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The NDP accuses the Conservatives of underfunding education. The PCU boasts of having a better record.
During last week's televised debate, United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Danielle Smith claimed that 106 schools had been built or upgraded between 2019 and 2023. Is this true?
No, that wording is wrong.
We have built or upgraded 106 new schools and we will continue to do so, said Danielle Smith, adding later that the New Democratic Party (NDP) record was much lower than his.
According to the province's budget documents, 73 school infrastructure projects were completed between 2019 and 2023. This number could still change, since the annual report for 2022-2023 will not be available until the end of June. , but, taking into account the experience of previous years, the change will be minimal, and the total will be lower than the figure put forward by Danielle Smith.
Danielle Smith spoke of completed projects, but the figure given seems to refer more to school infrastructure projects that have been announced.
On its website and in its press releases, the PCU refers instead to announcing 106 school constructions or modernizations since 2019. By email, a Party member confirmed that he is talking about approved projects and no of completed projects.
This formulation seems closer to reality, even if nuances are necessary.
Of the hundred projects listed as approved between 2019 and 2023, more than half were approved in the last budget, three months ago.
Not all announcements are for full funding for school construction or modernization either. Traditionally, some projects receive funding for the design stage. Money for their construction is then confirmed the following year.
This year, however, the United Conservative Government added two more categories of funding that did not exist before: and preparation.
Of the 58 projects approved in 2023, 13 will receive full funding for construction and 20 for design. The rest of the 25 projects will share $5 million for preliminary activities.
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In March, Education Minister Adriana Lagrange explained that this new system will give school boards more predictability, since a project funded for readiness should receive readiness or design funding the following year, and so on.
She added that the site selection stage is often problematic and will therefore be resolved earlier in the process.
The creation of new funding categories, however, makes it difficult to compare with the actions of previous governments.
During the televised debate, however, Danielle Smith claimed: Under the Notley government, only 47 schools were built.
After the About Danielle Smith on her record in education, Rachel Notley replied that there was a lot of things wrong.
The NDP counters that Rachel Notley's government instead built or upgraded 244 schools in four years in office.
A review of Alberta government and Department of Education annual reports finds to the calculation of at least 190 school projects completed between 2015 and 2019.
On the other hand, it is true that the NDP announced fewer new projects when it was in power than the PCU: 47, according to a media review, which corresponds to the figure given by Danielle Smith.
However, the circumstances were special and were even the subject of a report by the Auditor General of Alberta.
In 2015, the Notley government inherited dozens of projects announced by the Progressive Conservatives whose deadlines and budgets were untenable. Before they could begin new projects, New Democrats had to tackle previously announced projects.
To compare the balance sheets, the NPD rather mentions a count of the budgets. Between 2015 and 2019, the Notley government allocated approximately $4.5 billion to education infrastructure projects.
For its part, the government of Jason Kenney spent approximately $2.7 billion between 2019 and 2023.
In the 2023-2024 budget, $631 million was spent on school infrastructure projects. Just over $1 billion more is planned between 2024 and 2026.
From planning to opening the doors, an elementary school project takes an average of two years, and that of a secondary school, three years.
Between the announcement of funding for the design, the construction, the ground breaking and the official opening, more a government can therefore take ownership of a project.
In terms of infrastructure, a new government also inherits the spending promises made by its predecessor.