Alberta to spend $200M on infrastructure projects. There’s a catch though.

The Alberta government announced yesterday that it plans to fund 124 infrastructure projects throughout the province. But there are a couple of things they left out from the news release.

The Alberta government announced yesterday that it plans to fund 124 infrastructure projects throughout the province. As part of the announcement, they claimed the projects would support nearly 1,800 jobs.

But there are a couple of things they left out from the news release.

Before I get into those, however, I want to point out that the projects will be split between water infrastructure grants and the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program.

The bulk of the funding ($150 million) will go toward water and wastewater improvement projects, including $12 million for the Ermineskin Cree Nation to tie into the Ponoka regional water pipeline.

According to the announcement, the water infrastructure grants will support 1,300 jobs.

The remaining $50 million will go to supporting 69 transportation projects as part of STIP. The announcement was empty of project details, but the programme typically funds municipal transportation projects, such as improvements to bridges, resource roads, and community airports. STIP is a cost-sharing programme, with municipalities footing 25% of the project costs.

The announcement estimates the STIP projects will support 480 jobs.

Here’s the first thing to keep in mind:

These 1,780 jobs will be short-term jobs. Each municipal initiative is a small project, primarily improving existing infrastructure. These projects won’t be creating new municipal departments or expanding existing ones, so once the projects are done, the jobs will be gone.

And even then, these are one-off projects. That means they’ll likely be managed by contractors, who manage multiple projects. They’re working on other projects currently, will work on these projects, then will go on to new projects after these are done. And it’s likely that the same crews will work on this continuum of projects.

When I worked in construction after high school, I helped on 3 construction projects. My involvement on those 3 construction projects was counted—on paper—as 3 jobs. Same goes for my fellow crew members who worked on all 3 projects.

Some new people might be hired onto these work crews, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of the work crews are already working on projects. Which means these projects won’t create nearly 1,800 jobs.

And that’s probably why the announcement used support instead of create.

  • “The additional grant funding will support about 1,800 jobs in communities across Alberta.”
  • “About $50 million in additional STIP funding will go to municipalities across Alberta to support 69 projects and about 480 jobs.”
  • “About $150 million will support 55 water and wastewater improvement projects and approximately 1,300 jobs.”

The second thing to note is that last week, the federal government announced that they had given Alberta $244 million “to fund its most pressing infrastructure needs,” such as “roads and bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure, and recreation centres.” The funding came from the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) for Alberta’s 2020–21 fiscal year.

While the provincial announcement was silent on which communities will receive funding, the federal announcement itemized how much each of the 347 affected communities will receive from the GTF funding. Lethbridge, for example, is on track to receive $5,804,946.

The federal government did not have details for the specific projects, just how much each municipality would receive.

If the province is using the GTF funding to cover the projects announced yesterday, then they’re not really funding anything. They’re just intermediaries between the federal government and communities.

That means—at least on the STIP projects—that in reality, the communities would cover 25% of the project cost, the feds 75%, and the province 0%.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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