Thursday’s Alberta budget to include more than $500M for seniors housing

Seniors issues were the subject of discussion at a forum organized by the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism. File/Global News

EDMONTON – The Alberta government plans to invest more than $500 million in new funding for seniors housing in Thursday’s budget.

A source has told The Canadian Press that a small portion will be in grants, but the lion’s share will be taken from $4 billion in unallocated money from the capital fund.

Lori Sigurdson, the minister for seniors and housing, would not confirm the figure Tuesday, but said money is coming.

“I will say there’s a significant investment,” said Sigurdson.

She said there’s an estimated $1 billion in deferred maintenance on seniors housing, and that the seniors population is expected to double in less than a generation.

“We have about half a million seniors currently, so we’ll have a million seniors in 20 years. We need to make sure that we have the housing and the accommodation that they need,” she said.

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Finance Minister Joe Ceci unveils the 2016-17 budget on Thursday.

He has already said the low price of oil, which has drained billions of dollars from the bottom line, will bring a $10 billion deficit.

READ MORE: Alberta on track for record deficit: Finance minister Ceci

However, he has said the government will stay the course with accelerated capital spending and avoiding deep cuts to the ranks of public sector workers.

The government will spend $34 billion over five years on infrastructure.

Last year’s budget also promised operational spending hikes of two per cent a year over each of the following four years.

Ceci declined to confirm Tuesday that this operational spending plan is still in place.

He would only say the spending increase will be less than the combined rate of inflation plus population growth — which is about 2.8 per cent.

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