Election 2017: Addressing municipal infrastructure

The candidates for Columbia River-Revelstoke say how they will help communities address infrastructure issues.

The 2017 provincial election is just over a month away. Four candidates are vying for to replace Norm Macdonald as the MLA representative of Columbia River-Revelstoke.

Gerry Taft is the NDP candidate. He is a small business owner and the mayor of Invermere.

Doug Clovechok is running for the second time as the candidate for the BC Liberal party. He is the manager of the College of the Rockies’ Invermere campus.

Samson Boyer is running for the Green Party. At 18, he may be the youngest candidate in the province.

Justin Hooles from Kimberley is running as an independent candidate.

The Review is collaborating with newspapers in Golden, Invermere and Kimberely on our coverage of the election. We will be submitting one or two questions each week to the candidates and publishing their responses in the lead up to election day on May 9. Some questions relate to the riding as a whole and we will also be asking questions more specific to Revelstoke.

If you have one you’d like to ask, please e-mail it to alex.cooper@revelstokereview.com or call 250-837-4667.

Our first question is: Communities across the province are facing the challenge of replacing aging infrastructure and there is only a finite amount of government grant money. How can you, as an MLA, assist with this issue?

Samson Boyer, Green Party

Small communities in B.C. are facing strains on infrastructure with only limited financial capacity to deal with them.

A 2013 report by the Canadian West Foundation stated that much of B.C.’s current public infrastructure was put in place between the 1950s and 1970s with the useful life of physical infrastructure extending only up to four or five decades.

For every tax dollar collected, municipal governments receive only eight cents. With this relatively small amount of money, municipal governments provide services to approximately 87 per cent of the provincial population, and almost 60 per cent of B.C.’s core public infrastructure is owned and maintained by municipal governments.

As MLA, I will work with and encourage all levels of governments – federal, provincial and municipal – to work together, providing the necessary financial support, while considering other proven streams of securing infrastructure funding. These include possibilities such as community bond/investment programs and possible toll projects among others. It is important that these regional decisions make sense to the region.

The phases of infrastructure projects, from planning through development, provide the foundation for the region’s economic and social growth, an enviable quality of life, and the well-being for all in Columbia River-Revelstoke.

Doug Clovechok, BC Liberal

Investing in infrastructure is critical if we want to build an economy in Columbia River–Revelstoke that will create family supporting jobs and stronger communities. The BC Liberal government’s most recent balanced budget included $13.7 billion for infrastructure spending, and will help expand grant programs like the Rural Dividend.

With all due respect to retiring BC NDP MLA Norm Macdonald, we have watched our neighbouring ridings receive far greater infrastructure investments because our opposition MLA focused on criticizing government rather than working with it. To get the dollars our region requires, we need a government that grows the economy and an MLA who will fight for our fair share.

I have a proven record of being able to build relationships and work with people to get things done, including helping the Greenways Trail Alliance in the Columbia Valley secure $1.5 million in government funding to build the Westside Legacy Trail, working with the mayor and community in Revelstoke to get $50,000 in funding from the province for their helipad, and reaching across party lines to help establish Cherry Creek Falls regional park near Kimberley.

I’m committed to fighting for everyone in Columbia River–Revelstoke to build a stronger, more prosperous region.

Justin Hooles, Independent

As a part of my plan to continually engage with the people of our riding, I would like to create an online public forum in which constituents could openly discuss the many issues that affect our area. This forum would allow active participation in the decisions I would make as your MLA.

The plan is to have this forum include a list of user submitted infrastructure projects in the riding, and then to create a user-based assessment process to help decide which projects should be prioritized. This process would score each item based on the following: safety concerns, economic effects, how long a project has been on the list, the number of people who are being affected, and the cost of the project.

This process would help us decide on what the priority for the riding is, as well as making it easier to ensure that the community is applying for available funding whenever possible.

A large part of receiving money for infrastructure is about sending out applications. We need to make sure that all groups interested in receiving funding are aware of every opportunity to apply, and that they have the knowledge and support to do so.

Gerry Taft, BC NDP

As a mayor and a member of council for the last 15 years, I can say unequivocally that the current granting programs for local government infrastructure is broken.

Local governments are doing great work on asset management and long-term infrastructure planning. As a result, they are in the best position to decide local and community priorities.

Under the current system, the grant applications that are approved are often for projects that are third or fourth priority. But these projects are chosen because they are simpler, quicker, sexier or cheaper. Meanwhile, the serious top priority projects go unfunded.

The province must look at infrastructure funding that is more predictable, transparent, and has local autonomy. We need to remove the potential for political interference.

Infrastructure projects should not be decided upon, nor funded, one month before an election as we are seeing across the province right now. They should be funded because they are the right thing to do, through a system of good governance.

As your MLA, I will advocate for improving the infrastructure funding process, based on my experience as a Mayor. This is one of the issues that brought me to provincial politics.

We can and must do better.