The Grande Prairie region will benefit from new lines in the province’s 2024 budget released Feb. 29. 

The Beaverlodge Hospital replacement project was allocated $25 million over three years. 

“It’s a little bit of a surprise,” said Beaverlodge Mayor Gary Rycroft. “I thought there would be mention of it in the budget, but $25 million seems a little higher than we thought.”

Construction of the $170 million replacement for the hospital in Beaverlodge is set to start this spring, a result of a P3 partnership between the town and Landrex. 

The province has tagged $6.7 million to the project this year, with another $8.2 million in 2025, and $10.3 million in 2026.

Rycroft says the funding will go towards the planning and engineering of the project and said should stay the same with the current funding.

Beaverlodge is so important,” said Grande Prairie MLA Nolan Dyck, noting the future health centre will bring additional health care to much of the north.

“It’s an important area to cover, so thankful for that money to continue to build our health care here in the North.”

Dyck said the provincial budget had a significant focus on healthcare and education.

“In health and education, we saw a significant budget increase over the years I think it was just over 4 per cent on both,” he said.

Cash for roads, education and health care

The provincial budget includes $24 million for the twinning of Hwy. 40 south of the city and the widening of the highway ($15 million) between Hinton and Grande Cache.

Dyck says he will continue to advocate for more funding to complete the Hwy. 40 project.

Northwestern Polytechnic is also expected to receive $9.3 million for the power engineering and instrumentation lab development; a portion of that funding was previously announced. 

The budget includes $6.6 billion for physician compensation and development programs, including $129 million for recruiting and retaining physicians in underserved areas, a $12 million increase for the existing Rural Remote Northern program and $12 million in enhancements to physician support programs.

Dyck said he is grateful for the family physician’s funding, which he believes will bring more doctors to the Grande Prairie area. 

“I think Grande Prairie and area has a fantastic opportunity to recruit and retain physicians,” he said, noting attractants such as the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital, affordable housing, and diverse cultures in the region. 

The 2024 budget also allocates $126 million over three years to the Rural Physician Expansion Program “to increase rural and indigenous access to medical education and increase the number of family medicine and generalist physicians.”

The province says a 4 per cent increase was made to the Education ministry for a total of $9.2 billion.

Creating Rural Health Professional Training Centres and expanding physician education will receive $62 million over three years. Additionally, $126 million over three years will be put towards the “Rural Physician Expansion Program to provide rural, indigenous and other learners with increased access to medical education.”

Apprenticeship programs will receive $102 million over the next three years to accommodate an additional 3,200 seats and program updates.

Post-secondary schools will receive $10 million in operational funding for mental health professional spaces. Northwestern Polytechnic (NWP) said additional funding is needed to address student mental health, as the institution “cannot keep up with demand.” 

The development of recovery communities and children and youth mental health facilities has $328 million in capital funding ($191 million from the province and $137 from the federal government). 

Drought and flooding

The budget includes $75 million for the flood and drought program renewal and $418 million in capital funding over three years to expand water supply and storage infrastructure.

The flood and drought capital projects include irrigation projects to support farmers and agriculture producers ($262 million) and water infrastructure projects to ensure necessary irrigation water supply throughout the province ($147 million).


Wildfires

The budget also included increased funding for wildfire efforts, with $151 million in operating expenses to enhance wildfire response, readiness, planning, and operations.

Additionally, $55 million in capital funding will go to new wildfire-fighting equipment and facilities.

Read more about the recent wildfire announcement in our story on page XX.

Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Ron Wiebe did not respond to a request for an interview before press time. 

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 07, 2024 at 08:59

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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