MLA Jason Stephan: Budget, which includes $7M for a Red Deer homeless shelter, will ‘strengthen Alberta’

Thursday, the government of Alberta delivered the budget for the period of April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. The budget has three main components: revenues, expenses and capital.

Revenues

Your government was elected to strengthen Alberta as the best place in Canada to start and grow a business. This overarching focus on jurisdictional competitiveness supports economic prosperity for ourselves and opportunities for our children.

Our platform commitments include restoring lowest business tax rates, and removing red tape and laws discouraging private sector employment and investment.

Increased private sector employment and investment results in increased government revenues. Without taxes from private sector businesses and workers in those businesses, there is no money for government.

We live in challenging times. While Alberta is working to get its own house in order, our efforts to attract employment and investment are undermined by a leaderless, and at times, hostile, federal government.

At the same time, as Albertan families and businesses are working to compete and succeed, some provinces continue to receive perpetual, structural transfer payments, the source of which are those Alberta businesses and families, now totalling over $600 billion.

In this regard, Alberta must act, and not be acted upon. The Fair Deal panel report, which will be released this spring, will inform further actions.

Expenses

Under the NDP, in only four years, cumulative operating deficits reached over $32 billion, exceeding the cumulative value of all homes in Red Deer.

This government was elected to correct this unsustainable trajectory and balance the budget by the end of its mandate.

The MacKinnon Report informs this commitment. The report concluded that a principal cause of our deficit is that Alberta taxpayers pay significantly more for public services than comparator provinces such as B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

It is not in the public interest to force Albertans to pay more for public services. Maintaining such a status quo threatens the sustainability of those services. Therefore, we are focusing on reducing the cost of providing public services, as opposed to reducing public services themselves.

Like Alberta families and businesses, operational spending in government must live within its means. The budget is moving in the right direction, charting a course to balance by 2022-23.

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre expansion

Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced in Red Deer our government will invest $100 million in our hospital. This has been a long-standing need in our community, with many great individuals and community organizations advocating for governments to act in a principled way in making infrastructure investment decisions.

During the election, our premier said health-care infrastructure would be determined in a non-political way, based on merit and need. This promise was kept.

Prior governments failed to support the hospital, allowing an infrastructure deficit to develop. Our health minister, Tyler Shandro, deserves credit for acting when other governments did not.

This investment is paid for by Alberta taxpayers and needs to be spent in a careful and wise manner. The business plan for this investment will be completed later this year. It will include a focus on developing additional capacities outside of our hospital for less complex health care needs, so there is growing capacities in our hospital for more complex needs.

On a parallel basis, as that capacity is developed, there is an opportunity to work together to leverage government dollars to add services to our hospital with a focus on maximizing positive health outcomes for central Albertans and in order of our most pressing needs, including in respect of a cardiac catherization lab at the hospital.

In his announcement, our premier said that improvements in our hospital will be done a collaborative way; we look forward to working in partnership with AHS, frontline professionals in our hospitals, and other key stakeholders, prioritizing needs and finding innovative, cost-effective solutions with a focus on maximizing positive health outcomes for central Albertans.

New 24/7 homeless shelter

In support of requests by our civic leaders, this budget invests $7 million into a 24/7 homeless shelter. It is imperative that this investment form part of a fundamental and profound course correction, as opposed to perpetuating our current status quo.

Some past actions in our community, while well intended, have resulted in unintended consequences. The required course correction must be a balanced and principled approach, supporting individuals seeking to improve their lives, including freedom from addictions, while respecting families and businesses in our community.

Last fall, the supervised consumption site review panel solicited input from our community relating to the social and economic consequences of the overdose prevention site in our community.

The panel’s findings will be released to the public in short order. The findings of the panel, with reference to the needs in our community, will also inform the way forward.

Our community is blessed with many great individuals, families, businesses, churches and other organizations. We look forward to working together to serve and seek improved ways to support our less fortunate in their efforts to help themselves.

Jason Stephan is United Conservative MLA for Red Deer-South

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