Alberta plots C$120 bln in infrastructure spending
By Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Alberta's government laid out a C$120 billion plan on Tuesday to build up highways, railways, hospitals, schools and low-income housing to cope with a booming economy and population growth in Canada's biggest oil-producing province.
Under its 20-year "strategic capital plan" -- which comes before an expected election call -- the government of Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach said it aims to beef up infrastructure in the province of 3.3 million people at an estimated cost of C$6 billion a year.
The government has been criticized for insufficient planning amid an unprecedented rush to develop Alberta's oil sands, which rival Saudi Arabia's oil resources in size but are far more expensive to develop.
That development boom has stretched provincial infrastructure and public services thin and prompted high inflation in housing costs.
Stelmach rejected the notion that the strategy is just preelection campaigning, stressing that he had promised a long-term infrastructure strategy when he took over from Ralph Klein as premier in late 2006.
"We have a plan. It's here. It tells you ... how decisions will be made with respect to building new infrastructure and (gives) the decision-making tools," he told reporters.
"We know, based on all forecasts, that Alberta -- it sounds like an island of security on the North American continent, so we're going to have people moving here continuously."
Last week, he released a 40-year climate-change strategy that has attracted scorn from environmental groups. That plan will allow carbon emissions to rise for more than a decade before they begin to fall. Continued...