Veer remains cautiously optimistic for hospital, shelter funding from province

Mayor Tara Veer says she was disappointed to see the provincial budget tabled Thursday contain no funding for either Red Deer Regional Hospital Expansion or a 24/7 shelter in our city.

But she expressed cautious optimism Friday morning that funding for both projects will come in the next provincial budget in late March or early April.

“If we weren’t getting indications that there was at least support in principle for those projects, then I think our response would be very different,” she said during a news conference on Friday. “But I think, obviously, at some point we need to see on those specific files.”

Veer essentially said she’s willing to give the UCP Government the benefit of the doubt given they’ve only been in power for about six months.

Veer feels particularly confident in regards to the 24/7 shelter for the next budget. The previous NDP Government had committed $7 million for a shelter in Red Deer prior to being defeated in the provincial election in May.

Securing hospital expansion funding, she cautions, will take a measured approach.

“Our community really needs to pull together in terms of what we need to see in the short-term, medium and long-term so that we can have a phased implementation plan because if we hold out for one significant capital amount then we may continue to see deferrals,” she explained.

Veer is pleased to see the province maintain its funding commitments for Red Deer College’s transition to becoming a university and for the Red Deer Justice Centre. She also says an additional $50 million over four years for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) will be a welcome boost to local crime fighting efforts.

Red Deer will continue advocating for several new Crown Prosecutors from the previous announcement of 50 for the province as a whole. It is also hoped that Red Deer will receive some of the previously announced 4,000 addictions treatment spaces as The City continues to work with the province on implementing mental health and addiction services and opioid response strategies.

All in all, The City of Red Deer says there were very few surprises in Thursday’s budget and that they will work to maintain the programs and services citizens expect them to provide.

The City had already accounted for a drop in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding in preparing its capital plan. MSI funding will remain the same in 2019-20 before decreasing by nine per cent the following year.

Municipalities will also see a province-wide reduction of $30 million in grants in place of property taxes paid by the Provincial Government by 2023 compared to the amounts received in 2018. The amount will be reduced by 25 per cent in 2019-2020 with a further reduction of 25 per cent the following year.

Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci says the impact on property taxes won’t be known until April once the municipal operating budget and provincial education requisition have been determined.