South Peace News
The Alberta Budget delivered Feb. 27 will bring down the province’s deficit by $1.2 billion, and that is a good thing, says Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn.
“Our plan is working,” he said the day after the budget was tabled in the Alberta Legislature.
Locally, the news Rehn can confirm is that plans for dialysis treatment at the High Prairie Health Complex are moving forward. Rehn says he is meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandrow to get a timeline in place so he can release specific dates.
“He told me get the ball rolling.”
However, as far as Rehn knows, there is no money set aside for the old hospital demolition.
“At this point not that I’m aware of,” he says.
While receiving a petition from the High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce March 6, Rehn replied it was still a work in progress.
As for the overall document, Rehn says debt reduction, job creation, investment stimulation, etc. are all key points. Among the highlights are:
- $20.6 billion to provide health services, including $100 million for mental health and addiction strategy, $40 million for an opioid response, and $20 million for palliative care;
- $3.9 billion for community and social services with a focus on more sustainable outcomes;
- $637 million for seniors benefits and housing services;
- $8.3 billion for education, an increase of $100 million as school jurisdictions transition to a new funding model by using reserves and own source funding, and;
- $1.6 billion for children’s services, to ensure children, youth and families have the services and supports they need to thrive.
One thing notably missing is all the reporting and discussion about the budget was funding for highways. It’s probably the number one issue of concern in this area and an issue brought forward in interviews with the Slave Lake Lakeside Leader and South Peace News.
Rehn says there’s apparently no specific commitment for Highway 2 or Highway 88, not that he isn’t fully aware of the frustration regarding the two pothole-filled pieces of infrastructure.
“I’ve heard from many constituents,” Rehn told the Leader, adding he’s spoken to Minister Ric McIvor about the situation and plans to meet him again soon.
“We’re going to accelerate some of the capital plan,” Rehn said.
What he hopes to get from McIvor is a commitment to at least get the bad sections of highway “slotted in to a certain year” in a capital plan, “So we have a plan and people can see.”
Similarly, Rehn told South Peace News he is aware of the “terrible condition of roads” in the area.
“I know we need repairs,” he says.
He also cited the terrible condition of the highway south of High Prairie to the airport as a priority.
Rehn also told the Leader how some physicians are unhappy with the changes to way they are paid.
Rehn replied it all comes down to the McKinnon report. Doctors get paid more than doctors in neighbouring provinces. Costs need to be reduced, so bringing those payments in line with other jurisdictions is one way to do that.
“I feel we’re over-paying them,” he said. “We have to be fair to taxpayers.”