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Local MLA talks provincial budget

MLA Garth Rowswell says the 2019 budget is following through the commitments the UCP made in the election. The budget saw a three per cent cut in several areas except for health and education.

Rowswell says he’s heard concerns from teachers but for the most part, people have been supportive of the budget. The provincial government is looking to balance the budget, shrink spending and pay off its $63 billion debt.

“They understand that we need to live within our means and we’ve done it before. I’m getting more support than detractors but I’m not discounting the detractors. They have legitimate concerns and I’m trying to make sure they understand the true facts of the budget and how it might impact them.”

The budget showed a $200 million increase to health care for a total of $20.6 billion per year. Rowswell is currently working on passing legislation to help the healthcare system in Lloydminster. One piece is net care which will let both provinces transfer x-rays and lab data. 

Colleges and universities saw a 12.5 per cent reduction for the next four years. Rowswell says he’s been talking to Lakeland College to learn more about their situation.

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“They have other ways to make money and they’ll have to make decisions.”

One of the ways they can get the funding back is by increasing tuition. The budget will remove the tuition freeze and allow post-secondary institutions to raise their tuition up to seven per cent over the next three years.

Another decrease in the budget was funding for Municipal Sustainability Initiative which will be cut by $236 million over three years. Rowswell says the reeves and mayors he’s spoken to understood the cut to MSI funding and would like more consistent steady funding.

“Municipalities will have to dig into their books to find out where they can save money and keep things going. We have to find a way to spend less money and the MSI is going to get reduced to some degree but we think we’re doing it in a prudent way.” 

Rowswell says slashing the corporate tax rate by four per cent in four years will entice oil and gas companies to come back to Alberta which includes the recent move by Encana. The company is planning to move its headquarters out of the province and to the U.S.

“It’s a big ship we want to turn around. That’s the logic behind what appears to be a fairly large tax cut. It is to become one of the most competitive places in North America to come and do business. It ain’t going to get turned around quickly but we have to state our case and try to get people, first, not to leave and then come back.”

Rowswell says the budget effects everyone the same way except for the oil industry which he is committed to bringing Alberta’s energy industry back and providing more jobs for the community.

“I am on the energy caucus so I’ll be quite closely involved with the Energy Ministry and the Canadian Energy Centre. For Lloydminster, we’ve got to get oil right.”

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