$425M emergency radio system may be boondoggle, MLA says

A new $425 million radio system for police and ambulances in Alberta could be a waste of money, says Tory MLA Steve Young.

Tory MLA Steve Young warns that municipalities may use their own systems

Edmonton MLA Steve Young fears the province's $400 million first responders radio system may be a boondoggle. (CBC)

A new $425 million radio system for police and ambulances in Alberta could be a waste of money, says Edmonton MLA Steve Young.

"This large public expenditure may not get as much return on our investment," he said. "My concern is that some of the municipalities are going to opt out to develop their own stand alone system."

The Alberta First Responder Radio Communications System, which is four years behind schedule and more than $50 million over budget, will allow RCMP, sheriffs and health services to communicate with each other, but only orally.

Paramedics and officers need to be able to exchange data such as texts and electronic documents as well, Young said.

That was part of the original plan, but would end up costing the province an additional $250 million, said Alberta Solicitor General Jonathan Denis.

He said the system can accommodate small packets if data such as text messages.

He believes municipalities will sign on, nonetheless.

"We have never had anybody say from the municipal level that they're not going to buy into Alberta first responders," Denis said. "I'm confident — just the fact that this is a one-stop-shop system which will cover the entire province — really sells itself."

Young believes the government needs to do more to ensure everyone uses the system once it's up and running in about two years.

With files from John Archer