Finance minister addresses Lethbridge concerns over Alberta budget

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Finance Minister Travis Toews addressed a packed room in Lethbridge to discuss concerns regarding the provincial budget on Friday. Emily Olsen reports – Nov 1, 2019

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews has a lot of feedback to take to the provincial government after speaking with the Lethbridge community Friday.

The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce hosted an information session and Q&A with the minister to get answers to many of the questions raised by local business owners, non-profits, government and school district officials.

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Along with concerns about school funding and overcrowding, taxes and cuts to the public sector, the minister heard from local businesses looking to make sure they were not swept under the rug.

“How are we going to diversify beyond just oil and gas?” asked one community member, echoing many in attendance.

“A lot of the conversation is oil and gas, but there are a lot of small businesses, agriculture… lots of places where we want to make sure those funds are being reinvested.”

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Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf said he’s dedicated to championing these concerns and keeping Lethbridge in the conversation moving forward.

“Lethbridge and area has a voice in cabinet, in government,” Neudorf said.

“Needs [that are specific] to our region are being addressed in government and legislation and I think the minister’s attention to come down here is Step 1 in making sure that that voice is heard.”

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Something many in the Lethbridge area had been waiting with bated breath to hear was whether the province was aware of the severity of the drug crisis in the region.

Toews addressed those concerns Friday, saying the Alberta government is very aware of how serious the crisis has become.

“We have increased our funding for health care,” Toews said.

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“That includes our platform commitments of funding to deal with the opioid crisis, which we know in Lethbridge is very significant and of great concern.”

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Many of those in attendance said their concerns were quelled for the time being, with the news of an updated budget coming in February.

Toews and Neudorf both said they expect many of the community’s hesitations will be put to rest at that time, and as more clarification on budget details come to light.