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OPINION – Valley MPs’ Advocacy Results in Billions for Federal Disaster Recovery Support

Ottawa — (with files from Canadian Press) (from MP’s Ed Fast and Brad Vis) Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s fiscal update released Tuesday, which she delivered virtually due to COVID-19 concerns, shows that the deficit for this year is on track to hit $144.5 billion, below the government’s previous forecast of a $154.7 billion deficit.

The better-than-expected result is from billions in new tax revenues and higher oil prices that gave the government $38.5 billion in extra spending room.

But the update shows how quickly that extra room has been eaten up by $28.4 billion in new spending and previously promised spending since April’s federal budget.

Among the new measures are $5 billion to help B.C. rebuild after devastating flooding and $4.5 billion to respond to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, including looming measures at the border and benefits for workers subject to a lockdown.

There are millions more to improve ventilation in schools, libraries, hospitals and community centres, and a tax credit for companies that pay for upgrades.

NOTE this is a fiscal update or a snapshot if you will. It is NOT a full blown budget. ALSO, The government is proposing the new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit that would provide $300 a week to eligible workers who are unable to work due to a temporary local lockdown anytime between October 24, 2021 and May 7, 2022. That is still going through the motions in the House of Commons.

Ed Fast, Member of Parliament for Abbotsford, Brad Vis, Member of Parliament for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, Mark Strahl, Member of Parliament for Chilliwack—Hope, and Dan Albas, Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, issued the following statement in response to the federal government’s Economic and Fiscal Update:

“We are pleased that our Conservative team’s efforts to secure federal support for flood recovery efforts is paying off. Our Team Canada approach to working with the federal government has ensured that British Columbians will receive some of the resources they need to help them through this very difficult time.

“Yesterday’s Economic and Fiscal Update provided $5 billion for the federal government’s share of recovery costs under the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) as well as for other costs related to recent natural disasters in B.C. That said, small communities, specifically Princeton and Merritt, have expressed their frustration that due to the scale of the damage, their tax base is unable to support their share under the DFAA. The federal government must give them the certainty they need, in writing, rather than vague assurances of future support.

“Sadly, our call for the Trudeau Liberals to match donations made to qualified charitable groups beyond the Canadian Red Cross went unheeded. We will continue to advocate for matching federal support for the many worthy organizations that have raised money and done the good work on the ground in our flood ravaged regions.

“Our request for the government to provide direct funding to rebuild Lytton, B.C. after its devastation by last summer’s forest fires has not been met. Similarly, our demand for the Trudeau government to take seriously the future threat of more regular flooding events and to set aside sufficient funding to properly rebuild, upgrade and expand our diking and drainage infrastructure in the Fraser Valley and other parts of southern British Columbia was completely overlooked.

“Canada’s Conservatives will continue to take a Team Canada approach to help the people of British Columbia rebuild. We commit to renewed advocacy and increased political pressure to ensure that the promised funds reach those who need it and are expeditiously invested in the critical infrastructure BC requires.”

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