MP David Wilks was in Invermere this past Thursday after being invited to address the Rotary Club, and during his visit took the time to stop by The Echo‘s offices for an impromptu talk on a few federal decisions that could have far-reaching impact on the Columbia Valley.
Of particular interest to Wilks was a recent announcement regarding the Shuswap Band. As a member of the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Wilks was pleased to share his thoughts about the news that the Shuswap had been added to the First Nations Land Management Regime. In short, the First Nations Land Management Regime is a new management application put on by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development which allows the Shuswap to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act.
“It’s huge because this allows [the Shuswap] to proceed with economic development, and allows them to do things with their land that they could never do before,” Wilks said. “Now, they can move forward freely with economic development… it provides them with great opportunities, and I think that you’ll see [the Shuswap] blossom over the next several years into something that they couldn’t do before this time.”
As a former RCMP officer, Wilks also shared his opinions regarding the newly-introduced omnibus crime bill C-10. Opponents of the bill are most critical of the increased mandatory sentences for certain crimes, such as drug trafficking and sex crimes, but are also concerned about increasing sentences for young offenders, and the lifting of publication bans on names of young offenders convicted of violent offences.
“C-10 comes with its challenges,” Wilks said. “With respect to minimum mandatory sentences, I have no problem with it because I think it targets the types of crimes we expect people to go to jail for.”
The war on drugs and the legalization of marijuana have also been hot topics as of late, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper notably telling leaders at a Latin American Summit that “the current approach isn’t working.”
“The drug part of (C-10) is interesting,” Wilks said. “I’m not in favour of legalizing marijuana, I don’t think it’s the way to go personally, however I don’t speak for the party on that. With regards to the drug laws, I would encourage people to go and read the legislation.”
Lastly, Wilks discussed the recent government investment in the Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook. The airport received $187,043 through the Airports Capital Assistance Program for the purchase of new runway sweepers for the airport, and Wilks says the airport will prove vital to the continued growth and expansion of the Columbia Valley.
“For this area, it’s so important that we have good connectivity through a regional airport, because the only way we get people here from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world is through that connectivity,” Wilks explained. “Whether that is an airport, bus line, or highway, they need to be in good shape — and we can argue whether they are or not — but our airports are so vital.
“I believe that the Rockies International Airport will be even more significant in the years to come as we become more of a destination place, especially for tourism.”