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Alberta Budget 2022: What the province plans to build, expand and repair for $20B

Alberta's UCP government laid out its infrastructure priorities in Budget 2022 Thursday, with plans to average $6.7 billion in capital spending over the next three years. 

The spending fades from $7.5 billion this year to just over $6 billion in 2024-25.

The previous NDP government spent $9 billion on capital projects in 2017-18, before dropping that to $6.1 billion the next year.

"Budget 2022 is coming through with another historic investment in healthcare to build capacity in the COVID era. We’re building more hospitals, providing more ICU beds, hiring and training more staff, and performing more surgeries," Premier Jason Kenney said.

The government is hoping the projects funded now will support 31,000 direct and indirect jobs in construction, engineering and other trades over the next three years.

Many of the plans have already been announced by UCP MLAs, but the budget lays out when the province plans to pay for them.

"It's just a lot of sleight of hand. Repackaging existing programs and very creative press release writing," NDP Leader Rachel Notley said.

"They're not making investments in long-term, sustainable, mortgage paying economic diversification and job creation going forward. They're still riding the (resource revenue) rollercoaster."

HEALTHCARE

A large chunk of that cash, $2.2 billion, is intended to increase healthcare capacity. 

Major projects that were previously announced in Red Deer, Calgary and La Crete, will get about $670 million of that.

The government will also spend $49.6 million over three years to begin construction on the redevelopment of the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit at the University of Alberta Hospital Brain Centre. 

That project hopes to increase ICU capacity in the unit from 11 to 24 spaces. It also aims to create 18 new inpatient beds at the University of Alberta Hospital.

The Alberta Surgical Initiative Capital Program, which is intended to reduce wait times, is funded for $133 million over three years. That money is for public, not privately-operated, facilities.

Modernizing continuing care facilities and creating new spaces will cost $204 million over three years.

SCHOOLS

The budget commits $1.5 billion over the next three years for school projects.

A total of 24 new schools will be built over the next two years, at a total cost of $827 million. 

Alberta will also invest $46.5 million over three years to support charter schools. The province is considering adding campuses that could house several charter schools in a single facility.

Maintenance and renewal on existing education buildings will cost $209 million. 

ROADS AND BRIDGES

Building, expanding and repairing roads and bridges across Alberta is forecast to cost $1.8 billion over three years. 

Of that cash, $420 million will go to various highway twinning, widening and expansion projects that are not specified in the budget. 

Additionally, a new bridge near La Crete is funded for $185 million, $120 million is earmarked to twin Highway 11 from Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House, and $400 million is set aside for ongoing ring road projects in Edmonton and Calgary.

MUNICIPALITIES

Alberta will spend $5.8 billion over three years to support projects in cities, towns and smaller communities.

That includes municipal infrastructure projects like roads and bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure and public transit upgrades.

The Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) will provide $485 million in each of the next two years, before it is replaced by the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF).

That amount will rise to $722 million in 2024-25 for the first year of the new LGFF.

A $7.5 million investment in the Red Deer Regional Airport aims to bring low-cost passenger service to that airport, and Sundre will receive the same amount for its wastewater treatment plant.

OTHER PROJECTS

Alberta's Capital Plan provides $806 million over the next three years for public safety and emergency services, including a new Chief Medical Examiner's office in Calgary. Planning studies to increase court capacity in Edmonton and Sherwood Park will cost a total of $2 million, but there is no money set aside to fund construction yet.

The province will also invest $750 million in agriculture and natural resources projects, including $272 million in funding under the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program, and a new Clean Hydrogen Centre of Excellence will receive $10 million. 

Family, social supports and housing will receive $301 million over three years, which includes $55.1 million towards the redevelopment of the Yellowhead Youth Centre.

Projects at post-secondary institutions will receive $209 million through the Capital Plan, with both major projects in Calgary.

This budget also includes $390 million to build high-speed internet networks, primarily for rural Albertans.

Sport, recreation, cultural and community facilities will receive $306 million over the next three years, with most of the major projects in southern Alberta, although $5 million dollars will go to the construction of the McMurray Métis Cultural Centre.

Calgary flood recovery and mitigation projects will receive $473.6 million.

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