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Alberta NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley addresses the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 15, 2022. At a recent news conference, Notley criticized the United Conservative Party's budget for not addressing problems in health care and education, and for not meeting the needs of growing communities in Calgary.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says the United Conservative Party’s latest budget is meant to buy votes ahead of a provincial election scheduled for May.

Speaking to reporters in Calgary – expected to be a key election battleground – Rachel Notley said Wednesday Premier Danielle Smith cannot be trusted to follow through with budget promises.

Alberta government predicted a $2.4-billion surplus for the 2023-2024 budget. Some funding announcement made in the budget were a roughly 5 per cent increase for Kindergarten to Grade 12 operating expenses and a 4-per-cent hike in operational health spending.

Ms. Notley criticized Smith’s government for not addressing problems in health care and education in the budget released Tuesday.

“When it comes to education, Danielle’s government ignored students in growing communities for years, even as the pandemic had a devastating impact on classroom learning,” she said. “Even with this budget, we are still short 3,700 teachers.”

The province is still short on health care funding, while Smith and the UCP are trying “to convince Albertans that the health-care crisis is over,” Ms. Notley added.

She promised modernization projects and better health care if her party were to win the next provincial election.

An Alberta NDP government would support families by funding health care and education every year and not just in the weeks leading up to an election, Ms. Notley said.

The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services also criticized the budget, saying it did not address the needs of sexual assault survivors.

The association said that “ignoring the needs indicates a lack of understanding of how sexual violence is linked to some of our most serious social and health problems.”

Expressing their disappointment, the group said, “It raises the question: is sexual violence a priority for this government?”

Alberta municipalities, meanwhile, applauded the budget for allocating funding to health care, education, public safety and other issues.

Cathy Heron, president of Alberta municipalities, said in a briefing Wednesday the budget has “taken the temperature of Alberta and decided to address many of the emerging issues Albertans face.”

The provincial government bumped the capital funding to municipalities to $3.4-billion from the existing $2.5-billion.

“We feel a little bit more like a partner than a child of the province because the [Alberta Municipalities Measurement Index] changed,” Ms. Heron said.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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