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What the Alberta budget means for Grande Prairie region

Local officials in the Grande Prairie region are pleased with provincial investment into health care, but will continue to advocate for a new highway.

There weren’t any surprises in this year’s provincial budget, said Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton. 

Clayton praised the province for the fiscally conservative approach to the budget.

“That aligns well with the city council’s priority over the last few years of not spending more than the rate of inflation, and overall spending significantly less than the rate of inflation,” she said. 

Clayton said she was pleased to see $126 million being allocated over three years to increase rural and Indigenous access to medical education. 

“I know that the Northwestern Polytechnic and the University of Alberta are working closely with the province to find solutions for our area,” said Clayton. 

“I think that’s a key initiative that we should be quite happy to hear more details in the future,” she said. 

The province committed $129 million annually for the recruitment and retention of physicians who practice full-time in underserved areas. Clayton believes Grande Prairie stands to benefit directly from this funding. 

“We know that our region has been underserved over the last few years in regards to physicians, and in particular general practitioners,” she said. 

Nolan Dyck, the MLA for Grande Prairie, who is a part of the governing United Conservative Party, said the funding will help the city increase the number of doctors that practise here. 

“There was significant dollars extra for family physicians. I’m really excited about it,” he said. 

“I’m hopeful we can continue to see more physicians come.” 

The budget also includes some funding for medical facilities in the region, including an additional $25 million for the Beaverlodge municipal hospital replacement project.

In a statement to CBC, UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti Ron Wiebe said it will “help support better access to health care for residents throughout Grande Prairie-Wapiti and northern Alberta.”

“This new facility will provide great support to our region and will aid our incredible health care workers as they provide critical care to northern Alberta,” Wiebe added. 

No highway construction funding

The budget doesn’t include a line item on the construction of the Highway 40X connector — a new road that would directly link Highway 40, which ends south of Grande Prairie, to the recently constructed Highway 43 bypass west of the city. 

In a statement to CBC, the Alberta Ministry of Transportation and Economic Corridors said the budget will fund the connector’s “preliminary planning and engineering, with design work expected to be completed next year.”

Bob Marshall, reeve of County of Grande Prairie, said they were hoping to see the construction of Highway 40X funded in the budget, and will be “continuing advocating for that in the next budget cycle.” 

The funds to continue with land acquisition and engineering work on the road are still in budget, Marshal noted.

Dyck said he’d continue advocating for Highway 40X in his capacity as an MLA. 

He said the project is important because right now, some heavy traffic is going through the city, including trucks. 

“But if we can bring that around,” he said, traffic in Grande Prairie will be reduced, and the flow of trucks around the city will become freer.

“And so we can actually haul more.” 

“It’s important for not just our traffic flow, but also the speed of getting our natural assets to market.”

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