Rural communities are ignored
I want to begin by sharing an unfortunate event from 2016.
That year, a rockslide damaged the regional irrigation canal located in the community of Oliver.
This canal runs from north of Oliver, down south to Osoyoos and is critical infrastructure serving many South Okanagan farming communities.
When it came time to fund the repairs, the local government budgeted to invest its fair share in the project. Likewise, the provincial government of the day also stepped up to cover its share.
Unfortunately, the answer was no from the federal government. The bureaucrats said that the project did not fit into any established grant programs and washed its hands of the problem.
This was not in my riding; however, the Member of Parliament who represented this region did raise the issue many times in Parliament but was ignored by the current Trudeau Liberal Government.
What was even more infuriating from my perspective was two years later, in 2019, the same Trudeau Liberal Government gave the mega-grocery corporation Loblaws over $12 million to help buy more energy-efficient refrigeration.
The net earnings of Loblaw Companies Limited reached approximately 1.99 billion Canadian dollars in the financial year ending December 31, 2022. For some context, the cost to repair the Oliver irrigation canal was estimated at $11.4 million.
Why do I mention this?
In 2021, communities such as Princeton and Merritt, BC, as well as the surrounding unincorporated areas, were devastated by flooding.
At the time, there was national media attention on this situation; Prime Minister Trudeau promised the citizens of these communities that he “had their backs” and “he would be there for them.”
The Mayor of Princeton was given a special number to contact his office– yet when he tried to use this number, he was told to go speak with the province.
You may have heard recently that the Trudeau Liberal Government announced they were giving Volkswagen “up to $13 billion in subsidies over the next decade as part of a deal to ensure the automaker builds its electric-vehicle battery plant in southern Ontario.”
According to Statista, Volkswagen’s operating profit in the 2022 fiscal year increased by some 14.78 percent from the previous year and stood at roughly 22.1 Billion Euros.
What you may not have heard is that there are still citizens in Merritt and Princeton who cannot return home.
Likewise, there are many badly needed infrastructure projects required that these small communities need help to afford.
People in Merritt and Princeton pay taxes to Ottawa like anywhere else and all too often, rural Canada is ignored by this Liberal Government.
It is crucial that Ottawa hears directly from rural Mayors of these hard hit communities to understand better the struggles they face as they try to rebuild.
Last week, I invited Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne and Merritt Mayor Michael Goetz to appear in Ottawa at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
I want to thank both of these Mayors for attending and sharing the experiences of their communities and the many challenges they face.
This week’s question: Do you think the Federal Government is properly supporting rural communities?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.