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Alberta NDP critical of UCP infrastructure bill

Posted on November 24, 2021 by Sunny South News

By Cole Parkinson
Sunny South News

The Alberta government has introduced Bill 73 Infrastructure Accountability Act that will legislate a governance framework, including criteria to guide how capital project decisions and spending are prioritized.

The UCP say this will “increase transparency, accountability and remove politics from the process of building Alberta’s public infrastructure supporting Alberta’s Recovery Plan” and “also legislates the development and regular review of a 20-year strategic capital plan.”

“We know the demographics and technology change and the government must build infrastructure today in response to tomorrow’s needs,” stated Prasad Panda, Minister of Infrastructure at a media conference in late October.

“Alberta’s government is taking the politics out of building public infrastructure. The Infrastructure Accountability Act gives Alberta taxpayers certainty that their money is being spent on the critical public infrastructure projects that our province most needs.”

In response, the Alberta NDP issued a statement last week stating the bill “currently before the legislature must be fixed in three critical areas.”

“We all use public infrastructure each and every day,” said Joe Ceci, NDP Critic for Municipal Affairs in the release. “When you’re driving to work or picking up the kids from practice, you’re driving on a public road. When you take the kids to school, they’re learning in a school built by public funds. When you need life-saving care, you’re receiving it in a hospital built by all Albertans. All the goods we need to live our lives come to us through a supply chain that relies on public infrastructure.”

The NDP say the bill is vague despite it trying to lay out clear criteria on how projects are selected for provincial funding.

The provincial government says there are six criteria in the act to evaluate how a capital project will: address health, safety, and compliance needs; align with government priorities and strategies; foster economic activity and create jobs; improve program delivery and services; consider life-cycle costs and whether it will generate a return on investment; and enhance the resiliency of communities.

“Provincial infrastructure spending should align with municipal and regional infrastructure plans,” added Thomas Dang, NDP Critic for Infrastructure. “That sounds pretty obvious and municipalities certainly made this point during the consultation but somehow it’s not in the bill.”

Another point they were critical of was the fact they believe every project should be done with a thought about greenhouse gas emissions.

“And lastly, infrastructure spending must always be done with greenhouse gas emission reductions in mind. The buildings sector is one of largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta. Cities, industry, materials suppliers, and infrastructure planners are looking to innovate and reduce emissions to contribute to a net-zero economy. These efforts are the only way to get to a net-zero future and the province has a role to prioritize projects that result in lower emissions,” added Dang. “It’s incomprehensible that the UCP would establish criteria and develop a strategic capital plan that would take Alberta into the 2040s, without emissions reductions being considered as a criteria when selecting infrastructure projects.”

The provincial government also explained the 20-year strategic capital plan must be published within one year of the act coming into force and this act would place Alberta as only the second province after Ontario to legislate prioritization criteria for its capital plan decision-making.

First reading of the bill was passed on Oct. 25 while second reading was carried on Nov. 18.

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