From a jobs and economic perspective, if I had to choose one federal government initiative that has had a significant impact on our riding it would be local investments made in infrastructure through the Building Canada fund.
Before being elected MP in 2006, I was a Kelowna city councillor for nine years.
During that time it was pretty clear to local governments and residents alike that if we didn’t address aging infrastructure and the need to replace it, there would be a negative impact on our ability to grow the local and regional economy.
So when the federal government announced the Building Canada fund in 2007, it was a great relief to everyone.
Our riding of Kelowna-Lake Country has received millions of dollars in infrastructure funding for transit, recreational and heritage facilities, multi-use pathways, water and sewer quality and supply, and bridges and roads.
This includes the $77.9 million for four-laning of Highway 97 from Winfield to Oyama, which is scheduled to open this summer.
Best of all, in my view, was the way the program was structured—a three-way funding arrangement between the municipal, provincial and federal governments ensuring a bottom-up approach, so the right priorities were identified.
Through Building Canada, investments were made to over 43,000 projects to build important public infrastructure across the country and, as a result of these investments, the average age of Canada’s core public infrastructure came down from a peak of 17 years in 2001 to an estimated 14.4 years in 2011.
It is now lower than the historical average over the last 50 years.
Now in 2013, investments in Canada’s public infrastructure are as important as ever.
Those investments remain vital to creating jobs, economic growth and providing a better quality of life for families in every city and community across the country.
That is why it was very good news to learn that the government, after listening to municipalities across the country, announced a new Building Canada plan in Budget 2013.
The new Building Canada plan will have three main components:
• Community Improvement Fund—$32.2 billion consisting of an indexed Gas Tax Fund and the increased GST Rebate for Municipalities to build roads, public transit, recreational facilities and other community infrastructure across Canada that will improve the quality of life of Canadian families.
• New Building Canada Fund—$14 billion in support of major economic infrastructure projects that have a national and regional significance.
• Renewed P3 Canada Fund—$1.25 billion to continue finding innovative ways to build infrastructure projects faster and provide better value for Canadian taxpayers through public-private partnerships.
In addition, over the next 10 years our federal government will invest $6 billion in existing infrastructure funding and $17 billion to build, operate and maintain federal public infrastructure.
Overall, the new Building Canada plan includes $70 billion in federal infrastructure funding over 10 years, making it the largest investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canadian history.
For Kelowna and Lake Country municipal councils, knowing that reliable and predictable gas tax and infrastructure funding is in place makes it much easier to determine their capital planning budgets.
I look forward to continuing to work with my municipal and provincial counterparts to identify our riding’s infrastructure priorities so that our local and regional economy can continue on a positive growth course.
The Okanagan has so much to offer and we want to keep the momentum going.