Budget draws concerns

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Upgrades to the High Prairie Airport and two roads near Hilliard’s Bay Provincial Park could be grounded or delayed after designated grant funding was reduced in the March 22 provincial budget.

Big Lakes County Reeve Ken Matthews is most concerned that infrastructure funding for the Strategic Transportation Investment Program has decreased and could hurt local projects.

The county was denied STIP funding last year for a project at the High Prairie Airport to overlay the runway and add lighting, he says.

STIP is also being considered to upgrade roads leading to Shaw’s Point Resort and at Hilliard’s Bay Estates, both committed in the 2018 interim budget.

“If we don’t get funding for those projects, we’ll have to shelf them or look for other funding,” Matthews says.

“We were concerned we would not get funding for that.”

Matthews is pleased funding has increased for the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.

Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk echoes those words.

“I was concerned about the reduction in MSI, but after reading the budget, the MSI reduction is primarily to Edmonton and Calgary,” Panasiuk says.

All the news is not good. Panasiuk is upset the town will still have to pay for some social housing costs to support Heart River Housing.

“I was disappointed the province maintained its 2015 decision to not provide grants in place of taxes funding for properties owned by the Alberta Social Housing Corporation,” he says.

“This downloads about $80,000 to the municipality ratepayers.”

He is also frustrated that no funding was allocated to demolish the old High Prairie Health Complex, or to build new high schools beside the new proposed Northern Lake College consolidated campus.

“In talking with MLAs and various ministers, I know they support the joint high school and college campus concept,” Panasiuk says.

He was also concerned the budget contained nothing on how the government plans to share the cannabis excise tax and no reduction for municipalities for carbon tax.

Overall, he says he does not believe the provincial budget will have much impact on the town and its budget.

 

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