Kootenay-Columbia MP talks budget in Invermere

Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks was in Invermere last week, speaking at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, February 20th.

MP David Wilks talked about the federal budget at the Invermere Chamber of Commerce's luncheon.

MP David Wilks talked about the federal budget at the Invermere Chamber of Commerce's luncheon.

Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks was in Invermere last week, speaking at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, February 20th, where he addressed the new federal budget, the Build Canada Fund, the controversy surrounding closure of Veterans Affairs offices and the Senate scandal.

The federal government announced changes to the Build Canada Fund on February 12th, the day after it unveiled the federal budget, and Mr. Wilks said these changes could benefit the Upper Columbia Valley. For-profit and not-for-profit entities can now apply to the fund, as well as local governments.

“We’ve expanded that and we’ve expanded the opportunities you can apply to it for,” said Mr. Wilks.

Previously local governments applying for money from the fund needed to have a specific “green component” to their applications, but the federal government has removed this, he said.

“Most local governments deal with mostly water, sewers and roads, none of which necessarily have a ‘green component’, so we took that out. The federal government has also broadened the scope of the fund to include local and regional airports, broadband, recreation, culture, tourism and sport,” said Mr. Wilks.

The majority of money from the Build Canada Fund destined for B.C. communities used to flow through the Union of B.C. Municipalities (or UBCM), but the federal government’s recent changes mean that 75 per cent of that money will now go directly to the communities and only the remaining 25 per cent will flow through the UBCM, he said.

Mr. Wilks also emphasized an allocation in the budget for improvements on the TransCanada highway through Glacier National Park, something he said he’s been lobbying for since he became an MP.

Although the highway does not go through the Upper Columbia Valley, many valley residents use it often when heading to the coast or to the Kamloops and Okanagan areas, trips that hopefully will soon become smoother and easier thanks to the improvements, said Mr. Wilks.

“In the budget they announced $391 million to go to Parks Canada with a significant portion of that dedicated to repaving and other repairs (to the TransCanada highway) in Glacier National Park,” he said. “I will lobby for that significant portion to be around $100 million.”

“They left it pretty vague in the budget, but in my opinion it has to be capital upgrades, not just operational (improvements),” said Mr. Wilks.

The budget contains an additional $5 million for the New Horizons project (which could be used for local seniors-friendly projects), a tax credit of up to $3,000 for volunteer search and rescue workers (of which the valley has more than a few) and an additional $10.8 million in funding for the Special Olympics program (of which Invermere has a very successful branch).

“The Special Olympic program has extremely low administration cost and is really great for the participants — the extra funding will help get them out skiing, bowling and swimming more,” said Mr. Wilks.

The MP also touted a move in the federal budget to introduce a new DNA database.

“I would like to take it one step further. I would like to see that if you are charged and convicted of an indictable offense, that you must provide a DNA sample. I truly believe we could solve a huge number of unsolved murders, maybe as many as 60 percent, with this. And if they (convicts) won’t give it (the DNA samples) willingly there are always ways of getting it,” said Mr. Wilks.

The MP also talked about the recent controversy surrounding the announced closure of nine Veterans Affairs offices across the country.

“In my opinion it (the announcement of closures) wasn’t done properly, but I am not the Minister of Veterans Affairs. It was disappointing,” said Mr. Wilks, adding his family background includes a lot of people in the military.  “It should not become a partisan issue and it did. All parties are to blame.”

Seven of the nine Veterans Affairs offices that were closed were simply moved to a Services Canada office in the same building or one extremely close by.

“All they were doing was moving the staff to eliminate a lease,” he said. “The messaging was terrible. It really was. It should have been done a lot better. But it wasn’t and now we deal with it.”

Mr. Wilks also touched on the Senate scandal, saying changing the senate, which many people tout as a solution, is more complicated than many people realize.

“It’s challenging because you are stuck with the constitution of 1867,” he said. “The only way to really change the Senate is to change the constitution and you just can’t do that. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are hesitant to open it (the idea of constitution change to reform the Senate) because they have the most to lose.”

Copper Point Resort general manager and B.C. Hotel Association board of directors member Amanda Robinson asked Mr. Wilks about his opinion on the temporary foreign workers’ program.

“Every time we try to change the foreign workers’ program, big business figures out a way around it. It’s challenging,” he said. “It’s a reality that we need temporary foreign workers.”

The existing temporary foreign workers’ program mostly works well, said Mr. Wilks, but large companies — such as mining companies based in northern B.C. — try to slip through existing loopholes, prompting the federal government to make changes.

Often those changes are necessarily blanket changes and small businesses, including those in places such as the Upper Columbia Valley, then get caught in the middle, he said.

 

Just Posted

The end of an Echo
The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

Princeton wildfire phots courtesy of Debbie Lyon.
UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers
VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

Aerial view south of Williams Lake Friday afternoon shows dry lightning storm passing over, leaving fire starts behind. Lightning sparked more than 100 new fires Friday. (Black Press)
VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017
DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase
59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

(Flickr/Andreas Eldh)
Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage
Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds
UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Photo by: WeissPaarz.com
Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert
UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

A university study finds that about nine per cent of Canada’s Grade 11 and 12 students – roughly 66,000 teens – have driven within an hour of drinking and 9.4 per cent drove after using marijuana.                                 Photo: Now-
Leader file
One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records
Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read