Alberta’s Provincial Budget was released October 27th, 2015. Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland, spoke of what he believes will be benefits of the budget and what worries him for Cold Lake and the Lakeland region.
Mayor Copeland has not received an official copy of the budget, something that’s a little out of the ordinary, he explains, “in years past, I’ve always had a copy of the budget provided for me.” With that being said the Mayor had access to articles and highlights from the budget; he was able to get a good grasp of where the provincial government will be spending, taxing, and cutting back.
The first bit of positive news for Mayor Copeland is Highway 28, “under the Transportation briefing, it looks like Highway 28 is going to get some money. Typically, when [the government does] a capital budget, they identify the next three years where their funding will go. I would like to see if Highway 28 will continue to get significant money, years from now, in say 2018.”
Mayor Copeland says currently 30 kilometres near Red Water, AB have been identified as receiving improvements, “when I drive Highway 28 I do see a bit of work around those curves, near Red Water area that’s pretty dangerous.” The budget highlights are unclear as to whether or not the Red Water area will be the only work done on Highway 28.
Mayor Copeland has long advocated the highway and even coined the term, “The Forgotten Highway” for the stretch of road that connects Edmonton to Cold Lake. “I’m hoping that Highway 28 is finally on the radar and after Highway 63 is fully funded and done maybe there will be energy and big money moved over to Highway 28 to fix all its issues. I’m encouraged that I see Highway 28 and Minister Mason has identified Highway 28 and it’s in the budget.”
As for the average Cold Lake taxpayer, Mayor Copeland warns that there may be an increase on residents’ tax bill, from the educational tax. “It looks like there’s an increase in the educational portion of the municipal taxes. The government is raising increasing the requisition of the amount the municipalities collect on their behalf for education. We won’t know for a while what impact that’ll be for the businesses in the community and the residents of Cold Lake. That’s one little red flag.”
The capital budget was raised by approximately 15% from what was initially identified from the PCs, says Mayor Copeland, “the government is trying to do more capital spending. The economy is slow right now, so this might be a good time to do more.”
“My only concern is the government is blowing money on the operational side,” says Copeland, “it’s a bit troubling even after raising some of their fees for motor vehicle fines and for the Sin Taxes.” The Sin Taxes Mayor Copeland is referring to are the an increase of $5 per cartoon of cigarettes and a 5% increase on alcohol.
The government is needing to borrow money for quite some time, which is troubling to Mayor Copeland, “just to balance the operating budget the government is having to borrow, which is troubling. It’s tied to the huge drop in resource revenue.”
There is some positive take-aways from the budget, says the Mayor, “one star in the capital budget is $4.4 billion that’s been identified for new projects. I’m curious to know what will be involved for new projects.”
Copeland says Alberta got what it bought, “the NDP government ran on a platform of policies that talked about not doing service cuts to the public sector; health, education, etc. They raised the ministries by a couple percent across the board. They’re raising taxes on a couple of things. This is ideology of the NDP government, that’s what they stood for.”
“I’ve always given Premiere Notley credit, they are doing what they said they would when they campaigned in the election. They’re the government for the next few years. You can’t critize them, this is what their party is about, As Albertans, we have to be prepared for more money coming out of our pockets,” states Mayor Copeland.
Mayor Copeland wonders how much of the increased spending on infrastructure will be spent on Cold Lake and the Lakeland region. “Over the next five years $34 billion has been identified for capital projects. What will be interesting to see is, what capital projects in those five years did we, in the Cold Lake-Bonnyville area, get funded for? It’ll be fascinating times here to see where we are four or five years from now and see if big projects in our region got funded.”
The Mayor identifies some of the mayor projects in the region he hopes receives funding:
- Highway 28
- Waterline to Bonnyville
- Cold Lake’s Waste Water Treatment Plant
- School upgrades and new builds
- Hospital upgrades in both Cold Lake & Bonnyville
Mayor Copeland says he’s approach is not a cynical one, “it’s our job, as municipal leaders, to try to lobby as much as we can for our piece of the action. I’m not cynical, it’s my job to lobby as much as I can.”
“What’s troubling initially is Calgary and Edmonton have sucked up a lot of money over the last couple years and the trend looks like it’s going to continue if you look at the Calgary Cross-Cancer Institute and Edmonton’s ring road being funded.”
“There’s a lot of money being funded for the big cities, what we have to do is fight for $100 million of the $34 billion to try to catch some money.”