|Premier Alison Redford talks with three-year-old Ember Laliberty as she makes a craft during a children's program session Wednesday morning at the Crossings Branch of the Lethbridge Public Library. Redford stopped by for a visit to join in story time with the youngsters while in the city to help officially open the new Property Rights Advocate Office. Herald photo by Ian Martens|
Albertans elected a government that believes in investing for growth.
So Premier Alison Redford said Wednesday the province's cities and towns can count on financial support in next month's provincial budget.
During a stop in Lethbridge, the premier said Albertans voted for a party that vowed "to keep investing in infrastructure in a way that allows communities to grow.
"That is fundamentally the choice that Albertans made in the last election," she stressed during an interview.
When the opposition Wildrose party called for cuts to infrastructure spending until there were surplus funds, Redford said, voters did not agree.
"They voted for a party that would govern for the long term."
City council members in Lethbridge and across the province are working on capital project plans for coming years, and Albertans will soon see how much the province is able to allocate to those community projects.
"From our perspective, we need to continue to invest in infrastructure, in families and communities right across the province," Redford said.
"We're actually ensuring there's economic growth, and that people will choose to come to our communities."
Local governments are saying, "Don't forget us," the premier said.
"It is critically important that we don't do that."
In the budget, she said, the government will also continue to provide market support - for agri-food industries as well as forestry, mining, oil and gas.
"Fundamentally, whether we're talking about oil and gas, or agriculture or forestry or even new technologies that are being developed here in southern Alberta, this is all about being an export economy," the premier said.
"Everything we can do to diversify is going to be important," because Alberta has much more to offer.
Currently, there's a push to open more export markets for Alberta's vast energy reserves.
"Opening the market also applies to the agricultural centre," the premier pointed out.
Canada will soon be one of just a half-dozen nations that's producing enough food to export, she said - helping to meet the needs of millions in China and India.
"And half of that will come from Alberta," she predicted.
Many Alberta producers are doing well right now, the premier said.
"There's really been some good news from the agricultural sector in the last couple of years."
But she said it's essential to continue - or to increase - the amount of applied research being conducted in the province's universities and colleges aimed at creating value-added food products.
"We're making sure we're supporting and strengthening sectors of our economy that can lead to greater growth," Redford said. "That's something you can look for in the budget."