Princeton’s MP Dan Albas is working with and pushing, the federal government to commit to covering the town’s flood repair debts.
In an interview with the Spotlight Jan. 5, the Conservative member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola acknowledged “people from Princeton are dealing with some of the toughest stages of their lives.”
Central to Albas’ efforts is procuring a promise from the government, that funds not covered by the province for flood repairs, will be settled by Ottawa.
“We need an actual commitment, beyond just words.”
So far Princeton has spent $10 million on emergency dike building and repair, and emergency water lines drilled beneath the Tulameen River, following the Nov. 14 flood.
Eighty per cent of those costs will be paid by B.C.’s Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) program, but it leaves the municipality on the hook for $2 million.
“When you restart a community, and there are all sorts of things that need to be put in place now, you cannot wait for governments to figure out their lunch money,” Albas told the Spotlight. “Small and remote, rural communities do not have the tax base to write that cheque.”
The federal government has pledged $5 billion to the province for flood relief, but there is no information yet on how those dollars will be allocated.
Earlier this week Mayor Spencer Coyne said if the $2 million cannot be sourced from the federal government, local ratepayers could be facing a 70 per cent tax increase in 2022.
“It’s not something we can put off,” said Coyne. “It’s money that has been spent and people are looking for their money.”
Albas said he is in regular contact with Coyne, as well as with Merritt Mayor Linda Brown, whose community was also devastated by flooding.
He added that he speaks frequently with Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. “(Blair) has been accessible and I’m glad to see, regardless of who is in government, when disaster happens we should all be there for one another.”
During a session in the House of Commons Nov. 30, Albas pressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on help for Princeton and Merritt.
“I do appreciate the help that the Prime Minister and his cabinet have extended to B.C., and the conciliatory way they are trying to be there for people in a very difficult time,” Albas stated. “My mayors, both Spencer Coyne from Princeton, as well as Linda Brown from Merritt, have both said to me that the bill required to fix what’s necessary, to get people back into their homes, is going to be in the tens of millions of dollars and those communities don’t have it….The 80-20 sharing is going to be beyond their ability to pay.”
In response, Trudeau said he had spoken with Brown on the telephone ago and promised: “we would be there for her and her community, as we will for people right across the province of B.C.”
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