In an ironic twist, Wildrose MLA Pat Stier was at a funeral Wednesday when he learned the government had scrapped the police college project.
The Livingstone-Macleod MLA’s cell phone started buzzing moments after Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis made the startling announcement.
“It’s almost criminal what they’ve done,” Stier said Friday in a telephone interview.
Denis put the brakes Wednesday on a project whose roots date back to the provincial Justice Summit in 1999.
Stier rejected the claim Denis made that the decision is based on news he got in July that police forces in Calgary and Edmonton would not use the Alberta Law Enforcement and Public Security Training Centre in Fort Macleod.
“We believe they don’t know how to manage their fiscal house, and they were budgeting on dream-like revenue projections,” Stier said.
Stier said the Wildrose Party has worried cuts like the police college would happen as the Progressive Conservatives realized they were heading toward a deficit.
“We were concerned about where cuts might happen because we didn’t think the government had a good grasp on what was going to go on here the next little while with revenue, and where the cuts were going to come from,” Stier said.
Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner on Thursday denied the decision to scrap the police college had anything to do with new projections of a $3-billion deficit.
“The decision not to proceed with that project was not based on the financials,” Horner said during a news conference.
At the same time, Horner told reporters all government ministers had been directed to review their departments to find ways to eliminate unnecessary spending.
“That’s what we asked all ministers to do,” Horner said.
Stier was skeptical.
“I can hardly believe a statement like that is true,” Stier said of Horner’s claim cutting the police college is not related to the province’s financial situation.
Stier said Wildrose will study what avenues exist to oppose the decision.
“We’re going to get together next week as a caucus to look into what kinds of opportunities we can pursue to at least keep in on th shelf somehow and at least only get it postponed and not totally cancelled.
“If the government has this horrendous problem with their management of our budgeting, fair enough. Let’s get it under control but let’s not totally throw out the baby with the bath water.”
Stier said the police college project could be set aside for the time being, and addressed later when the province’s fiscal fortunes improve.
The Livingstone-Macleod MLA also encourages people to let Premier Alison Redford know their displeasure with the police college decision.
“I think every person in Alberta should be writing the premier,” Stier said. “This smacks of really, really bad business.”
Stier promised Fort Macleod the Wildrose MLAs will go to bat for the police college project, and he predicts a tough fight.
“These guys have made the decision and they are absolutely dug in on this,” “It’s not something we’re going to let stand aside. We’re going to be hammering them every day.”
The next sitting of the Alberta Legislature begins Oct. 23.