Premier Rachel Notley spoke before Alberta Urban Municipality Association delegates at their fall conference held at Westerner Park on Thursday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

UPDATED: Premier Notley pledges funding to address cannabis challenges

Notley was in Red Deer Thursday

Premier Rachel Notley has promised funding to municipalities to meet the challenges of cannabis legalization.

“This is not a small change in our society. Like you, we’re committed to putting the safety of people and families first, in policing, public education, in enforcement. We’ve heard your concerns about funding loud and clear. We know you need funds upfront. We are going to provide you funds upfront very soon,” said Notley earning applause from the roughly 1,700 Alberta Urban Municipalities Association members at their fall conference Thursday at Westerner Park.

“Very soon we’ll be making an announcement as to what that initial funding looks like and how that funding will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.”

She said review will be important as the province gets a better understanding of the pressures that come with this new reality.

Notley told reporters the province still needs to figure out how much funding is required.

“As we know, our government has already projected it’s a loss to us the first couple of years so additional funding to municipalities is a bit of a challenge. But at the same time, we know they’re going to be presented with challenges.”

Cost estimates suggested by municipalities will be looked at, along with funding patterns in other jurisdictions, she said.

When asked about the possibility of funding for a cardiac catheterization laboratory for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, Notley said the issue is being examined.

“Our minister of health came to us last spring as we were putting together the finishing touches on the budget and she said we needed to dig into this a bit more. So we set aside $1 million this year for a very detailed report and assessment of the services both here in Red Deer and surrounding communities and how that relates to the service availability in other parts of the province.”

She said a first draft of the report is expected to be complete this fall.

“As you’ve probably heard her say many times, she’s a very evidence-based health minister and that’s the way she’s going to go forward.”

Local doctors have been vocal about the lack of beds and hospital services for two years.

Among the needed services is a cardiac catheterization laboratory to treat blocked arteries. Without access to a local lab, and the long transfer times for the treatment elsewhere, doctors say Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.

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