South Peace in the provincial budget

The provincial budget was released on Feb. 28 and has large investments coming to the Peace region.

Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA and Finance minister Travis Toews said this year's budget ensures the province's future by growing and diversifying the economy and strengthening healthcare and education.

“This plan achieves the priorities of Albertans, which include ensuring the government lives within its means,” said Toews.

The South Peace has a few line items included in the provincial budget.

The budget will include $84.1 million over the next two years on the twinning of Hwy. 40 south of Grande Prairie.

The Grande Prairie courthouse expansion or plan for a new building is also part of the 2023 budget, with $1 million dedicated to it.

Peace Wapiti Public School Division has received funding to begin planning for a new high school north of the city.

Northwestern Polytechnic will receive $11.3 million for the development of a power engineering program and instrumentation lab.

An additional $12 million in funding will be available for the existing Rural Remote Northern Program to support physician and recruitment retention.

The province is also putting $237 million over three years into the Alberta Surgical Initiative Capital Program; Grande Prairie is an area that will see an increase in surgical capacity and reduced wait times.

Replacement of the Beaverlodge Municipal Hospital is a step closer with $1 million tagged for planning. The province says the Beaverlodge Hospital is the second oldest hospital facility in Alberta.

“We're also committing $30 million over three years to create 120 more seats in medical degree programs at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, a 40 per cent increase in the total number of seats,” said Toews.

Grande Prairie will also become a Recovery Community offering long-term residential addiction treatment. The province has put $155 million into recovery communities in the budget, with a Red Deer centre opening this month and a Lethbridge facility later this spring.

The province will be dedicating $20 million over three years to help victims of sexual assault.

“Budget 23 commits $1.2 billion in operating funding to public safety and emergency services and $655 million to justice,” said Toews.

The province recently announced $9.7 million will go to the City of Grande Prairie to help with its costs to transition to a municipal police service.

Missing from the new budget are funds for a provincial police service and the Alberta Pension Plan. Toews said there have been no decisions made on either item yet.

“A budget is ultimately a strategic plan laid out numerically for the upcoming year.”

Toews said this year's budget is balanced again, with a forecasted surplus of $2.4 billion.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News