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8 - Prairie Post West - Friday, November 18, 2011


Southern Alber ta Budget consultation with the public was productive for ministers


BY DAVE MABELL SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS


SOUTHERN ALBERTA For a first-time effort, Alberta cabinet ministers say


their grassroots budget consultations are proving a good investment and southern Albertans have been quick to respond. Deputy premier Doug Horner joined Finance Minister


Ron Liepert and Advanced Education Minister Greg Weadick for a closed-door meeting with hand-picked constituents from Lethbridge and region two weeks ago, asking them what they’d like to see in Alberta’s budget for 2012. “It’s an opportunity to tell Albertans about some of the challenges we face,” Liepert said. “Our MLAs are


getting a good sense of what their constituents want.” Alberta’s still facing a significant deficit in the coming


budget, he said. What he’s asking — in Lethbridge and a series of centres across the province — is how quickly voters hope to see that shortfall ended. At the same time, the finance minister said,


Albertans want to see continued strong support for health care, education and other core services. He spoke in advance of an evening event with an


expected 30 to 40 people — individually invited by Conservative MLAs from southwestern Alberta — after taking part in earlier sessions in Red Deer and Medicine Hat. While he’s heard many of the same issues raised at each of the stops, Liepert said people in each region of


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the province have raised particular concerns as well. In southern Alberta, one focuses on water


management. This year’s budget-writing process was shortened


by the time taken for the Conservatives’ leadership selection, Liepert said. “It’s more compressed.” The grassroots meetings have been productive, he


added. “I think it’s what we hoped for.” With this fall’s economic uncertainties, the minister


said, it’s just as well the revenue projections weren’t completed sooner. “Things are changing from week to week.” The round-table meetings are just part of the budget


preparation process, Liepert added. Before the budget is completed, ministers will also hear from school trustees, civic leaders and others with particular interests or expertise. “This is the first time for this approach,” Horner


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said. Many MLAs will hold follow-up meetings which


are open to the public. They’ll all have the same information to share with constituents, he added. “I would encourage opposition party MLAs to hold


some, too.” Weadick, who invited an undisclosed list of


Lethbridge guests, said he’ll soon set a date for an open forum here. Premier Alison Redford initiated the grassroots


process, Weadick said, and southern Albertans have taken up the challenge. “We have a lot of interest in having some input into


the budget.” As well as taking part in person, Weadick said,


Albertans may also send written or online comments, or sign onto a budget-related survey posted on the Alberta government website. After the first day, officials said, more than 800 had completed the new survey.


Weapons seized at border


COUTTS On Nov.1, Milk River RCMP in conjunction with


Canadian Border Services Officers made a significant illegal firearms seizure at the Canada Point of Entry in Coutts. An American citizen was arrested when a restricted


firearm was located in his vehicle. On a subsequent search, four loaded handguns and five long barrel rifles were located. Also seized were a number of high capacity


magazines and a large amount of ammunition. The man is from San Antonio Texas is facing


numerous firearms related charges including importing illegal firearms and having loaded firearms. He has his first court appearance Dec. 13.


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