Whenever a new provincial or federal budget is announced, I tend to look for things that will directly affect our community. Sure, things like personal tax cuts, renovation grants and such are important, but I’m more interested in drilling into the budget to see what we in Kamloops as a whole might benefit from.
The budget announced in Ottawa a couple of hours ago is like a shiny new car we’ve decided to buy now rather than wait until we can afford cash. We get the advantage of driving it right away instead of plugging along with the old beater.
The trick with new cars, and deficit budgets, is that we don’t want to get into the habit of borrowing for one every single year. Sooner or later, we’ve got to pay down the loan. The most worrisome part of this federal budget plan is that it wipes out the payments we’ve made over the past many years and puts us in the position of starting over.
That said, there’s a lot to be commended in this budget. I’m always particularly interested in infrastructure programs, because they hit close to home. They create jobs quickly, and infuse money into the local economy fast. An additional reason municipalities have been swarming around this budget like goldfish at feeding time is that there has been a huge infrastructure gap in Canadian cities for a long time. Sewers, water plants, roads and facilities are badly in need of repair or replacement.
The infrastructure money included in the federal budget is good news for Kamloops. There’s $4 billion for general infrastructure, and $500 million specifically for recreational infrastructure. The question is how fast we can access some of it.
As I read the budget document, the money will only be available through federal-provincial agreements. That means, once again, the federal government will negotiate separate contracts for distribution of the money with each and every province and territory.
If that seems like a waste of time, it is, but necessary the way things are done in Canada. City governments are directly bossed by provincial governments, so the feds avoid like the plague any notion of doing business directly with City councils when it comes to handing out money. It must flow through the provinces.
The key, then, is to accelerate the signing of those agreements. I don’t know exactly how that can be achieved, but it’s essential in order for infrastructure funding to be put to its best, and quickest, use. City Hall may have a different view of the situation, but that’s the way I see it.
Housing, by the way, hasn’t been ignored in this budget but, on first reading, I would like to have seen more.
There’s also money for First Nations projects. As always, the question is, what kind of projects, and which ones specifically, but local Bands will surely be able to get some of the funding. And, I’m betting the Interior Science Innovation Council’s ears perked up at the $225 million one-year program for expanding broadband access in rural areas — it should fit in nicely with ISIC’s current program. (Maybe we’ll even see some benefit in Black Pines.)
TRU will be busy looking at what it needs to do to “repair, retrofit and expand” its facilities with the $2 billion set aside from that. And maybe some of the Trans Canada Highway money will make its way into the Interior of B.C.
There are a lot of features to look at on this shiny new car. Question is how long it will take to kick the tires so we can take it for a drive around the block.