By Lethbridge Herald on February 27, 2020.
Local MLAs Shannon Phillips and Nathan Neudorf are reacting to the UCP government’s budget laid out on Thursday. Not surprisingly, there is a difference of opinion on what the budget could mean for Lethbridge going forward.
Neudorf, Lethbridge-East MLA, said the budget is prudent and responsible and will lead to fiscal balance and job growth going forward.
“I was very pleased to see the budget continue on the track we laid out before, and continuing with the same focus on investment, getting our house in order and focusing on jobs in Alberta. I believe these cuts to department spending are very responsible and I don’t think there is any surprise in the numbers. We are holding true to the course that was set out in the fall.”
Phillips, Lethbridge-West MLA with the Opposition NDP, said the budget was built on a “framework of fantasy.” Phillips said Lethbridge, in particular, it appears will experience a disproportionate impact as a result of these public-service cuts.
“There are big cuts in health care and education that are going to continue, and to seniors’ care, too,” she said. “It is really interesting what they have taken a number of different runs at seniors’ benefits. We will get the full analysis (out to the public), but suffice it to say that is going to disproportionately going to hurt Lethbridge both in the seniors’ drug plan and overall the seniors’ benefit plan.”
Phillips said the Kenney government has also broken substantial promises to Lethbridge on capital spending.
“There is some important broken promises in here for Lethbridge,” she stated. “There is nothing (in the UCP five-year capital plan) for the Highway 3 bridge replacement. You will recall the UCP and Jason Kenney made a big splash of committing to this during the election campaign. That big splash turned out to be a bold-faced lie … It is not even being contemplated anymore.”
“In addition to that, there is nothing for the Lethbridge Airport. There are no new schools being contemplated for Lethbridge at all. On the westside alone we need two new public schools. It’s clear to me in a number of these decisions Lethbridge has been completely left out, and we are being left behind.”
Neudorf responded repairs made at great expense to the Hwy. 3 bridge in 2018 made a new bridge unnecessary for the time being.
“It was something verbalized by the previous government, but never put on paper,” he said. “Because of the recent renovations of only two years before, it was felt it wasn’t the highest priority. There are other things we are focusing on instead in terms of getting back on track and looking for that future investment.”
Neudorf also said he did not have enough detail on all that will be included in his government’s capital plan to say what portion of that will be alloted to Lethbridge. He did not rule out the possibility of new schools in Lethbridge, for example, as more detailed information is rolled out by the various ministries on project funding over the next five years.
“I haven’t heard either way,” he confirmed. “In discussions I have had with the Minister of Education they are very aware of our need for that. We will have to see the details of that infrastructure plan when it is released.”
Neudorf also hinted at major announcements being unveiled for Lethbridge in the coming weeks on the mental health and addictions front.
“The (SCS) panel report is going to be made public next week, so I look forward to that,” he said. “I do know the commitment to funding for treatment and recovery is very strong, and we will be seeing those funding announcements. I think 3,000 of the 4,000 promised treatment beds have already put forward, some of those in Lethbridge with more to come. We are very close to some major announcements there for Lethbridge particularly.”
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