Health and education highlighted in throne speech

Impact on Red Deer

Mayor Tara Veer

Even with the emphasis on health care in the province’s throne speech, it’s still difficult to speculate on how long people will have to wait for expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, says Mayor Tara Veer.

“Local grassroots support for expanded health infrastructure I think has been present in the community for awhile, albeit it’s gaining traction in recent months. But when weighed against the fact that we’ve been waiting for expanded court house for five years or more, it will be interesting to see how the government prioritizes in a time of scarcity for infrastructure dollars,” Veer said.

“Our longest standing request before the provincial government has been the need for an expanded court house.”

She said last year court house expansion was mentioned in the capital budget but was unfunded. The city will be looking for funding in the March 16 provincial budget.

Similarly, expansion of the hospital was included in Alberta Health Services infrastructure priority list until recently. Funding was never provided.

She said Red Deer city council has yet to take an official position on the need for expanded health infrastructure in Red Deer, but as mayor she has met with Health Minister Sarah Hoffman on a few times to discuss it.

“To date she has indicated that the government doesn’t intend to allocate to Red Deer at this time.”

Veer said the city is waiting to see if municipalities will be allowed to access funding gathered from the carbon tax like other organizations that pay the tax. The throne speech hinted at the possibility.

The tuition freeze, the prospect of business incubators and pursuing pipelines were also encouraging for Red Deer, she said.

“With eight to 10 per cent of Red Deerians unemployed there’s a strong correlation to the oil and gas sector. Hopefully the pursuit of pipeline infrastructure will mean that Red Deerians get back to work,” Veer said

Education was another priority in the speech. School fees paid by parents were being cut by 25 per cent along with busing fees for students travelling to their designated school.

Bev Manning, board chair with Red Deer Public Schools, said action on school fees was great but she was waiting for details to see if the province reimburse school jurisdictions.

“That’s always part of the equation. As we often say the devil is in the details. We look for further information on how that’s actually going to shake down,” Manning said.

Last year the school district collected $2.5 million in fees for programs, textbooks, student transportation, lunchroom supervision, field trips and optional courses.

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