While critics say the Justin Trudeau government has broken some of its election promises, local mayors see some positives in the first budget tabled by the federal Liberals.
Comox Mayor Paul Ives sees good news in regards to infrastructure spending to the tune of $2.2 billion over five years for water, sewer and solid waste management.
“Hopefully, we can apply for funding to help us pay for water filtration, sewer pump stations, and engineered landfills as part of our regional infrastructure projects,” Ives said.
He harbours concern, however, about a deferral of Buffalo’s fixed wing SAR replacement procurement, and “no obvious plan to keep Comox MCTS (Marine Communications and Traffic Services) open beyond May.”
The latter is subject to parliamentary committee work, as initiated by NDP MPs Rachel Blaney and Gord Johns, who represent North Island-Powell River and Courtenay-Alberni respectively.
While it’s a little early to tell how the budget will affect the Valley, Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula advocates optimism. He hopes some of the money will trickle down locally, though he’s mindful that every Canadian community will be applying for a piece of the pie.
“We have already received $3.6 million for the complete streets project on Fifth Street, even though this was from another different federal program,” Jangula said. “Our staff are applying for whatever grants we can get for infrastructure, and possibly even money for painting the Fifth Street bridge.”
He notes too that funds are needed for low-cost housing projects, especially for the working poor.
“I will continue to pursue long-term funding for this file.”
Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird notes the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recognizes a number of positives in the budget, including infrastructure, public safety and recreation.
“It talks about 50 per cent funding for municipalities for wastewater and clearwater,” she said.
“Raymond Louie (FCM president) stresses the fact that they need to look after smaller municipalities. It’s still a burden on the taxpayers, whether you’re a large or small municipality.”
In Cumberland, six blocks of Dunsmuir Avenue will be improved by replacing aging underground water and sewer pipes. Baird says the multi-million dollar project wouldn’t be possible without the support of federal funds.
Jangula — not surprised that Johns was disappointed with the budget — said it doesn’t help the Valley’s position to not have a single Liberal MP on Vancouver Island.
Baird can understand Johns’ viewpoint, but she is considering the federal budget as the mayor of the village.
“Sometimes it’s not just the money,” she said. “There’s other things they’re doing that are important, like the environment and climate change. That’s huge, even just acknowledging that.”