Airdrie-Cochrane NDP candidate Shaun Fluker is baffled as to why Alberta's $68.3 billion budget doesn't include funding for desperately needed schools in Cochrane and Airdrie.

He also says it continues to leave municipalities hung to dry in keeping up with infrastructure costs.

He believes that said same short-sightedness is prevalent throughout the budget.

"This government seems to be following in the steps of previous Conservative governments that have, unfortunately, in good financial times largely spent that money without any apparent financial, social or economic long-term planning or vision for this province," says Fluker.

"The consensus is this is one of the last, if not the last, opportunities for that, so it's really disappointing to see that take place."

He says an NDP budget would invest directly in public institutions.

"Under an NDP budget, you would see a lot more financial support, construction money, operating funding, what have you, given directly to support public institutions in this province."

For example, he says without a doubt there would be investments in healthcare facilities, like proposed hospitals in Edmonton and Red Deer. He points out it was the Notley government who put in place funding for the Calgary Cancer Centre.

Fluker says Alberta Education is either ignoring or hasn't read the Rocky View plan to meet the demand of several booming communities. Cochrane is just one of them.

"As we all know, Cochrane's the fastest growing community in Alberta and it's simply untenable for that growth to continue without new classroom spaces. There's just no apparent investment in that at all."

It was the Notley government that approved the Fireside School, the last new public school opened in Cochrane, way back in 2017.

The approval of the expansion and modernization of the Bow Valley High School was announced last spring by Alberta Education minister Adriana LaGrange minister, which is estimated to cost $55.1 million and increase its capacity to up to 1,425 students.

"The unwillingness of this current government to invest in public schools, particularly in Cochrane and Airdrie, is a complete failure. I have kids in Cochrane schools and so I hear firsthand, as many other parents do, that the schools are full. At the beginning of this year, students were standing in the back of the room until they could figure out where to put everybody and schools are being forced to turn common areas into classrooms."

Alberta Education did announce there will be funding for the pre-planning program for new K-5/K-8 schools, but Fluker questions exactly what that means.

He says Cochrane and Airdrie have both seen the province's investment in municipalities drop to 2015 levels.

"It's putting places like Cochrane in a really difficult spot, where they're having to invest in infrastructure and community growth and the province doesn't seem to be willing to direct additional revenues into these communities."

According to Fluker, the Notley government was third-quarters of the way through creating a mid-sized city charter for communities like Cochrane and Airdrie. They had already created a city charter to give Calgary and Edmonton additional authority and flexibility to help build their cities. 

Fluker says the Alberta NDP considers that unfinished work and would pick up where they left off if elected.

A resident of Cochrane for almost 18 years, he understands the need and says municipalities have long been in an awkward position in the overall government scheme, not only in Alberta but Canada. 

He says the Smith government has failed to properly invest in post-secondary education.

"If you're looking at establishing Alberta over the long term for economic prosperity, the science is clear that having robust higher education training/post-secondary institutions is an important part of that, so we should be investing in that stuff because that leads to job growth, healthy communities and the rest of it, but it just doesn't seem a priority for this government."

If you crunch the numbers, he says the $68.3 billion budget is far larger than any produced by the Notley government and is clearly designed to build momentum toward a spring election.

He says every economist report he has read indicates these next few years will produce the highest level of nonrenewable resource revenue than at any other time in Alberta's history.

"Now is the time to have a provincial government that can lay out a long-term plan. I mean, it's long overdue, but it's now or never."