By David F. Rooney
Thursday’s federal budget includes millions for Trans-Canada Highway improvements within the National Parks, says Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks.
“It’s $19 million,” he said during a brief interview from Ottawa. “It doesn’t look a like a lot of money and it isn’t, but it’s a start.”
This is the first new money earmarked by Ottawa directly for TCH improvements within the parks in several years.
Wilks said the money will likely be used in Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks.
“They’re done with Banff, so it will be other parks,” he said. “Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke — those are the only other parks the Trans Canada runs through.”
The budget, which was presented in the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon b y federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, contains a number of other measures that will be certain to interest cities, towns, housing organizations and even families in this riding, Wilks said.
The document, entitled Economic Action Plan 2013, introduces a new 10-year funding commitment to improving provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure, starting in 2014/15, through three key funds:
- Community Improvement Fund — $32.2 billion consisting of an indexed Gas Tax Fund and the incremental Goods and Services Tax (GST) Rebate for Municipalities to build roads, public transit, recreational facilities and other community infrastructure across Canada.
- New Building Canada Fund — $14 billion in support of major economic infrastructure projects that have a national, regional and local significance.
- Renewed P3 Canada Fund — $1.25 billion to continue supporting innovative ways to build infrastructure projects faster and provide better value for Canadian taxpayers through public-private partnerships.
In addition, about $6 billion in federal support will be provided to provinces, territories and municipalities under current infrastructure programs in 2014/15 and beyond. This brings total federal investments in provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure to approximately $53.5 billion from 2014/15 to 2023/24.
Community Improvement Fund
This initiative provides stable, predictable funding for Canadian municipalities of $32.2 billion over 10 years consisting of an indexed Gas Tax Fund and the incremental GST Rebate for Municipalities. This funding will support community infrastructure projects such as roads, public transit and recreational facilities. Funding starts at approximately $2.9 billion in 2014/15 and increases to over $3.6 billion in 2023/24. The new Community Improvement Fund will provide municipalities with greater flexibility to allocate federal support toward a broader range of infrastructure priorities.
Building Canada Fund
Economic Action Plan 2013 provides $14 billion over 10 years to support infrastructure projects of national, regional and local significance. The new Building Canada Fund will have two components:
- A $4-billion National Infrastructure Fund that will support investments in projects of national significance, such as highways, public transit, and gateway and trade corridor-related infrastructure.
- A $10-billion Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Fund that will support projects of national, regional and local significance in communities across the country in a broader range of categories including highways, public transit, drinking water, wastewater, connectivity and broadband, and innovation.
It includes $119 million per year over five years for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy using a “Housing First” approach and $253 million per year over five years to renew the Investment in Affordable Housing.
In addition, the government has earmarked $65 million over two years to simplify the Funeral and Burial Program for Canada’s veterans and more than double its reimbursement rate.
Among the measures to benefit families are:
- Tax relief for home care services under the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax has been expanded to better meet the health care needs of Canadians; and
- $76 million in annual tariff relief on baby clothing and sports and athletic equipment to reduce the gap in retail prices that Canadian consumers pay compared to those in the U.S.