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Alberta Budget 2024: Here's what Calgary gets

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The Alberta government unveiled its "responsible plan for a growing province" Thursday afternoon and it comes with $73.2 billion in spending for 2024-25.

That spending includes about $2 billion in major projects and upgrades to Calgary over the next three years., including an extension of Calgary's Blue Line LRT, more student spaces at the University of Calgary and support for the city's massive Event Centre project.

Heading north... to the airport?

Some of the money heading Calgary's way includes $667 million for LRT projects, including money for Green Line construction. Another line of the city's CTrain network will also get more money and it could eventually lead to a route to Calgary International Airport.

Alberta is providing $43.4 million to help extend the Blue Line to 88 Avenue N.E. There's also $2 million in continued funding to explore the feasibility of connecting that line to the YYC Calgary International Airport.

A previous city report looking into an Airport Transit Connector projected the overall cost to link the Blue Line to the airport at around $600 million. The report from administration noted the possible connector was "dependant on future construction of Blue Line N.E. to 88 Ave. Station" and estimated 13,000 riders could take the route by 2048.

That same report estimated the cost to connect the Blue Line from Saddletowne to 88 Ave. N.E. would be about $148 million.

Student spaces

Included in the budget is a plan to provide the University of Calgary with $55 million to increase the amount of spaces in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The money is expected to start flowing to the school in 2025 and is anticipated to create an additional 1,000 spaces in STEM.

Overall, Alberta Education spending is set to see a 4.4 per cent increase in 2024-25 to reach $9.3 billion.

Capital funding includes $1.9 billion to plan, design and build new schools and $103 million to increase modular classroom space in areas of the province where it's urgently needed.

Health care

Budget 2024 also sees health-care spending growing by 4.4 per cent overall.

Capital health projects in Calgary include $103 million to add 420 long term care spaces at the Bethany Continuing Care Centre.

Hospitals are getting some help, too, with $70 million going towards increasing capacity at the Foothills Medical Centre's NICU and $67 million to redevelop the emergency department at the Peter Lougheed Centre.

The province will pitch $48 million for the Calgary Cyclotron Facility to manufacture radiopharmaceutical kits. There's also a line item of $700,000 to relocate patients of the Northwest Dialysis Centre to the Richmond Road Diagnostic Centre.

Roads, rinks and officers

Alberta's new budget also pledges hundreds of millions of dollars towards Calgary projects already announced.

The province's contribution to the new Event Centre and community rink is on the books for $267 million in this budget. The rest of its $330 million commitment for road upgrades and Saddledome demolition costs are expected in the next three-year budget cycle.

Previously announced plans to hire 50 more front-line Calgary Police officers is part of a $10 million pledge between this city and Edmonton.

Updates to Olympic Plaza and the expansion of Arts Commons will cost the province $7.8 million.

The province has also set aside $524 million for the ongoing work to upgrade Deerfoot Trail, but in its budget it admitted this year’s funding commitment of $156 million is down from last year’s $187 million toward the project.

The Alberta government says that’s required "to align with expect project timing."

What's not in the budget

Earlier this week, Mayor Jyoti Gondek voiced her wish list for what she'd like to see from the province.

Not included in Budget 2024 is a provincial commitment to help fund the Foothills Multisport Fieldhouse project or money for a Bus Rapid Transit expansion to north central Calgary.

Calgary mayor disappointed

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek voiced her disappointment in the provincial budget’s contributions to the city, but said she isn’t surprised calling it an “austerity budget.”

“Some areas have kept pace with inflation, while others have not. I’m unsure of the rationale about where to invest and where not to,” Gondek said.

“In the end, this budget ignores the present realities facing Calgarians during the affordability and housing crisis.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks with reporters at city hall on Feb. 29, 2024. (CTV News)

The mayor questioned the provincial government’s investment in affordability and housing measures, referencing the Alberta Is Calling campaign, meant to attract residents from other provinces.

“We remain concerned that Alberta is calling, but there’s no place for people who are coming here to call home,” Gondek said.

“While there is funding set aside at a provincial level for affordable housing, it’s not clear how much of that will come to Calgary.”

The funding for the CTrain Blue line extension – of $43 million – is good news, Gondek said, despite the city asking for $53 million. She also highlighted money set aside for downtown revitalization projects at the Arts Commons and Olympic Plaza.

“And it’s very encouraging to see dedicated funds for wildfire and drought mitigation, as well as funding for SR1, the Springbank Reservoir,” she said.

According to the mayor, the province will be increasing the amount of money they take from the city for property taxes, which will result in an increase on residents’ property tax bills.

“We were told a year ago that the provincial government would entertain letting municipalities keep more of the property taxes that we collect here,” Gondek said.

“With this budget, I can now confirm for you that the province is in fact taking $96 million more than last year, that’s a 12 per cent increase, as opposed to holding the line or letting us keep more property taxes here as had been promised.”

Chamber generally pleased

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce said it is generally pleased with the 2024 budget, prioritizing fiscal responsibility while still investing in key areas for businesses.

“We see that there’s a lot of key investments in diversification, in decarbonization that really will help spur the success of various industries in Calgary,” Ruhee Ismail-Teja, the vice president of policy and external affairs with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said.

Some highlights from the budget for the chamber include funding for the Alberta Carbon Capture Incentive Program and the Petrochemicals Incentive Program, which Ismail-Teja highlighted as important initiatives, along with agricultural support and downtown revitalization.

The chamber, however, would have liked to see further investments for small businesses, technology and innovation and housing affordability.

“Small businesses are really the engine of our economy, 95 per cent of businesses in Calgary are small and they continue to face a lot of headwinds, particularly as we think about the economic uncertainty ahead,” Ismail-Teja said.

“And also considering the importance of the tech and innovation sector, we would have liked to see increased funding for incubators, accelerators, for a broader digital strategy and advancing the broadband work that they’re doing just a little bit faster.”

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