Alberta Budget 2016: What’s in it for Edmonton?
EDMONTON – What does the 2016 provincial budget have in it for Edmonton? Not much.
Yes, the government is continuing previously made commitments to things like LRT funding and GreenTRIP, but there’s not a lot of new money for municipal initiatives.
In fact, things like the carbon levy will trickle down to cities and therefore taxpayers.
What is new though is that funding for affordable housing more than doubled, something municipalities have been calling for. There’s also money for ALERT and to improve Norquest College.
Valley Line LRT
Support for this Edmonton transit project is coming from the New Building Canada Fund. No money will come through until 2017/2018, when Edmonton will get $60 million and a total of $120 million by 2021.
While new LRT funding is not included in the budget, the province says it is in talks with the cities and is committed to supporting public transit.
Money for schools
The commitment to 200 new schools and modernizations across Alberta stands, but there is no new money for schools.
Several school projects, including new schools in Meadows, Castledowns, Brander Gardens, Highlands and Pilot Sounds, are now on the “Unfunded Capital Projects” list.
“We are almost doubling the investment in affordable housing,” Ceci said.
He said previous governments didn’t put enough money into the maintenance and rehabilitation of affordable housing.
About $890 million will be spent on affordable housing over five years.
Earlier this week, the government announced $500 million of that would be for seniors.
The school will receive $101 million over two years for an expansion and retrofit.
The college was pleased with the two per cent increase to its operating grant as well as the $16 million in capital funding for the campus redevelopment.
“This budget confirms that an investment in NorQuest College is an investment in the province’s future,” president and CEO Jodi L. Abbott said. “NorQuest College experienced an unprecedented 10.6 per cent growth in students over the past year and this funding is critical for the college to continue to grow and meet business and industry demands for a skilled Alberta workforce.”
Fort Edmonton Park
Fort Edmonton Park will get $34 million over the next five years for expansion. Four million of that is earmarked for this fiscal year.
It will include expansions to the 1920s midway and Hotel Selkirk, a new front admissions area and an Indigenous Peoples Experience exhibit.
The city will also be putting money towards the project.
Cities getting less MSI
A previous promise to increase Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding by $50 million was broken. So, cities are getting less MSI funding than they were expecting for this and next fiscal years.
“I’m disappointed to see, like everybody else, we’re on the roller coaster too when it comes to infrastructure funding,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said, “seeing that MSI grants that popped up last year have popped back down this year.”
“I know many municipalities were counting on that money this year.”
“It’s not a huge amount of money but it’s the principle and from year-to-year, our finding is up in the air for long-term infrastructure planning. We still have some work to do to come to a new fiscal formula for funding municipal infrastructure,” Iveson said, adding the city may have to apply some savings or make cutbacks in one area, but it will make it work.
“It’s only $10 million and it’s a five-per cent haircut overall, but it’s not the end of the world.”
The province is continuing a $2-billion commitment to this program, setting aside $125 million this year, $255 million next year and a total of $914 million over five years. Officials said this total amount was “in line” with previous commitments.
This budget allocates $2.9 million for the ring roads in Calgary and Edmonton over five years, but won’t separate the two since the Calgary project is about to go out to tender and government doesn’t want to impact the bids.
Funding in the Climate Plan
Projects like the Blatchford redevelopment and new bike lanes could qualify for funding under the Climate Plan.
“The Climate Leadership Plan has several ways of being rebated back into the economy,” Ceci explained. Green or carbon-reducing projects would be included.
Iveson was not concerned about the carbon tax. In fact, he applauded it.
“I’ve always been a supporter of pricing carbon,” the mayor said. “It’s the only way you send the right signal to investors to get market transformation.
“I applaud this government’s courage with the climate leadership program.”
“To set a price on carbon … and rebating people on a needs-basis and using the balance to support innovation and infrastructure – I think they’re doing the right thing,” Iveson said.
The 2016 budget includes $29.1 million for ALERT (alberta Law Enforcement Response Team) so it can continue fighting organized crime across Alberta.
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