EDMONTON — The Alberta government is bringing in a former Bank of Canada governor to help develop a plan for building roads, schools and hospitals.
Premier Rachel Notley announced Friday that David Dodge will advise on the best level of infrastructure spending in the next four to five years.
She said Dodge will look at not only how much to build, but the best time to build it, given Alberta’s slumping oil economy. And, if money has to be borrowed, he’ll suggest the best way to do it.
“We need to get this right,” said Notley, who sat beside Dodge and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason at a news conference.
Dodge will do reviews over the summer and is to file his suggestions by the fall in time for Mason to craft infrastructure and transportation spending plans for the budget.
Alberta does not have a budget in place for the 2015-16 year, but Notley has said one will be delivered in October.
Dodge said he believes governments should borrow to pay for roads, schools, hospitals and other buildings — but only under the right circumstances.
“Borrowing for infrastructure development that will lead to greater economic development, where there is an identifiable return on that investment, is absolutely appropriate,” he said.
Notley said Dodge’s advice and report will cost than $100,000.
Her government has a delicate balancing act to perform with infrastructure, given that the population is growing while the economy is faltering, she said.
She noted that under former Progressive Conservative governments, infrastructure was either not built or not maintained so as to pay down the debt.
But projects committed to by the Tories over the last three years, including dozens of new schools, have pushed the province back into debt that sits at about $18 billion.
The NDP government won’t stop that construction for now, Notley said.
“We’re not interested in running around willy-nilly undoing things that have been done before.
“We know that the school issue in particular is way behind and that communities are waiting for them and relying on them. We have no intention of undoing those previous commitments.”
Dodge was governor of the Bank of Canada from 2001 to 2008.
He was a deputy finance minister with the federal Liberal government in the 1990s and recently assisted the province of Ontario with its capital plan.