By Nikki Jamieson
Alta Newspaper Group – Coaldale
Alberta will be placing a strong emphasis on maintenance projects this summer to help get people back to work.
In a press conference for members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association last Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said as part of their economic response to the pandemic, they were doubling their budget for capital and maintenance projects.
This will see an additional $1 billion added to the province’s existing $937 million budgeted for capital maintenance and renewal (CMR) funding for the 2020-21 fiscal year and accelerate their capital plan. Kenney said this was a quick way to get thousands of people back to work.
“It’s quick because unlike large scale infrastructure projects, the capital maintenance budget, it’s relatively easy to scale up,” said Kenney. “We don’t have to go through a complicated procurement process, we could just get to work right away, and because construction season starts now, this is one lifeline for people who are currently facing unemployment.”
Answering a follow-up question on the specifics of the additional funding and timing, Kenney said it would include $410 million for transportation projects, including $16 million for operating, which covers pothole repair across the province.
“This is on top of a $6.9 billion capital plan that was already in our budget for this year. By the way, we have a $19.3 billion capital budget for the next three years, so we were already spending historic levels on infrastructure, because of the weakness in the economy, but now because of the crash, we’ve defined construction as an essential service. Dr. (Deena) Hinshaw has signed off on that. So as long as our construction operators closely follow the public health orders on hygiene and so forth, they can safely operate,” said Kenney. “We want to do this now because construction season begins now, we don’t want to lose a day in the construction season.”
Kenney said there are 140 projects currently in planning and design phase for overall infrastructure, which include school maintenance and improving local roads.