ALBERTA

Notley Restores Education Funds, Cancels Calgary Young Offender Centre Closure

05/28/2015 03:28 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT
CP
CALGARY - Alberta's premier isn't ruling out a full-scale audit of the province's finances after receiving a few "surprises" in the first few days in office.

Rachel Notley has said the financial challenges Alberta is facing are "a bit bigger" than the previous Progressive Conservative government had led the public to believe.

Notley said Thursday that the New Democrats are still considering a full audit.

"Certainly people in the larger world have suggested that has happened in other transitions and particularly when you've got one government that's been in play for a very long time," she said on the second day of a cabinet meeting in Calgary.

"But we're still deliberating."

Notley made the comments as she announced that she is cancelling cuts the Tories made to education funding and reversing the planned closure of the Calgary Young Offender Centre.

The premier said $103 million will be provided to Alberta school boards to ensure they will be able to handle about 12,000 additional students expected in schools this fall.

Keeping the Calgary centre open will ensure that offenders in southern Alberta can remain closer to their families as opposed to a facility in Edmonton, she said.

Notley and her 11 colleagues were sworn in at the Alberta legislature on Sunday. The premier has said there will be an interim budget in the coming weeks to keep the province functioning while the government works to have a full budget ready by the fall.

She said it is too soon to say if Alberta's projected $5-billion deficit for this fiscal year will need to be changed.

"In terms of the issues around the deficit and our spending commitments, those are ... issues that are more appropriately considered in the overall discussion of the budget ... something which I must admit, after three days on the job, we have not finalized."

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents support staff in schools, welcomed the education funding.

"With 12,000 new kids entering the system in the fall, we need this additional funding," said CUPE Alberta president Marle Roberts. "This will ensure we have well-maintained schools with the support students need."

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees applauded the decision to keep the Calgary Young Offender Centre open.

"We're very pleased the new premier and her government recognizes the important role CYOC plays in the rehabilitation and reintegration of impressionable and vulnerable young offenders," said vice-president Erez Raz.

"We're also pleased that youth who have been moved out of CYOC will be able to come back to Calgary and be closer to their support networks."

Wildrose education critic Mark Smith said the party believes every child deserves a world-class education, but it's critical to keep a watchful eye on the money spent.

"We hope (Education) Minister David Eggen will soon make clear where the dollars for this funding will come from, and that we can start to focus on other important challenges our education system is facing."

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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