Reports of the death of the police college project have been greatly exaggerated, according to Fort Macleod Mayor Shawn Patience. Patience said some people over-reacted last week to comments by Alberta Liberal leader David Swann the police college topped a list of projects on the chopping block.
“There is no reason this project won’t move forward,” Patience said Friday. “It was just Mr. Swann speculating and it has no grounds in fact.”
Swann said last week that with Alberta’s deficit growing and Premier Ed Stelmach vowing not to raise taxes, the government will have to cut spending.
Swann provided a list of projects that could potentially be cut, with the Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre topping that list.
“The premier’s out of control spending has put Albertans in a tough spot,” Swann said in a news release. “He needs to find $10-billion — and counting — to eliminate the deficit. What’s he going to cut? Is he going to implement huge user fees? Will decisions be based on facts or politics?”
Other projects Swann speculated could be cut included the Calgary Remand Centre; the Stollery Children’s Hospital emergency expansion; the QE II Hospital expansion in Grande Prairie; long-term care facilities in Didsbury and Fort McMurray; the Barrhead health centre; and the North Calgary diagnostic and treatment centre.
Swann also speculated the province could cut funding for additional learning spaces and student housing in post-secondary institutions; income supports and job retraining programs; Alberta Foundation for the Arts funding and grant programs; nursing positions and environmental monitoring of industrial sites.
Swann also speculated the South Calgary Hospital will not be completely finished; the Royal Alex active treatment centre will not be upgraded and renovations will not be done to the Medicine Hat Hospital.
“These programs, services and facilities are all crucial to Alberta’s health, prosperity and future,” Swann says. “The sheer scale of the Stelmach administration’s mismanagement has placed that future in jeopardy.”
Swann said Albertans may also find themselves paying for all or a portion of their diagnostic tests like MRIs, CT scans, and some blood tests.
“We don’t know what the premier may choose to cut,” Swann added. “What’s important to remember is that cuts are coming and there will be consequences with them.”
Patience said Swann was just doing his job as leader of the Official Opposition.
“It was strictly speculation on what could happen,” Patience said.
That speculation caused a small fire storm in Fort Macleod as people misinterpreted the story to believe the police college project was cancelled.
“I still fully expect this thing to go forward,” Patience said. “Mr. Stelmach has committed to it on three or four occasions. This community has to bank on the fact he has committed to it.”
Patience said support for a police college has not wavered since the recommendation came out in 1999 from the Alberta Justice Summit. Then-Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko announced in August 2006 that Fort Macleod had been selected as the site of the police college.
“We’re still very committed to the project and so is the province,” Patience said. “I fully expect it to get funding sooner rather than later.”
The police college, whose budget estimates soared over three years to more than $200-million from $110-million, stalled because the province could not find a suitable private-public partnership.
The province continues to work to find a way to fund the police college.
“I don’t think there is any sentiment out there that we don’t need this training centre,” Patience said, citing growing concerns such as gang violence.