The 2015 Federal budget doesn’t include a single mention of the Trans-Canada Highway, but MP David Wilks is holding out that money earmarked for infrastructure in the national parks can be used for twinning the highway around Revelstoke.
While the budget outlines no specific spending for the twinning the Trans-Canada, it does including $2.8 billion to support infrastructure improvements within national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas across the country.
Wilks said he will be writing a letter to Leona Aglukkaq, the Minister of the Environment, asking for some of that to spent on twinning the Trans-Canada through Mount Revelstoke, Glacier and Yoho National Parks.
“I’m going to write her a letter spelling out what I’d like to see, understanding these are for all national parks and national historic sites across Canada,” Wilks told the Review. “I have arguably three of the most important national parks because of the highway going through them.”
Earlier this year Wilks told Revelstoke council he had made a $5 billion request to Finance Minister Joe Oliver to twin the highway through the parks. That request went unheeded.
“I certainly didn’t get it in the budget, that’s for sure,” said Wilks. “I didn’t expect it, not all of it, it’s a pretty significant ask.”
The absence of funding for the Trans-Canada was picked up by Wayne Stetski, the NDP candidate for Kootenay-Columbia, who called for a federal commitment to upgrade the highway. “This is critical infrastructure funding that is needed to save lives, support tourism, and keep the economy moving,” he said in a news release.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver was able to unveil a budget with a $1.4 billion surplus, though it’s been accomplished by reducing the Federal contingency fund to $1 billion from $3 billion, selling off government assets, taking $1.8 billion from the EI fund, and by relying on $900 million in labour savings that have yet to be negotiated.
Wilks highlighted several aspects of the budget he felt would interest residents of riding. They include:
— Reducing the small business tax to nine per cent from 11 per cent over the next four years;
— Increasing the contribution limit to Tax Free Savings Accounts to $10,000 from $5,500;
— Reducing the minimum withdrawal for Registered Retirement Income Funds;
— A new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities;
— Extending the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Program;
— Continuation of the Forest Innovation Program.
Wilks said the budget creates opportunities for Canadians to save money.
“I think a lot of the opportunities in the budget will provide people within the riding the opportunity to keep more money in their pockets and less in government’s,” he said.
Stetski criticized the budget for not doing anything to provide affordable day care, or to help low-income seniors. The NDP has proposed a $15 per day national day care should they form the next government.
Stetski said the Guaranteed Income Supplement needs to be increased to help poorer seniors.
“There are things in the budget to help seniors, but not to help ones that are in the greatest need,” he said.
He also knocked the Conservatives economic record. “It frustrates me sometimes that Conservative governments portray themselves as the most fiscally responsible governments, but when you look at their record, it doesn’t play out so well,” he said.
For more on the budget, check out the following articles: