In a sure sign that the provincial election is right around the corner, the Redford government has announced plans to spend more than $16 billion of taxpayers' money on infrastructure projects over the next three years.
Saying it's high time to loosen up the purse strings for the building of new schools and hospitals and repairing highways and roadways, the Tories are calling the new spending part of their ‘strategic vision for the future' of Alberta.
“Infrastructure projects are investments in communities and families,” said Premier Alison Redford. “Hundreds of projects underway across the province will provide more classrooms, improve access to health care, support community infrastructure and enhance our road network.”
The new funding will go to a myriad of projects, including 28 health capital projects worth $4 billion, and 56 school projects, including 15 new schools, and upgrades of more than 1,000 kilometres of highways.
The capital plan also includes $5.6 billion combined support for municipal infrastructure over three years for the Municipal Sustainability Initiative and municipal transportation and water infrastructure grants.
While no one in West Central Alberta would argue with the need for the region's roads and highways and schools and hospitals to be adequately funded and maintained, the timing of the new funding announcement raises a few questions.
For one, why does it seem that every time an election rolls around the government announces major spending projects like this one? Can voters perhaps be excused for being a little cynical about the timing of such major funding announcements?
The opposition parties, of course, say the Tories' well-worn practice of opening up the purse strings just before elections is all about buying votes with public money, all about spending money now while leaving things underfunded in the off-election years.
On the other side, the government is, at least according to Premier Redford, only concerned with investing in “communities and families”.
Putting the rhetoric aside for a moment, the fact is there is a real and growing need for upgrades to key infrastructure across the province, including in every town and county in West Central Alberta.
Whether it's much-needed changes to interchanges along the key QE II corridor, the need for new hospitals in many communities, or the importance of keeping highways up to standard so they can serve vital industries such as oil and gas and tourism, proper and adequate infrastructure funding is a must for Alberta's well-being.
If the province is to continue to grow and prosper in this post-recession economy, public spending on key infrastructure must continue, regardless of which party is in power following the upcoming 2012 provincial vote.