MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY — Investing in infrastructure projects as part of the provincial government’s recently announced Alberta’s Recovery Plan is welcome, especially if it leads to funding of shovel-ready projects in the municipality, says Reeve Bruce Beattie.
Announced last week, the plan outlines the UCP government’s strategy to spur on the provincial economy. It includes reducing the corporate tax rate to eight per cent from 10 per cent as well as increased funding for infrastructure projects such as bridge improvements, upgrades to roads and community airports.
Details of exactly where money will be allocated have not yet been made public.
In May, municipalities — including the county — were asked to provide lists of shovel-ready projects.
The county’s projects include the following: Acme Road bridge project at an estimated cost of $2 million; Twp. Rd. 303 project at an estimated cost of $2.4 million; Acme Road paving project (Rge. Rd. 30-Rge. Rd. 13) at an estimated cost of $17.8 million; and Rge. Rd. 40 (Highway 27-Highway 582) paving project at an estimated cost of $9 million.
Reeve Beattie says he hopes some of the Alberta’s Recovery Plan money will be allocated to those projects.
“I think the idea of spending on infrastructure is a really good idea,” said Beattie. “I don’t know if they will be looking at some of these shovel-ready projects. They asked us to send those in and provide that information. If some of the money flows to those projects, it would be a good thing.
“Those are good investments and that’s where we’d like to see it. That’s important infrastructure and those are the kinds of projects they should be focusing on.”
The Sundre Seniors' Supportive Living facility is a good example of the need for planning prior to building major infrastructure projects, he said.
“That’s the key to any infrastructure project, the planning. Before you ever get around to building anything, you invariably spend a lot of time planning. These projects don’t happen overnight.”
Beattie says he would like to see the government make more investments in higher education.
“In terms of diversifying our economy, having a well educated population is very important. I would like to see more investment in that area.”
He said would rather see tax credits rather than tax cuts.
“Most economists would agree that tax cuts rarely create employment,” he said. “I don’t think there’s much evidence where we’ve seen that idea that reducing corporate taxes increases investment significantly. It generally just means that if there are more profits, the profits go back to the major corporations,” he said.
Alberta’s Recovery Plan also includes a reduction in immigration under the Alberta Immigration Nominee Program.
Didsbury Mayor Rhonda Hunter said the municipality will be examining the plan and awaiting the release of further details from the government.
“There is lots of information in the announcement, and we will need time to look at specifics,” said Hunter. “We will have to decipher what the benefits are to our smaller municipalities and how we can capitalize, how our businesses can benefit from any incentives, programs, projects, and how our citizens will get involved with or have access to the thousands of jobs being created.”
Jason Nixon is the UCP MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and the Minister of Environment and Parks.
“It’s a well-balanced plan that shows we have many different dynamics inside this province and the goal is to get people back to work,” said Nixon. “Everything is about jobs right now and that continues to be the focus.
“I think our goal is to make sure that we haven’t given up on our largest industry, so there's stuff in there on the abandoned well side and other ways we can help the oil and gas industry continue to have liquidity.
“It’s a plan that shows we are also targeting diversification with lots of investment in irrigation and agriculture and other ways to create revenue streams.”
The province will be working with rural municipalities on shovel-ready projects, he said.
Further details of the plan will be released over the coming weeks, he said.
The official Opposition NDP says the plan is flawed and doesn’t focus enough on key needs.
“Children with autism, seniors, families and post-secondary students struggling with record high unemployment will continue to shoulder the cost of the fiscal reckoning,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley.
“It’s a fiscal reckoning for Albertans, but a party for profitable corporations and Jason Kenney's rich friends and insiders. This announcement is an underwhelming and uninspired reaction to the economic crisis we face.”