The BC.C Budget speech delivered by the Minister of Finance announced earlier this month promised to benefit even small communities, and according to North Island MLA Michele Babchuk, how that is done will depend a lot on the local governments themselves.
“I think that we’re going to see a lot of those initiatives start to come out of the Growing Communities Fund,” Babchuk said.
The initiatives in question are for things like new skateboard parks for Port Hardy and Port McNeill, or improvements to the Strathcona Gardens facility in Campbell River.
“A lot of those communities have been doing those that work already on the back of taxation, right? They’re going to be able to take some of this funding that they’ve now got … and make these decisions that benefit their community.
“It was a good day for me to be able to call and let communities know what they were looking at and hear back just some of the ideas,” she said. “Port McNeill was talking about a skatepark, Port Hardy was talking about their pool.”
Much of the budget speech was devoted to big ticket items. However, there were some other areas which were not specifically mentioned, but rather incorporated into other areas. One, for example, was transportation and transit. While projects like the Langley Sky Train were mentioned, there are other projects that could benefit people that are farther away from the bigger centres in the province.
“We still need to be able to have those transportation corridors,” Babchuk said. “Ever since Greyhound is gone, those have been a bit challenging for some rural communities … One of the conversations that we are having in rural caucus is how do we take a look at those challenging pieces around transportation in rural areas right where those economies of scale might not be might not be as evident.”
Babchuk defended the government’s decision to use the surplus, saying that the Growing Communities Fund would not have been possible without it, and awarding funding to all communities in the province was much easier than going through a grant awarding process.
“The debt to GDP has to remain relatively low,” she said. “It is compared to other provinces and is managed sustainably and yeah, we just need to make sure that we’re doing it correctly … I still believe that as a province, coming out of COVID, we came out probably in a better place than what we originally thought we were.
“But there are still a lot of challenges. Then people are people are still struggling and affordability is huge and housing is huge and and we need we need to be able to address those.”