The 2008 provincial budget promises improvements to highways, infrastructure, hospitals and schools to manage the growth of Alberta.
The budget is an increase of $3.9 billion, or 21 per cent from the 2007 provincial budget.
The budget also promises $1 billion in savings to businesses and residents in the province with the elimination of healthcare premiums by January 1, 2009.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins believes that the increased budget reflects the growing population of Alberta and is pleased with the money that will be used to benefit Ponoka and Lacombe.
“I think it is a spending budget, it is an increase of 9.7 per cent of last year that is not as bad as it seems because our population has increased by 68,000 and our income and inflation has also increased so we need to spend this type of money to keep up with the demands in our economy and in our society,” said Prins.
Prins predicts that Ponoka will see the benefits that spending this money will bring.
“I think there will be some increase spending on transportation and infrastructure so this will be obvious to the Ponoka and area population in the next year and I think the greatest thing for people around here is the elimination of health care premiums. I think there is going to be increased spending on policing, there will be additional police and crown prosecuters put in and there will be increased funding for crime prevention, law enforcement and treatment of mental illness.”
Prins believes that most people will be pleased with having extra money in their pockets.
“For the majority of people are still paying their own premium and this will immediately put $500 to $1,000 in their hands and they may need this money for essential things and it may add to their ability to spend money and it should be good for consumers.”
There are mixed views on the budget and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is not pleased with the new budget.
“Fiscal discipline seems to be something this government thinks it can continue to put off into the distant future,” said Danielle Smith, CFIB’s Director of Provincial Affairs for Alberta in a press release. “Yet Alberta is already the highest spending provincial government in the country – double-digit spending increases are not responsible or sustainable.”
The new budget includes $3.3 billion for health facilities and equipment, $1.7 billion for schools, $1.5 billion for post-secondary facilities, $5.2 billion for provincial highways, $5 billion for municipalities and $1.1 billion for housing.