Thursday, April 19, 2007

Provincial Budget Day

April 19th is a big day for a lot of people.

Today is the day that we get our first provincial budget from Premier Stelmach. It's an important day for all the players at the Legislature, including the Kevin Taft Liberals who will be looking to see if it provides them any fodder for the expected 2008 election.

It's going to be a big day for municipalities in the province as well. With cities and towns bursting at the seams and starting to look a little threadbare (I'm not too sure if the two go together, but if you live in an Alberta city you know what I mean) they are all hoping for something to come their way.

Grande Prairie is no different, we have a number of city projects that need provincial dollars, or even just their own projects that we'd like to province to commit to doing. Our region got a peek "under the wrapping paper" last week when Stelmach let it slip that the budget had money for a new hospital here.

I hope there's lots of cash in the budget for us - who wouldn't?


If the provincial government opened up the treasure chest and started tossing us all the gold coins we wanted, what would happen? There's an issue related to the treasure chest that needs more attention than it's been getting: capacity. Even if we had all the cash, I'm not sure that the Alberta labour force has the capacity to do all the construction, repair and maintenance that we want, that goes for the Grande Prairie region as well.

Think about that new hospital - the last price tag I heard on it was about $300M. That's a big project, its going to suck up a lot of the construction and trades labour force in the region. So what happens when we go to construct the $50M swimming pool? Will any of the companies have the man power to do both? Will cost of the project go up because companies have to bid high so they can pay more to attract more workers? Or will no one bid?

Last year the city of Grande Prairie had $15M in roadwork that didn't get done. It's not because there was no money - Council and staff budgeted for it.

It's because there wasn't enough capacity with contractors to get it all done. They were doing work for us, working for the private sector, and working for the province and they simply ran out of people, machines and product.

So, today as Premier Stelmach takes his turn opening the chest and presiding over Alberta's booty I hope he throws a few doubloons our way. But, I'm not naive enough to think it's going to solve all our problems and I know that it could well create some new ones.

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