UCP rejects NDP concerns that highway spending cuts could result in more deaths, serious collisions

The NDP says it believes the number of serious collisions and deaths on Alberta highways will rise as a result of reduced spending by the UCP government.

The government’s current targets for fatal and serious collisions have gone up, which according to the Official Opposition is the first time that has happened in five years.

“The 2019-20 Business Plan signed by Transportation Minister Ric McIver targets 2,570 fatal or serious collisions, up from 2,509 collisions in 2018-19,” read a news release issued by the NDP on Friday.

The performance metrics, which measure fatal and major injury collision rates per 100,000 population, have gone up, according to the 2019 UCP budget.

The 2018-19 result was 57.4 per 100,000 population. The target for 2019-20 is 58.8 per 100,000 population with a lower target over the following three years.

Last month, the UCP had promised $210 million for upgrades and improvements to Calgary’s Deerfoot Trail, beginning in 2021.

Speaking in Calgary on Friday morning, Rod Loyola, the Official Opposition critic for transportation and MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie, said he believes the increase in expected fatal or serious collisions is linked to cuts to maintenance and the intersection safety upgrade budget.

“There’s money being taken out of highway maintenance, which is also adding to those amounts of serious injuries or fatalities that could take potentially take place on Alberta highways,” he said.

Loyola said a reduction of more than $300 million for upgrades to Deerfoot Trail also plays a factor. The UCP’s budget promises less than half of what the NDP had set aside for the project.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci also slammed the government’s cuts, saying the UCP’s funding will not be enough for safety upgrades.

“They’re not going to have near enough money to address the improvements that need to be done to make greater safety a possibility in this province,” he said.

In an emailed statement from the Ministry of Transportation, the UCP said “safety is a No. 1 priority for our department.”

“The statements made by the Opposition are riddled with inaccuracies and ignore the facts. It is unfortunate that the Opposition has chosen to turn highway safety into a partisan political attack,” the ministry said.

“The reason for an apparent increase in the targets is due to the way they are calculated. The increased projection is based on a three-year average of previous years, all of which took place under the former NDP government.

“The fact is, the department continues to expect a steady and consistent decline in serious collisions and traffic fatalities. We will continue to make necessary safety upgrades and ensure the safety of Albertans.”

The UCP also said the NDP’s claim about Deerfoot Trail “is completely false.”

“They simply made a campaign promise without allocating a single dollar to the project. Our government has taken real action by budgeting $209.8 million in real money for Deerfoot Trail improvements, in line with our work to ensure the safety of Albertans.”

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