Province funds key city interchange project

The south entrance into Red Deer is about to get a long-awaited face lift.

The south entrance into Red Deer is about to get a long-awaited face lift.

The NDP government inked $100 million over five years for the Hwy 2 and Gaetz Avenue interchange project in the 2016 budget.

The city has been advocating for changes to improve safety and to accommodate growth at the interchange for close to 10 years.

Mayor Tara Veer and city officials will address the specific impacts of the provincial budget on the municipality at a press conference today.

But Veer said funding for this project was the most favourable component in the provincial budget for Red Deer.

She said if the funding was not allocated this year it would have closed off the option on the project beyond 2019.

Meanwhile Red Deer College president Joel Ward said he pleased that the province followed through on its promise to boost post-secondary grants by two per cent and to continue the tuition freeze for students.

He said there is opportunity in this budget for joint provincial and federal infrastructure projects.

He said it is a positive budget and one where the college is not forced to make tough decisions around people and programs as it has had to do over the last few years.

He said the province realizes more people are coming back to post-secondary.

“Our applications for next year are already up 13 per cent after we had a 10 per cent increase this year,” he said. “More people need opportunities to be re-skilled and retrained so they are continuing to fund that.”

He is also pleased with the commitment to apprenticeship programs.

Reg Warkentin, Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, policy policy co-ordinator, called the budget a mixed bag with some things that may help businesses. Warkentin said in a lot of ways the government got all the bad things out of the way including the corporate tax and the minimum wage increases.

He said the size of the deficit and the growing debt is concerning.

Warkentin said reducing the small business tax to two per cent from three per cent as of Jan.1 is an improvement.

“Every little bit helps small business,” he said. “We know the vast majority of businesses in Alberta are small business. It’s great to see them do that. There are a number of things in there that are going to help. We saw the entrepreneur program. They will help get people up and running.”

He noted the small investor tax credit is a huge win.

“Access to capital for businesses wanting to grow or starting out is the biggest issue we hear about,” he said. “I think it is a really smart move.”

But the Don MacIntyre, the Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, said the Wildrose is incredibly disappointed to see “this risky and ideological NDP budget” in a press release.

He said it shows no plan to get Alberta back to a path of fiscal sustainability, and accepts ballooning debts and deficits and acceptable.

“The impact for everyday Albertans and their families will be devastating,” he said. “From higher costs to driving your car or heating your home because of the carbon tax, to interest payments paid by typical Albertans because of the NDP government’s risky borrowing, this budget is reckless.”

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