Elk Point, like many Lakeland communities is looking at how the Alberta Budget, which was released Tuesday, will affect their residents. Councillor Lorne Young address some of the benefit he sees in the budget and some concerns he has for the residents of the town.
Some promising highlights that stuck out to Young, who also sits on the St. Paul Education Regional Division #1 School Board, “it looks like the government is reinstating the STEP program (Student Temporary Employment Program). That helps subsidize the cost of hiring summer students. It could be any position for the town; the library, tourist information booth, public work, and temporary summer employment.”
“Another thing [Council] noticed is, there’s some money put aside for job creation,” Young says the Town is excited to research into this more, “we’re not sure yet if municipalities can apply for this or not. It’s up to $5000 grant for creating new jobs. It’s an incentive for small business.” Like many rural communities, Elk Point is home to many small businesses, so any funding that benefits the business sector, benefits the town as a whole, says Young.
Because the Budget is so new, Young and fellow Councillors have yet to really dive into the fine details of the document. Young explains another highlight that the Town will be investigating more is the NDP government plans for infrastructure spending. “The government is going to be doing some pretty significant spending on infrastructure capital over the next four years. A lot of that is going to be spent on schools and hospitals, no doubt. [The government] has also identified some highway work, and they’ve said they aren’t forgetting about small communities and our infrastructure; such as roads, sewers, and waterlines.”
“The most local capital spending I saw was Highway 28,” Young says he’s pleased to see the highway in the budget.
Plans are in their infancy, which Elk Point’s Council understand, explains Young, “we don’t have any details on it yet, but [the government] has made a commitment that there’s going to be significant money spent.”
Elk Point recently upgraded their waterlines and sewer systems, Council is hopeful they may be able to use some of the funds put aside for this kind of improvements to pay back loans the Town used to upgrade their systems. “We’re hoping some of the money can go to some of the debt we occurred because we had to act sooner than later to put in treated water storage, waterline development, and upgrades to our sewer systems.”
“A big source of funding for small communities like ours is the MSI funding (Municipal Sustainability Initiative Funding),” Young explains Council is eager to get the details on the promised increases to this funding.
Young explains that if there’s any concerns he has with the Budget, it may come from the amount of spending the government has planned and where the money to fund the spending will come from. “They’re going to be doing this with a lot of borrowed money and borrowed money needs to be paid back, so hopefully there’s a plan for that, as well.”
“They want to maintain front line services, education and health services. We’ve heard spending may go towards seniors housing; which would be of interest to the Town. There’s talk of additional support for seniors, and that’s always of interest to us. With our MD foundation, running various lodges and senior housing, we’re always looking at enhancements.”
One of the improvements the NDP government pinpointed was fire safety in senior housing, explains Young, “some of these lodges were built before sprinkler systems being standard, so the government wants to address that.”
“We’re cautiously optimistic, there’s a lot of detail that’s not there yet.”