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DebraW
22-08-2007, 02:23 PM
Mr. Fix-it
Province promises $350 million to repair schools, hospitals, roads and bridges

Archie McLean, edmontonjournal.com
Published: 22 August 2007 2:13 pm

The government will spend an additional $350 million this year to fix and maintain everything from schools and hospitals to roads and bridges, Gene Zwozdesky, associate minister of capital planning, announced today.

"We know that Alberta's growth rate is unprecedented and is the highest of all growth rates right across Canada," Zwozdesky said. "As part of that growth rate, we have to look at not only new infrastructure that needs to be built from time to time, but also significant investments in existing infrastructure."

Exactly how the cash will be handed out remains unknown - the government will provide the details in the coming weeks. Advanced education will get the most money at $111 million, education gets $97 million and health $53 million.

The new money comes from the government's fourth quarter unbudgeted surplus. Under a new plan from Premier Ed Stelmach, one third of such surpluses are now put into savings and the other two thirds are put into capital spending.

The Liberals questioned the timing of the announcement, the day after a Cameron Strategy poll showed Tory support slipping across the province.

"Their only time-tested way of trying to recover is to throw money at people," Elsalhy said. "Expect more announcements of this nature."

NDP Leader Brian Mason said the money is good, but falls well short of what is needed. He said the government paid off the province's debt in the 1990s at the expense of vital infrastructure, which now costs more to build.

"The taxpayers are paying more than they should to make up for the errors and the neglect of the Conservative government over the past ten or 15 years."

[email protected]

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DebraW
22-08-2007, 02:27 PM
Alberta announces $350 million infrastructure injection
Targeted at upkeep and repairs to public buildings

Wed, August 22, 2007
By CP

Alberta’s government has announced that $350 million — about half of a hefty surplus — will go towards repairing and maintaining public buildings across the province.

Gene Zwozdesky, associate minister of capital planning, says the money has been earmarked for different ministries, but exact projects haven’t yet been decided.

The biggest winner is Advanced Education and Technology, which will get $111 million.

Education will get $97 million, while Health and Wellness will get $87 million over two years.

Zwozdesky says the government has a policy to split any unplanned budget surpluses into thirds — one-third to be saved and the remaining two-thirds to go towards capital projects.

He says due to a strong economy, the 2006-2007 surplus was $682 million, and that more projects financed by the windfall will soon be announced.

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DebraW
22-08-2007, 06:42 PM
Should have fixed schools while it was affordable: city school board
Province announces infrastructure money

Wed, August 22, 2007
By JEREMY LOOME, Legislature Bureau

The provincial government could have saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars had it listened to school boards when they started asking for maintenance funding to fix aging buildings, the chair of Edmonton’s Catholic school board said today.

Instead, it’s left throwing band-aids at the problem, said Debbie Engel - multi-million dollar band aids like today's announcement of $95 million province-wide that, if provided when first asked for, might have paid for the bulk of repairs to Alberta’s ailing infrastructure.

Her board’s top four priorities will now cost $54 million alone, she said, meaning that no matter what its split of the new announcement is, the Catholic board won’t make much of a dent in the problem. And those dollar figures just keep rising.

“That’s what’s so frustrating: every year for years now we’ve gone through this laborious task of updating our needs and citing to the province what we need,” said Engel.

“They’ve known about these issues all along. And yet we’re now at the point where our top priority, which is the major modernizations to Archbishop McDonald, have waited eight years for funding. O’Leary has been seven years and it’s been five years since we received any substantial amount to address this issue.

“People are starting to realize how serious the infrastructure issue is, but what the province’s plan is to address it, I don’t know.”

The government, which has racked up in excess of $220 billion in surpluses over the last three decades, wasn’t financially able to do the work then, said Treasury spokesman Bart Johnson.

“The money wasn’t available then,” said Johnson.

The new plan includes $350 million in new spending - four months after the budget was released - towards a host of capital improvements across Alberta.

But the $97 million for schools is too little, too late, Engel noted: her board alone, one among dozens across the province, is $133-million short of what it needs just for capital upgrading.

“What we need is stable, long-term funding from a stable, long-term plan that addresses all of these things,” she said.

“If you know you’re going to need new shingles on your house, you can start putting money away three years ahead of time. But without stable funding we don’t have that foresight, that ability to plan long term.”

The boards also have no ability to raise money through other sources, she noted, because the province removed its taxing and borrowing powers. “It’s just ludicrous,” said Engel.

The province said the money, which came four months after it finalized its budget and promised to force ministries to work with that plan, was drawn from last year’s “unanticipated” $682 million surplus.

The surplus allocation policy allows it to use two-thirds of any surplus towards fixing crumbling infrastructure.

The money is “a big step toward addressing those needs and is one aspect of government’s overall plan to address Alberta’s current and future growth,” said Gene Zwozdesky, the Associate Minister of Capital Planning.

It’s another sign that the government has no long-term spending plan and wants to buy its way into office in the next election, said Liberal Leader Kevin Taft.

“The projects need to be done but politically this won’t earn them anything but scorn,” he predicted. “The mood in this province is anxious and people are tired of seeing their money thrown away while these serious, systemic problems remain unaddressed.”

[email protected]

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