Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is eager to discuss local concerns with new United Conservative provincial government. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer mayor wants to discuss status of projects promised before the election with new UCP government

A new homeless shelter and start on Red Deer hospital expansion were promised by New Democrats

Mayor Tara Veer wants “clarity” on the future of the homeless shelter and other projects that were promised before the election of Alberta’s new conservative government.

A 24-hour shelter for Red Deer’s homeless people, as well as a start on the long-awaited Red Deer hospital expansion, were promised by the New Democrats before they were ousted by voters in Tuesday’s provincial election.

Veer said she would like to find out how “significant” the portion of provincial funding already approved for the shelter is.

“We would like some clarity on how far in approvals have funds been specifically allocated.”

Veer will also be calling for the release of a provincial needs assessment for Red Deer hospital that she believes clearly makes a case for the facility’s expansion.

While United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney hasn’t said much about this matter, Veer said the newly elected MLAs from his party have expressed concerns about the lack of local heart catheterization and other services, and she hopes they will be advocates for the expansion project.

On firmer ground are Red Deer College gaining university status and the new justice centre project.

“One of the most significant milestones of 2018 … was the provincial announcement that Red Deer College would become a university, positioning Red Deer as Alberta’s next university city,” said Veer.

She added city council will continue to work with the province to see the Red Deer Justice Centre come to fruition. But as no decision was announced by the New Democrats on the future of the historic Parsons House, which sits on land designated for the justice centre, the mayor expects to have to brief the new government on city council’s support for preserving the structure.

Veer said municipal government is happy to work with whichever party is in government. But she admitted city council did encounter some “challenges” when it came to the last health minister’s approach to the opioid crisis.

Invoking ministerial authority to override municipal land jurisdiction during discussions about where to locate the supervised drug consumption site was concerning, said Veer. But a public hearing later helped determine the location of the facility, which is now being developed in a renovated space northwest of Superstore.

The UCP has stated it favours a different approach to the opioid crisis, and Veer isn’t sure whether this will impact the opening of the local supervised drug consumption site.

On Tuesday night, Veer and city councillors congratulated the new MLA for Red Deer North, Adriana LaGrange, and the MLA for Red Deer South, Jason Stephan, as well as premier-designate Kenney.

“We look forward to engaging with our local MLAs on the issues that are important to Red Deer,” she said.

Top of the list is getting new pipelines and other energy infrastructure to strengthen the local economy, she added. Another priority is getting the province to help fund a residential addictions treatment centre in the city.

Veer said no development permit has yet been filed for a private proposal to turn the former Lotus Club into a treatment centre. She hopes the businesspeople behind the effort will communicate with both levels of government on the project.

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