Edmonton Catholic board 'extremely disappointed' with Budget 2018

Edmonton's Catholic school board is not pleased that it got shut out in the new provincial budget, which provides $393 million for 20 new school projects.

$393 million for 20 school projects but city's Catholic board gets shut out

(CBC News)

Edmonton's Catholic school board is not pleased that it got shut out in the new provincial budget.

The budget , unveiled Thursday, provides $393 million for 20 projects — seven new schools, seven replacements, three modernizations, one addition to an existing school and two projects that have been approved for design.

But none of the money is going to projects on the wish-list of the city's Catholic school board.

"Edmonton Catholic Schools did not receive any new schools or modernizations and we are extremely disappointed with this news," a board spokesperson said in a media advisory Friday.

Terry Harris, chair of the Edmonton Catholic school board, said the district expected help with capital projects in Thursday's provincial budget. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"We are currently at a deficit of 2,500 spaces, the equivalent of about two to three schools," Edmonton Catholic school board chair Terry Harris told reporters. "That's a grave concern for us."

The district is seeing unprecedented growth, Harris said. In the past 10 years, enrolment has grown by more than 30 per cent, more than any other metro school board in Alberta, he said.

27 projects in capital plan

"The Catholic board's most recent three-year capital plan includes a list of 27 construction priorities — 14 new schools and 13 modernizations. At the top of the list is a new K-9 school in Windermere/Keswick. In second place is a new high school for Lewis Farms.

"You don't expect that you're going to receive all of those, but you do have an expectation that you'll be favourably considered for those high priority ones," Harris said. "Certainly that was our expectation."

Finance Minister Joe Ceci defended the government's decision-making.

"Since the NDP became government in 2015, 14 schools in the Edmonton Catholic school board system have been funded and are either under construction or finished," Ceci told CBC News Friday.

"We fund through enrolment growth and health and safety needs for modernization. We're going to continue to look at the needs of Edmonton as we go forward. But we've done a great deal already because of the growth they've had, and 14 schools funded is a pretty great high-water mark."

Education Minister David Eggen announced a list of 20 new school projects at École À la Découverte on Friday. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Earlier Friday, Education Minister David Eggen detailed the list of 20 projects at École À la Découverte, a francophone school in northeast Edmonton that has been approved to get a new building.

"I look at imminent need, capital lists and geographic balance to determine my lists," Eggen said.

"We're very proud of this. It's important to make investment in public services and public buildings in this case, in order of us to continue on with economic recovery to meet the needs of the fast growing economy in the country."

Seven of the school projects on the list are in Edmonton or the Edmonton area.

  • École  À la Découverte K-6 (new francophone school in northeast Edmonton)
  • Heritage Valley Chapelle East K-9 (new public school in southwest Edmonton)
  • Westlawn Cluster (modernization of four public schools in west Edmonton)
  • Paul Kane (replacement high school in St. Albert)
  • Stony Plain Central (replacement school in Stony Plain)
  • École Père Kenneth Kearns Catholic School (modernization in Sherwood Park)
  • École Secondaire Beaumont Composite High School (addition)

The province said its five-year capital plan includes $2.2 billion in investments over the next five years on school infrastructure.

Harris said he plans to meet with Eggen to find out why none of the Catholic board's school requests made the list announced  Friday.

"We need to understand what kind of process leads to that kind of conclusion when we're in such a deficit, and we need to have favourable consideration of the requests that we're making."