June 18th, 2024

Lethbridge needs absent from budget, says Hyggen


By Lethbridge Herald on February 28, 2023.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews is applauded as he delivers the 2023 budget in Edmonton on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Ry Clarke – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Budget 2023 was unveiled Tuesday with a strong emphasis on securing Alberta’s future by growth in the economy, but in Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen says while the budget’s broad funding will be helpful for residents, the important needs of the community have been left out. 

“Some of the more important Lethbridge community needs, that council has been advocating for, are unfortunately absent from this budget. We will dig deeper into it and see if they are hidden somewhere else. But for right now, I am seeing some of those things absent,” said Hyggen. 

The Alberta Government unveiled its Budget with an emphasis on growth in the economy, creating jobs, strengthening health care and education, and keeping communities safe. 

The budget forecasts a surplus of $2.4 billion in 2023-24, with the government looking to keep its message on fiscal responsibility intact, paying down debt and continuing to look for ways to grow Alberta’s economy.

“Alberta’s economy has momentum, and Budget 2023 continues that positive fiscal trajectory with another balanced budget and forecasted surplus of $2.4 billion in 23-24, and projected surpluses of $2 billion next year in the mid year, and $1.4 billion in 25-26,” Travis Toews, Minister of Finance, said during a news conference before releasing the budget. “Alberta’s economy is poised to grow at 2.8% this year, continuing to lead the country.”

Here in southern Alberta, the budget is looking to help with healthcare, increase opportunities for the agricultural industry, help students with education in K to 12 and post secondary, expand on policing within Indigenous communities, and help with senior benefits. 

In the agri-food sector, several investment projects announced over the past year are expected to boost Alberta’s agricultural processing capacity. The budget introduces a new agri-processing tax credit, attracting investments with a 12% non-refundable tax credit against eligible capital expenditures for corporations investing $10 million or more to build or expand agri-processing facilities in Alberta.

“This will further improve the competitiveness of our agri-food processing and manufacturing sector, and our agriculture industry broadly,” said Toews

$372 million will also go toward renewing educational infrastructures, and providing future school planning. Lethbridge will be part of other communities supported with designing and building new and modernized schools.

“We are also making record investments in Kindergarten through Grade 12 education to secure the future for our youth,” said Toews. “Budget 23 provides an additional $1.8 billion over three years, putting a 5.2% increase in 23-24 to fund enrolment growth, reduce class size, meet the specialized learning needs of students, and improved transportation. The 23 Capital Plan supports 58 school projects including new schools that will provide new and improved student spaces, create jobs, and revitalize Alberta communities.” 

The Capital Plan will provide $316 million over three-years for ongoing funding for affordable housing. Including $202 for the Affordable Housing Partnership Program, $68 million for the Affordable Housing Strategy, and $46 million for Affordable and Specialized Housing. An additional $54 million is included for the Indigenous Housing Capital Program. The funding will address demand, increase long-term financial sustainability, and improve access for Albertans in housing need. Lethbridge is included in these ongoing projects. 

$155 million over three years will go toward Recovery Communities, that offer long-term residential addiction treatment. The Lethbridge Recovery Community is expected to be completed this spring, with additional facilities planned for the Blood Tribe First Nation.

“I was happy to see some of their focus on addictions and mental health,” said Hyggen. “We are going to have a facility that will be opening up here in the next couple of months here in Lethbridge that focuses on recovery.”

Looking to repair Alberta’s health care, $3.1 billion will be invested over three-years in health capital projects and programs. With new investments to strengthen the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system, decrease emergency department wait times, and help reduce surgical wait times. $11 million over three years will go to expanding the renal dialysis program at the Chinook Regional Hospital, relocating the dialysis unit to provide additional treatment spaces. 

“During our budget consultations, we heard from Albertans across the province who identified the need to strengthen our healthcare system and increase its capacity,” said Toews. “Budget 23 commits $965 million more this year for healthcare. That is a 4.1% increase to reduce wait times in hospital emergency rooms, provide more surgical capacity, and get more ambulances on the road to respond to emergencies.”

Under an AMA agreement, more than $250 million over four-years, is targeted toward recruitment and retention programs for more Albertans to have access to family doctors, and to provide more support for physician practice viability. $2 billion per year will go to drugs and supplemental health benefit programs, with The Seniors Drug program budgeted with $693 million in 2023-2024, supporting over 700,000 seniors. 

Addressing inflation and the effect it has had on the non-profit sector, the Alberta Government will allocate $42 million over two years from 2022- 2024 to support food banks, and extend the low-income transit pass pilot program in Edmonton and Calgary to other municipalities.

Up to 35 First Nations policing positions will be added across the province. Over the next three-years, $65 million will be provided for First Nations policing to improve community and officer safety and enhance service delivery for the Blood Tribe Police Services, Lakeshore Regional Police Services, and Tsuut’ina Nation Police Services. As well as jointly funding a new First Nation police service for Siksika Nation. 

With Budget 2023 tabled, Hyggen said Lethbridge will take some time to see how it fairs.

“I thought the advocacy worked, that the work we were doing was paying off,” said Hyggen. “I am going to have to dig deeper into this. If it is hidden somewhere with this budget, maybe I will be able to come back and say ‘Well gosh here’s where it was’ But I will have to dig deeper into it and find out why we were missing the boat here on some of this funding.”

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Dennis Bremner

I see lots of Provincial Titles reeking of “supposed power” behind MPP Neudorfs name….but………………………. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRl_sBg6GX8

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner
buckwheat

Point for consideration. Maybe all the solutions the cabal in Southern Alberta were recognized by adults in the room for what they are, basic failures, hence been cut off from the money tree.

meisplayfull2

Just wondering what did Lethbridge actually ask for and who does the asking? Also Shannon Phillips is our MLA West so how des she fit in to this process as an opposition party member? Does she get any chance to plead our case as West Lethbridge represntative?

buckwheat

Excellent question. Did they actually ask for anything specific or did they just expect it to happen.

Southern Albertan

What? The UCP is not refunding its municipal funding cuts? Shocker. They’re backpedaling on many of their other cuts to get votes.

Montreal13

Well Mr. Hyggen you are the man at the top, the buck stops with you. If members of the community social services department or Lethbridge Housing Authority messed up and IF you ever find out about it- will you let us know? The left hand may have not known what the right was doing? And it is usually under the radar of city council when it happens.