In the hours after Alberta’s budget was announced, one word was on Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen’s mind: disappointing.
“A few projects identified specifically for Lethbridge, I honestly thought I missed a page because it was just stuff. I looked at some of the other communities and the budgets they got,” Hyggen said.
“I’m a little disappointed, I’ll say that.”
The mayor’s main concern is health — the catheterization lab at Chinook Regional Hospital has no funds.
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“Just last year, council asked me to write a letter to the provincial government and we’ve been advocating for this since then, so I take it for granted that we’re going to do this,” Hyggen said. “It’s a healthy thing and it’s going to help Medicine Hat, the surrounding area, Lethbridge, and relieve Calgary of taxes, which means less transfers there.”
“I believe it’s still on the list for the next budget. I’m still seeking confirmation of that,” said Lethbridge-East MLA and deputy chancellor Nathan Neudorf. “It’s one of the things I’ve been advocating for, but my biggest challenge is that it’s not on the priority list (of Alberta Health Services), and it’s not on the list at all until the summer of 2018. In 2022, just two weeks away from that budget Nine months,” Neudorf said.
Funding for the Lethbridge area includes $11.2 million over three years for an expansion of the hospital’s kidney dialysis program and $5 million this year for an irrigation program.
But critics say that fell short of expectations.
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“The Lethbridge-East MLA is also infrastructure minister and deputy prime minister, but I’m appalled that, frankly, he has nothing for our city,” said Shannon Phillips, Lethbridge-West MLA and NDP financial critic.
“Honestly, I’m a little confused about this,” Neudorf said. “I listed everything the City of Lethbridge has asked for in the past four years and almost every one has been funded, from exhibition parks to airports, (University of Lethbridge) deferred maintenance, broadband, 3 Highway twinning.”
“The investment is there, both capital and planning, and I’m very pleased with this budget and the balance it achieved.”
On Wednesday, the province also announced the opening of a new Kindergarten to Grade 6 Catholic school in the city’s west end.
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It will house about 450 students, according to Holy Spirit Catholic School District officials.
“We are very excited about the announcement of Westside Catholic Primary School,” said Board Chair Carmen Momourquette. “We’ve been dealing with a space crisis for years.”
École La Vérendrye of Conseil Scolaire Francosud is raising funds for its gym project. Funding was also allocated for planning the modernization of Galbraith Elementary School in the Lethbridge School District.