delivered his budget on Thursday. It features a modest increase in spending for a province whose population continues to grow. A promised tax cut will be delayed for all Albertans, a development Smith had already indicated to citizens that they should brace for.

While Horner’s plan sees his government try to embrace a fiscal approach on saving, as with any budget, there is still a fair amount of plans for capital spending.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek noted there was “some good news” in the budget for her city, but panned the costs to the city’s coffers.

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Here’s a look at spending plans the government has unveiled that are specifically aimed at Calgary, the province’s most populous city.

Click to play video: 'Highlights of Alberta’s 2024 budget'
Highlights of Alberta’s 2024 budget

Transit

Supported by infrastructure transfers from Ottawa, Alberta’s 2024 budget lays the groundwork for significant spending on Calgary and Edmonton’s LRT systems.

“A total of $1.6 billion in provincial funding has been allocated for these projects, including $43 million in new funding for the Calgary Blue Line,” the budget plan says. “Total funding from provincial and federal sources is $2.9 billion over three years.”

Blue Line funding was one of several budget asks from the city.

But Thursday afternoon, Gondek noted it fell short of the full $53-million ask.

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“The Blue Line extension is less than what we were hoping for,” she said. “When it comes to the Green Line, there have been changes over time as to how that funding will be disbursed.”

Click to play video: 'Airport train, and housing among Calgary’s funding requests for provincial budget'
Airport train, and housing among Calgary’s funding requests for provincial budget

The budget plans for $4 million to be spent on the Calgary Airport Rail Connection Study, which seeks to find the best way to connect downtown Calgary and the Calgary International Airport by rail.

Plans for that study were first announced in last year’s budget.

Roads

The province’s capital plan sets aside $524 million over three years for upgrades on Deerfoot Trail.

The government had previously announced that multiple projects would be part of a plan to pay for upgrades on the busy freeway, aimed at enhancing safety and saving time for commuters.

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While the last section of Stoney Trail opened late last year, the 2024 budget sets aside $123 million over three years for spending on Calgary and Edmonton’s ring roads.

Health

The Arthur J.E. Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre, a massive infrastructure project, will receive $109 million in 2024-25, according to the government’s capital plan.

The facility is scheduled to open later this year, and Alberta Health Services says it “will engage patients at the centre of a multidisciplinary health system, enabling access to comprehensive cancer care services in a world-class facility.”

The 2024 budget also sees $70 million go to a neonatal intensive care unit at the Foothills Medical Centre over the next three years. Improvements to that hospital’s power plant capacity will also receive $7 million in funding in 2024-25.

The Peter Lougheed Centre will receive $67 million over three years for its mental health intensive care unit, an initiative first announced by the province in 2020, as well as for laboratory redevelopment.

Upgrade and redevelopment work at Rockyview General Hospital will receive $53 million in 2024-25 while

Planning work for a regional health centre that would serve both north Calgary residents and people living in Airdrie will receive $3 million over the next three years.

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Planning for the Alberta Kidney Care project in Calgary, that the government says will develop a renal dialysis unit at the Richmond Road Diagnostic Treatment Centre, has about $700,000 earmarked for it in the budget released Thursday.

In its budget, the government noted the Calgary Health Foundation will receive $10 million over three years to support women’s health initiatives.

The province also announced $66 million in new funding for four new locations to be added to a medical device reprocessing upgrades program. One of those locations is planned for Calgary.

About $48 million is being set aside for a cyclotron facility in Calgary.

Click to play video: 'Breaking down the 2024 provincial budget'
Breaking down the 2024 provincial budget

Education

While specific plans for how many new schools will be built in the coming years and when have yet to be revealed, the budget delivered Thursday shows the government plans to invest to create 35,000 “new and modernized student spaces” in Alberta, with 28,500 of those being built in Calgary and Edmonton.

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The province plans to spend $55 million to help the University of Calgary create over 1,000 more spaces for students in science, technology, engineering and math programs. The money is aimed at the U of C’s planned Multidisciplinary Science Hub.

The U of C will also receive $37 million in 2024-25 to expand its veterinary medicine program.

Work to revitalize the John Ware Building at SAIT will receive $16 million in 2024-25.

Other investments

As part of its partnership with the City of Calgary and the Calgary Flames’ owners to develop what’s been called the Calgary River District and build an event centre that will include an NHL arena and community arena, the province is setting aside $237 million of funding for the next three years.

About $30 million will go to the event centre plans’ community rink.

Other key infrastructure spending earmarked for Calgary over the next three years includes $89 million for a new Court of Appeal building, $39 million to expand the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Calgary and $8 million for Arts Commons and the transformation of Olympic Plaza.

About $25 million in 2024-25 has been set aside for revitalizing the Glenbow Museum. Expanding the Repsol Sport Centre will receive $6 million while the “world-class gallery development” at Telus Spark will receive $6 million over three years.

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Projects at the Bethany Continuing Care Centre and Bridgeland Riverside Continuing Care Centre will receive a combined $164 million over three years.

The Local Government Fiscal Framework, which replaces the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, will see the provincial government spend over $2.35 billion over three years to provide municipalities in the province with stable, predictable and sustainable funding.

Affordable housing has been something many Calgarians have called for more investment for. While spending for specific cities is not outline in the 2024 capital plan, the government notes projects receiving funding include $405 million for the Affordable Housing Partnership Program, $130 million to modernize seniors lodges, $91 million for repairing government-owned social housing buildings and $75 million for the Indigenous Housing Capital Program.

“In addition, the three-year capital plan allocates $717 million in capital grants to advance the goals of Alberta’s Affordable Housing Strategy. This includes $254 million in new funding, which will support a commitment to build approximately 3,300 new affordable housing units, as well as to complete 1,800 units that have already been committed to or are currently in progress.”

Gondek said the budget left the city with questions of how much affordable housing money would be coming to the largest city in the province.

“We remain concerned that Alberta is calling, but there’s no place for people who are coming here to call home,” she said.

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“While there is funding set aside at a provincial level for affordable housing, it’s not clear how much of that will come to Calgary.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta finance minister delves into 2024 budget'
Alberta finance minister delves into 2024 budget

Gondek said she was glad to see the province added a “small investment” for Arts Commons and the Olympic Plaza, and was “very encouraged” to see dedicated funds for wildfire and drought mitigation including the Springbank Reservoir.

–with files from Adam Toy, Global News

Click to play video: 'Alberta budget includes new tax for EV drivers'
Alberta budget includes new tax for EV drivers

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