Residents voice budget concerns with finance minister

By VERNA MURPHY, Connect Weekly

Alberta Finance Minister and President of the Alberta Treasury Board Joe Ceci was in Fort McMurray on August 7, as part of an ongoing series of pre-consultation budget meetings being held across the province. The meetings began in Red Deer on August 3 and will continue to September.

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Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci

MLA Ceci met with the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Melissa Blake and members of council, and held an additional meeting at the Golden Years Society that saw a wide cross-section of groups represented, such as advocates for our social profit groups, day cares, schools, seniors and Keyano College.

During his presentation, Ceci said the NDP hoped to introduce a fair graduated income tax system, and would be reviewing resource royalties and the climate change plan. The budget will be tabled in October, but Ceci said that the residents of Alberta will not see a balance budget until the 2018-2019 session.

With the oil prices being lower in the last year, Ceci said it is “an economic reality” and hopes that his government will be able to implement some economic diversification in the coming years.

Several times during the session; Ceci referenced a report – that will be out in the fall – by David Dodge. Dodge is the former Governor of the Bank of Canada and he is currently working on a report, which will have recommendations about how the NDP should handle capital project spending.

During the time that members of the audience were asked for their input and a wide-range of issues were brought up that were specific to Fort McMurray.

Local resident Diane Slater said she would like to see more in the budget for seniors; especially some funding for seniors to make accommodations to their homes that may be needed in order for them to stay at home longer, rather than moving to a government-run facility. Ceci said all this would be taken back to the Minister of Health and Seniors,

MLA for Edmonton-Glenora Sarah Hoffman, who he believed had the same goals for seniors. Several representatives from Keyano College spoke about the need for more money for both infrastructure and operating. Ceci conceded that he had been hearing that already in these early meetings, from other educational facilities, and the current government will be looking at what that funding stands at, and said that it will “be taken into consideration within the budget.”

“The NDP government has something in the works called a Working Family Enhancement, which will help all parents, whether working or on social assistance to help with the cost of childcare,” Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said.

Many spoke about the need for more regulated childcare spaces, and infrastructure for wages for workers, and more new facilities. In response, Ceci said. “The NDP government has something in the works called a Working Family Enhancement, which will help all parents, whether working or on social assistance to help with the cost of childcare.”

Tracy MacKinnon, the chair of the Fort McMurray Catholic School Board was thankful the money was put back by the NDP for the education system, which had been earmarked by the Prentice government to be cut. She said work still needs to be done on capital projects, as well as, more money for operations and transportation.

Albertans unable to attend the pre-consultation budget meetings can participate online at www.budget.alberta.ca. Residents have until Monday, September 14, 2015 to provide online input.

– Connect Weekly –