With the tired hands of Canada’s political clock ticking closer
to this month’s federal budget delivery, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to
Sky Country MP John Weston is pushing the Ministry of Finance to fund
infrastructure projects in Whistler and Squamish.
“In a big riding like ours, it’s a major undertaking to be in
touch with all community leaders, and that’s been an important part of my work
over the past few weeks,” said the newly elected Conservative MP. “I think
we’re in the position to build on the good record that Canada has. Many
Canadians are hurting and our realtors are suffering and there’s been an
erosion of investment. But looking around the world, Canadians are increasingly
aware that Canadians are in a stronger position.”
Weston said he’s met with all the riding’s municipal leaders,
including members of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. Regarding
Whistler, Weston will lobby Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to fund a bus
facility, among other things. Regarding Squamish, he’ll push for money to
dredge the Mamquam Blind Channel and finance the West Coast Railway Association
Roundhouse and Conference Centre, also among other things. He’s also assembled
a team that includes some high profile locals, like Patrick McCurdy from
Whistler and Ron Anderson from Squamish.
“I hasten to add that as a new Member of Parliament, I can’t
guarantee we’ll bring home these infrastructure projects,” he said, “but at
least I’m doing my job articulating these needs to the minister.”
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been calling on
the federal government to crank up infrastructure spending since November.
In a study updated around that time, the
group said that $2 billion in tax cuts would produce fewer jobs than $1 billion
in infrastructure spending.
As part of his budget consultation process, Minister Flaherty will visit the riding on Jan. 12.
It’s been more than a month since the Governor General agreed
to prorogue Parliament. During that time, Weston, a new second homeowner in
Whistler, attended the opening of the Peak 2 Peak gondola and brought Natural
Resources Minister Gary Lunn to the Olympic Park. He also took credit for
connecting Whistler Daycare with B.C. MLA Joan McIntyre and participating in
awarding $50,000 to Whistler Mountain Ski Club.
When the Governor General agreed to prorogue Parliament, Weston
seemed relieved, though more than a little incensed by the opposition. As did
many in the Conservative camp, he billed the move as an opportunity for cooler
heads to prevail. Since then, Stephane Dion has tumbled from the Liberal
leadership, with Michael Ignatieff taking his place. The leadership change
doesn’t bode well for the coalition that so threatened the Conservative
government, as Ignatieff positioned himself as a reluctant participant in the
pact of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.
“I know that Stephen Harper has met with Michael Ignatieff soon
after Ignatieff was made the leader of the Liberals,” said Weston, “and I was
in the House when (Prime Minster Stephen) Harper and (Finance Minster Jim)
Flaherty invited the other parties to contribute to the budget. And I think
that has happened and will continue to happen.”
In interviews since prorogation, Harper has refused to admit to
any mistakes in his party’s presentation of the fiscal update that the
opposition blames for triggering today’s political situation. That update
threatened to claw back $30 million in subsidies given to political parties
with more than two per cent of the popular vote. The government said the
subsidies issue was a red herring and that the opposition had a coup plot in
place well before the update.
“I think the vast majority of Canadians don’t want to see
subsidies given to a separatist party, and that most Canadians agree with that
controversial aspect,” said Weston. “However, the Prime Minster recognized that
the timing was wrong and withdrew it immediately and took it off the table.”