Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci participated in a pre-budget roundtable discussion at Red Deer District Chamber of Commerce this morning. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

UPDATED: Finance minister in Red Deer to talk budget

Joe Ceci meets with business representatives at Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci says improving health care was one of the top concerns mentioned at a pre-budget consultation meeting with a group of Red Deer-area small business owners Monday morning.

Ceci said he couldn’t reveal any budget details except that there will be some compassionate belt tightening.

“Working closely with the Ministry of Health and area MLAs we’ll craft a budget for the spring that addresses the needs of the Red Deer region as well as beyond in terms of the rest of Alberta. But these are challenging times. We need to get to balance in 2023 and that’s going to be our focus in the introduction of budget 2018,” Ceci said after the meeting at Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce.

Ceci will be conducting about 10 pre-budget consultations around the province and suggestions put forward by Albertans will be documented and made available to the public following consultations.

He said the small, invited group of business owners suggested focusing on prevention to find more efficiencies in health care. Education and keeping Central Alberta competitive with other parts of Alberta and Canada were their other concerns.

Ceci said business owners talked about some of their challenges during the recession and how they’re starting to see recovery.

“They want to know the government continues to have their backs in terms of affordable energy costs and bringing investment into this area, and Alberta generally.”

They are also looking for more opportunities for capital investment in their businesses and how government can support that, he said.

“The Government of Alberta is firmly behind the needs of Central Albertans. We certainly have some challenges in terms of the budget that will be developed for 2018, but Central Alberta has benefited by the current government in place.”

He pointed to the approval of the Red Deer Justice Centre, construction currently underway for the Highway 2 Gaetz Avenue Interchange and runway expansion completed at Red Deer Airport.

“Central Albertans can rest assured that this government has their back.”

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