Finance Minister Joe Ceci hinted at the possibility of Highway 28 receiving funding in the province’s 2015 budget during his visit to Cold Lake last week.
“There is going to be, in our upcoming budget, a rather substantial increase to the existing capital budget, which will be focused on economic stimulus throughout the province,” said Ceci after meeting with members of the Cold Lake Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 18.
“Places like Highway 28, health facilities and schools throughout the province will probably be recipients of that money going forward.”
Decisions on where to dish out the province’s new capital dollars are currently being made by Ceci and the rest of the NDP government as they form their budget, which will be released at the end of October.
The previous 2015 budget, released by the PC government back in April, had allotted just under $43 million to upgrade a 25-kilometre stretch of Highway 28.
This project would have seen an 11-kilometre section north of Highway 28A up to the bend near Highway 651 and a 14-kilometre section from Highway 651 to the west side of the intersection near Highway 827 receive upgrades.
These plans to revamp what many consider the roughest highway in the province have been put on hold as the NDP has yet to released a new budget since winning the election in May.
“We are working as fast as we can,” said Ceci. “We have only been in power for four months, so it takes some time to get things up and running and to get to know all of the different ministries, those portfolios and what they require.”
Over the course of the past four months Ceci and the NDP government have been conducting a budget feedback process, traveling the province in an attempt to understand where the capital dollars need to be located.
During his time in Cold Lake last week he heard the struggles from the business owners in the Lakeland and responded by saying the upcoming budget will address situations caused by the current economy.
“I heard a lot about the challenge (local business owners) are under with regard to running a business in this depress economic climate. I assured people that I would take those views back to the legislature and my colleagues in cabinet,” said Ceci.
Ceci says that the new budget will include programs and projects that are designed to assist and stimulate small and medium-sized businesses in the province.
After hearing how oil prices have affected the local economy, Ceci plans to take a look at how the province can help the region deal with the state of the economy.
Trevor Benoit, president of the Cold Lake Chamber of Commerce, was impressed with Minister Ceci and enjoyed the opportunity for local businesses to have their opinions heard.
“There were a lot of issues discussed by the local businesses and Joe listened to all of the issues,” said Benoit.
“We are just hoping that our issues have been heard and that we can work with the current government to makes choices, decisions and policies that promote economic growth in Alberta.”