Depending on who you listen to, the provincial budget announced last week is solid and helpful or a disaster. That’s politics and so predictable as to be fairly useless as news, but for now, here’s what Lesser Slave MLA and Minister of Children’s Services had to say about it, in a phone interview last Friday with The Leader.
“Things are looking up,” she said. “Jobs are up, the deficit is down, but there’s a lot more work to do.”
Some of that work has to do with helping to grow and diversify the economy, which Larivee says the government has had significant success in doing in the past year. She pointed to a program of support for partial crude oil upgrading, which drew a big response.
“It was over-subscribed,” she said. “So we’re doing another one this year.”
Much of what Larivee had to say about the budget generally was so close to what Finance Minister Joe Ceci was saying on every TV news show last week that we won’t bother repeating it. As for local or regional impact, Larivee noted continued support in the budget for an affordable housing project in Slave Lake. It’s part of a $50 million commitment to nine similar projects around the province.
For High Prairie, there’s a $6 million commitment to the health complex, though Larivee did not provide specifics.
The matter of rural crime is on a lot of people’s minds. The budget calls for a $520 million investment.
Larivee also mentioned the government’s commitment to funding more $25 per day daycare spaces. In general, the budget is good news because the services Albertans depend on have not been cut back, she said.
On another topic entirely, Larivee said the province has informed the federal minister of the environment that it is suspending work on caribou range planning, pending “a comprehensive economic impact study.”
Further, the feds have been asked for the funds to do that study, and asked to participate in it. This comes after strong resistance from municipalities and industry to the federally-imposed woodland caribou conservation program. Larivee said there hadn’t been a federal response yet, as of last Friday morning.