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Municipal Affairs and Infrastructure
As Alberta’s economy grows, so does our population. As thousands of new Albertans arrive each year, additional roads, schools, medical facilities and public transit infrastructure are needed. And despite unprecedented overspending by the current PC Government, many of our most basic infrastructure requirements have been left unaddressed.
The reason for this is simple. The PC Government has utterly mismanaged the manner in which infrastructure dollars are allocated. Hundreds of millions in infrastructure dollars have been doled out based on political calculation and favouritism rather than on the needs of Albertans. Billions have been spent on facilities the Government can’t afford to staff. Billions more have been wasted on corporate welfare projects such as carbon capture and storage.
Despite repeated requests for the Government’s lists of priority capital projects and the criteria used to arrive at each priority, the PC Government continually refuses to publicly release such information.
The PC Government’s handling of municipalities has been equally poor. The Government’s patchwork of municipal grants and funding programs has resulted in hundreds of millions wasted on middle-management.
Municipalities are unable to implement adequate long-term infrastructure planning as funding is promised, then cut, then promised again. Due to this type of chronic underfunding, many municipalities have increased local property taxes to the point where it has become a major financial burden on individuals and businesses.
The treatment of municipalities by the PC Government follows a familiar pattern – centralize decision-making and financial resources in Edmonton, force the municipalities to raise local taxes and come begging cap-in-hand each year for funding, then claim political credit for doling out cash while wasting countless millions on the bureaucratic process.
Get it Right
Albertans deserve better. A Wildrose Alliance Government would implement the following plan to ensure Albertans get the infrastructure they need at a price the taxpayer can afford:
- Provide municipalities with a legislated long-term funding formula tied to the growth of provincial tax revenues and royalties, rather than continue with the current patchwork of wasteful and bureaucratic municipal granting and funding programs. Local communities, not the provincial bureaucracy, are in the best position to determine where local infrastructure dollars should be spent.
- Conduct a thorough assessment to determine Alberta’s actual infrastructure deficit and prioritize new projects and maintenance to address these needs. The resulting list of priority infrastructure projects and maintenance must be publicly disclosed and any adjustments with accompanying rationale immediately reported. The practice of building schools, medical facilities, and other infrastructure projects based on politics and favouritism must end.
- Restrain provincial per capita infrastructure spending to a level consistent with the Canadian average. Currently, Alberta spends about twice the national average on infrastructure. This overspending drives up inflation, increases business costs and contributes to massive labour shortages during periods of economic growth.
- In consultation and cooperation with municipalities, conduct a review of the entire property taxation regime to ensure business competitiveness as well as fairness to all Alberta ratepayers – especially those individuals on modest and fixed incomes (i.e. seniors).