By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Alberta’s NDP is planning to get rid of the long-time Community Facility Enhancement Program, and replace it with something leader Rachel Notley says is much better.
Notley, who spoke to the media May 9 at the Logan Boulet Arena on Lethbridge’s northside, said her party plans to introduce a new funding program called Hometown Alberta, which, she claims, will create 1,500 jobs and help municipalities and non-profit organizations build, repair, renovate, upgrade or expand local community facilities, such as sports, recreational, cultural and other public-use spaces.
“We’re here to talk about our plan for building stronger communities overall,” Notley said.
“One of the best ways to make that happen is to support the local gathering places that bring us together as friends and as neighbours.”
The list ranges from Legion halls and arts and culture centres, to playgrounds and places of worship.
“The community halls where we celebrate weddings, graduations; senior centres where we host fundraisers and bingo nights; the recreation centres and sport complexes where we gather to watch our kids score the winning goal . . .and the museums that preserve our history, and the community centres overall that build our social connections with each other. These are the places where we make memories throughout our lives.”
Notley said, however, that four years of government cuts have forced municipalities and non-profit organizations to make tough decisions by putting off or passing up new projects or facility improvements.
“Fewer amenities means fewer opportunities. More infrastructure issues mean less time on the ice or in the pool or on the field. We shouldn’t have to compromise on these important pillars of our communities.”
Hometown Alberta would replace the existing Community Facility Enhancement Program, and increase grant funding by 50 per cent to $75 million annually. It would also add a new $100-million annual capital investment funding stream designed to advance construction through partnerships.
Notley said the increased funding will help projects begin sooner and create jobs faster.
“Under Hometown Alberta, we’ll see hundreds of new projects in every corner of the province.”
Former Lethbridge councillor and Lethbridge East NDP candidate Rob Miyashiro said the program could benefit the city in a number of ways, including helping to twin the Logan Boulet Arena, which has been on the city’s radar for some time.
Toby Boulet, father of Logan who died in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash, expressed his appreciation for the program and said it will ensure that the Logan Boulet Arena has a long future in the city.
“As a former coach and teacher right here in the northside of Lethbridge, I know it is important for our kids to be able to practice sports and grow those skills in our communities. It’s what helps them grow and succeed as people,” Boulet said.
Notley said the program would be implemented “as soon as we could,” but it would first require setting up clear criteria and then allowing applicants time to put together and submit their proposals.
“We would hope to be in a position to announce the first round of projects before the end of the year,” Notley said.