Education, healthcare and pandas…Oh my!
NDP tables 2017 budget
By Josie Lukey, Staff Writer
There’s nothing like a new pair of soccer cleats to symbolize the province’s commitment to families.
At least, that’s what the NDP government thought when they presented a youngster with a flashy new pair of cleats as a pre-emptive photo-op tease to the presentation of an even flashier budget for the province this March.
Finance minister Joe Ceci tabled the Working to Make Life Better plan last week forecasting a $10.3 billion deficit this year on a revenue of $45 billion. The budget also projects a reduction in the deficit to $7.2 billion by 2020, but reports the province will rack up an estimated $71 billion in debt by 2020.
Unsurprisingly, the opposition pounced.
In a statement, the Wildrose official opposition referred to the budget as “a debt-fueled disaster packed with higher taxes and more of the same economic policies that will cost families and hurt Alberta’s prosperity for generations to come.”
The 2017 budget does not include new taxes, tax increases or program cuts.
An increase in education spending means the government is extending a tuition freeze for a third year. While also offering a two per cent increase to operating grants for institutions.
Parents will also be given a $54 million break from the province through reduced school fees. The province also has plans to build 10 new schools — five in Calgary — and upgrade or replace 16 more.
What’s in it for Calgary?
There’s no funding for Calgary’s Green Line LRT project from the province in this budget, but a number of other Calgary routes will get support.
This includes $382 million for Calgary’s ring road and an undisclosed amount for construction of an Airport Trail link. Ceci also said the province would work with Calgary to build an interchange for the Deerfoot Trail and 212 Avenue South interchange.
The Calgary Zoo’s panda exhibit will get a boost totalling $6 million over two years and WinSport will receive $10 million for a sliding track refurbishment.
For Mayor Naheed Nenshi though, it’s nothing special.
“This is very much a business as usual for the City of Calgary … I wasn’t really expecting much in this budget given the fiscal situation of the province. I had some high hopes, clearly the high hopes were not met but that is not actually that surprising,” said Nenshi in a press conference.