The provincial budget is getting a varied response but what is certain is that it will affect the Lakeland. The plan, announced last Thursday from the UCP government is to chop some funding and freeze other money to try and returned to balance books by 2023.
Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says he’s thumbed through pages of the budget and while the limitations in funding are going to take work to get around, he isn’t shocked they’re now a reality.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise, this budget. The UCP ran on a very conservative, ‘Reduce the Borrowing, reduce the spending’ platform.”
Of note on the chopping block was the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, an infrastructure grant program for places like Bonnyville and Cold Lake that will see its funding cut in 2020-2021.
Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski says the loss of the funding is a huge blow to their budget, which is already in the works.
“It’s craziness. Couple this with the suspension of the ID-349 funding, it’s basically devastating. In the town of Bonnyville, in the first go-round with the budget, we’re looking to find around $5.7 million in terms of funding because we’re going to have to defer projects.”
Copeland says anytime money like the MSI funding is taken away, the ripple effect in the community is felt.
“It’s going to be significant. We think it will be a couple of hundred thousand dollars each year going forward. It will be taking about 10 to 15 percent of money out of our hands to invest in local projects in Cold Lake. That will probably affect a lot of local contractors.”
Meanwhile, Sobolewski says his group will be looking at stretching the budget they have this year even if that means deferring projects down the road.
“We are not going to adopt a provisional budget with these types of deficits and hope on a wing and a prayer. We are actually going to have to go into it and look at it realistically.”
Other cuts in the budget include funding for post-secondary education and public service salaries.