Alberta’s debt is expected to grow to $45 billion by the end of the year. In the budget released Thursday, Finance Minister Joe Ceci confirmed the government will continue to borrow heavily to pay for operations and new infrastructure.
“Families want our government to keep investing in long-overdue repairs and modernizations of our schools and hospitals, and they want us to keep improving our roads and highways. They want us to make things more affordable and bring the deficit down, thoughtfully and prudently.”
The province’s debt is now forecast to hit $71.1 billion by 2019-20. This year’s deficit is pegged at $10.3 billion, which is half a billion less than last year’s.
The government has committed to spending $9.2 billion dollars on capital construction, repairs and upgrades this year. Some of those funds will be coming to Grande Prairie to pay for school infrastructure, but what and where isn’t clear yet.
The budget includes $353 million for the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital over the next four years, along with $34,800,000 for the Highway 43 bypass. Another $15 million is in there for the highway’s de-designation as well. Permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless in Grande Prairie remains on the sunshine list, along with twinning Highway 40 south of the Wapiti River.
The Alberta Wildrose Party is called the NDP’s 2017 budget a “debt-fueled disaster”. Wildrose leader Brian Jean argues the interest payments on the province’s debt is money being taken away from hospitals and schools and their employees.
“The NDP remain completely out-of-touch with life for real Albertans who are suffering today. 81,000 full-time jobs have vanished since the NDP took power, but they’re doubling down on a high tax, high-debt agenda that will cost families thousands of dollars every year and suffocate our economy’s ability to create the jobs it’s capable of.”