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Innisfail's mayor gives provincial budget passing grade

While MSI funding is lower, mayor Jean Barclay likes regional investment for Red Deer hospital and airport
MVT Innisfail provincial budget 2022
The provincial budget handed down on Feb. 24 will give Innisfail less money to fund important infrastructure projects but Innisfailians will benefit with the funding for expansions to the Red Deer Regional Hospital and the Red Deer Regional Airport. File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – The town will have to get by with the expected reduction in provincial MSI funding but there was good news last week that the long sought-after provincial government commitment to expand the Red Deer Regional Hospital has finally come.

The Alberta government tabled its 2022 budget on Feb. 24, one that’s relying heavily on increased oil and gas revenues and expected to hand the province a surplus of at least $511 million.

However, the province kept its word that vital MSI funding for municipal infrastructure improvements would be lower.

In Innisfail’s case for 2022, the town is projected to receive $847,106 in capital MSI funding, which includes its Basic Municipal Transportation Grant (BMTG). The province is also giving Innisfail $65,040 in operating funding to bring the total 2022 MSI to $912,146.

In 2021, the town received $1,618,126 in capital MSI funding, along with an additional BMTG component of $470,820. There was also operating funding of $65,040 for a total 2021 MSI of $2,153,986. The MSI amount was front-loaded in 2021 to help all municipalities recover from the pandemic and provide flexibility to ensure priority capital projects could continue.

“We expected this. We knew it (lower MSI) was coming. It was certainly no surprise, and I think as a region the budget had a lot of good news in it,” said Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay. “I am grateful to see the investment in the Central Alberta region. The price of oil has helped this budget and hopefully creating a surplus. As long as that price stays up there, we will be OK.”

She was especially pleased with the province’s announcement to commit to a $1.8 billion expansion at the Red Deer Regional Hospital; a project that will begin with a $193 million investment over the next three years.

The expansion will include 200 new in-patient beds, increasing hospital capacity from 370 beds to 570 beds, as well as a new cardiac catheterization lab.

Barclay also noted the budget included funding for the Red Deer Regional Airport expansion project, an investment of $7.5 million over three years.

“It’s good news for Central Alberta. The more extensive services there is the better it is for the region. We know that Red Deer Regional Hospital has needed expansion for a number of years,” said Barclay, noting the project’s completion timeline is not until 2030/31. “Hopefully it will help with attraction and retention of physicians and nurses and we will have a world-class facility in Central Alberta.”

However, Barclay added it was imperative for the province to move as quickly as possible on the hospital expansion project without any unnecessary delays.

“It’s critical to get this going. We’ve heard from physicians at the hospital about how critical this is. It’s now making sure this gets going and gets completed,” said Barclay, adding the hospital is “more than just a building” and it’s equally imperative that staffing is increased. “That’s a big part of the equation as well. There’s been some difficulty in attracting physicians and nurses."

“It’s important that we have a facility that is attractive for people to work at,” she said, adding a new catheterization lab will be a huge benefit for many. “Currently people who need that kind of service have to primarily go to Edmonton for that. The more things we can get closer to home the better it is.”

Barclay also noted funding for the provincial Community Facility Enhancement program (CFEP) has increased by $15 million. The CFEP program is sought after by municipalities to help with the cost to either build, renovate or upgrade public facilities, notably for recreation.

“That is something (non-profits) tend to apply to for community projects,” said Barclay.  She said local non-profits could be looking at the CFEP this year to help fund a new playground and outdoor rink.


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