The federal budget announced last week by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is good for Canada and the Kootenay-Columbia riding, MP David Wilks said from Ottawa.
“I think that it’s a great document that provides Canadians with the understanding that there are opportunities for local governments and other organizations to benefit from funds that are going to be provided,” he told the Advance.
He said it is important for people to recognize that the government is ensuring a balanced budget by 2015. It would be the first balanced Canadian budget since 2008, the year the Conservatives lowered the GST to five per cent, which ended a string of 11 consecutive surplus budgets.
Wilks cited the Community Improvement Fund as being among the direct benefits to the Kootenays. It will distribute $32.2 billion over 10 years, starting with $2.9 billion in 2014.
“The new fund affords communities greater flexibility to allocate resources toward a broader range of infrastructure priorities,” he said.
The minster of finance expanded the definition of “infrastructure” from water, sewers and roads to include broadband and connectivity, culture, tourism, sports and recreation, which could have a range of benefits in the Creston Valley, Wilks said.
“Although Creston does have a relatively new facility, it does require upkeep,” he said. “Or Creston might have other things they want to improve on.”
A gas tax fund, he said, will be directed into infrastructure projects across the country, with $21.8 billion available over the next decade. B.C. receives $220-230 million annually, which it then distributes to projects it selects.
“What’s really neat about it is it is now going to be indexed at two per cent per year,” he said. “Before, it was flat.”
The first-term MP said a $1.25 billion investment in affordable housing over five years will help create a “homelessness partnering strategy” to fund new construction, renovation, homeowner assistance, rent supplements, shelter allowances and accommodations for victims of violence.
In what he described as “a small victory for me”, the budget allocates $19 million for Trans-Canada Highway upgrades in national parks.
“Aside from Mount Revelstoke, Yoho and Glacier, I’m not aware of any other national park which the Trans-Canada flows through,” he said. “If that is the case, that $19 million will be dedicated to Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke.”