Significant investments in infrastructure are highlights of Thursday’s Federal budget, says Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks.
Wilks, a Conservative Party MP, touted the Build Canada Fund, Community Improvement Fund and increases in gas tax funding as elements of the budget that should benefit residents of his riding.
The 2013 budget, announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Thursday, includes a $14 billion over the next 10 years for the Build Canada plan to support economic projects of national, regional and local significance.
Wilks said some of that money could go towards improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway. “I would hope so,” he said. “It’s a significant amount of money and replenishes the Build Canada fund. I will make sure I work my hardest that some of that money goes to fix the Trans-Canada.”
The budget also allocates $19 million to Parks Canada for improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway within the country’s national parks. Wilks said most of that money will likely go to Yoho and Glacier National Parks.
“From what I’ve seen I really appreciate the spending on the Trans-Canada,” said mayor David Raven. “It’s a start, but it’s not enough, Between the two parks, the $19 million won’t be going very far. It will maybe paint some lines and fix some potholes.”
The BC Liberal government has promised more than $500 million over the next 10 years to twin the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border, however the money is contingent on matching funds from the Federal government.
Wilks also cited changes to the Community Improvement Fund that expands the type of projects that municipalities can apply for federal improvement fund. The budget allocates $32.2 billion to the fund over the next 10 years. The fund includes $21.8 billion in gas tax fund payments and $10.4 billion in GST rebates to municipalities.
“The new Community Improvement Fund will afford municipalities greater flexibility to allocate federal support to a broader range of infrastructure priorities and that’s what I was pushing,” said Wilks.
Mayor Raven said that while he hadn’t looked closely at the budget, he was excited about any additional municipal funding.
“The problem of course is the one-third share the municipality has to come up with,” he said. “If that’s the case, we’ll have to take a good hard look at it in the context of our budget deliberations.”
Alex Atamanenko, the NDP MP for BC Southern Interior, said the budget falls short of delivering results for people in rural B.C.
“The government promised to focus on jobs but has not introduced any new measures to create meaningful employment,” he said in a press release. “It is good that skills training is seen as an important step to get more people into the workforce. However, there is no real new money.”
The budget creates a Canada Job Grant, which will see the government provide $5,000 to a business willing to train a worker, however the funds must be matched by the provinces and the business.
Atamanenko said this will create confusion as to who is responsible for skills training.
“My constituents are telling me they’re looking for investments in front line public services, a job creation strategy, a better transit system, improved home care for seniors and a national housing strategy, to name a few,” said Atamanenko. “Instead the government is ploughing ahead with cuts to pensions, healthcare and EI ignoring the serious threats facing our economy.”