Speaking in Leduc Friday, Transportation and Economic Corridors Minister Devin Dreeshen said even though the projects aren’t landmarks or tourist attractions, “they are vitally important in Albertans’ everyday life”

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Alberta’s government is touting new spending on water and wastewater infrastructure across the province after municipalities criticized the budget for failing to support the needs of a growing population.

Budget 2024 earmarks $481.9 million in grants for municipal water programs over three years, an increase of $73.9 million from 2023, or 18 per cent.

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Speaking in Leduc Friday, Transportation and Economic Corridors Minister Devin Dreeshen said even though the projects aren’t landmarks or tourist attractions, “they are vitally important in Albertans’ everyday life.”

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That funding includes $206.5 million for the Alberta Municipal Water and Wastewater Program, $237.7 million for Water for Life, and $37.7 million for the First Nations Water Tie-In Program. According to the budget, the government is putting $539 million over three years to expand and enhance municipal water and wastewater infrastructure, including for the Sundre Wastewater Plant and Capital Region Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Following the release of the budget in February, Tyler Gandam, president of Alberta Municipalities, said there is a $30 billion infrastructure deficit across the province.

Alberta Municipalities has said the budget is still $1 billion short for things like sidewalks, roads, underground infrastructure, and water and wastewater facilities.

‘We’re all in this together’

Dreeshen said Friday while municipalities are faced with aging infrastructure, so too is the province, with a 64,000-lane-kilometre highway network that needs investments.

He said water, road, transit, and bridge funding totals more than $900 million each year for the next three years. He also pointed to $724 million in funding through the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF), which provides cash for local infrastructure initiatives through the municipal affairs ministry — a total of $2.4 billion over three years.

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“The combination of those two investments, I think, goes a long way from the province to help out municipalities, and you don’t have to look very far to Saskatchewan and other provinces where provincial governments do not help out municipalities at the same level that Alberta does,” said Dreeshen.

“We’re all in this together and we all have the same constituents,” he said, adding the province does needs assessments and looks at local growth potential to prioritize which projects get funding.

“We do have a bias towards regional water systems because you have economies of scale, when municipalities work together across their boundaries,” said Dreeshen.

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Lars Hansen, Leduc city councillor and chairman of the Capital Region Southwest Water Services Commission, said at the announcement the province provided $2.3 million in grant funding in 2022 to help fund the $21-million Nisku Booster Station, expected to be built this year and operational next winter.

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“We know it’s not just for the people who live here today, but it’s also about planning for the people who live here in the future. This critical infrastructure supports sustainable growth in each of our communities by ensuring members have access to water for new homes and businesses,” Hansen said.

While the government has pegged population growth and inflation at 7.4 per cent in 2023-24, and forecasts it to be 6.2 per cent in 2024-25, Alberta Municipalities has said that the average cost of repairing infrastructure has gone up by about 28 per cent.

Overall, the budget increases spending by 3.9 per cent.

lijohnson@postmedia.com

X: @reportrix

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