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Possible education, health care cuts top concern during NDP budget town hall

Possible cuts to health care and education in the United Conservative Party’s upcoming budget are on the minds of some Grande Prairie residents.

NDP MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview Deron Bilous and MLA for Edmonton-City Centre David Shepherd were in Grande Prairie on Tuesday to meet with residents on the next leg of their shadow budget tour.

“What we’ve heard tonight, lots of concerns around education; class sizes, quality of education, [as well as] concerns about potential cuts to health care; privatization and really concerns around what the MacKinnon Report has said so far and what that’s going to mean and the uncertainty that’s being created,” said Bilous.

The MacKinnon Report or what has also been called the “blue ribbon panel”, was created in May to look at government spending and see where cuts could be made.

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Of the 26 recommendations made in the report, four took a close look at health care including possibly moving more towards private systems and away from public, and five recommendations looked at the education sector, including giving out funding based on student outcomes.

Finance Minister Travis Toews recently said cuts like these were needed in order to make a balanced budget a reality by 2022/2023.

“That certainly puts a spotlight on the fact that we have to learn to deliver well with less.”

12-year-old Ricky McCoshen voiced his concerns at the meeting about some of the proposed education cuts. He believed it was important for people, especially those his age, to speak up now before it’s too late.

“We’re the new voice and people underestimate us but we’re frankly the loudest people. Some of these people aren’t going to be here forever and it’s important for us to be in this room at town halls like these early so when it’s our job to lead the new future we need to be prepared.”

Bilous said the NDP plans to compile all the information collected at the town halls and release their own budget in October.

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