Alberta NDP blaming former government for major delay in school construction

Alberta's education minister says it's not the NDP government's fault that there will be a major delay in completing new schools and modernizing others.

CALGARY — Alberta’s education minister says it’s not the NDP government’s fault that there will be a major delay in completing new schools and modernizing others.

Dave Eggen told a news conference in Calgary that about 100 projects which were to be completed starting next September are behind schedule. He said the delays range from a few months to a full year.

The minister said the blame should be squarely focused on the former Progressive Conservative government which was defeated in last May’s election.

“People have been asking about where’s the skeletons from the previous government? This is a big one,” Eggen said Tuesday.

He is asking the province’s auditor general to investigate.

“The former government failed to set out realistic construction timelines and pushed project timelines through without long-term planning to keep them and make sure they would bear out to fruition,” he said.

“As a result, at a time when Alberta was growing rapidly, the previous government did not build a sufficient supply of schools to meet the needs of children.”

The former PC government said the province would spend $5 billion to build or upgrade 230 schools over the next five years. It promised in 2012 to build 50 new schools and modernize 70 more by 2016.

Premier Jim Prentice added 56 new schools and 21 more modernizations to a list to be completed by 2018.

“We saw this shell game going on for months, or even years, where there was a sign with a picture of a school but no school,” Eggen said.

“I’ve asked the auditor general to look into what has happened with these school projects and why there are so many that are so far behind and to give us advice on how to do better in the future.”

The auditor general is expected to report back before the end of the year.

The New Democrats are to deliver their first budget Oct. 27.

The former PC government tabled a 2015-16 budget in March and ran on it in the May election, but lost to the NDP.

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