Budget input sought by MP

North Okanagan-Shuswap’s MP hopes political differences won’t stand in the way of Ottawa reaching out to this region

North Okanagan-Shuswap’s MP hopes political differences won’t stand in the way of Ottawa reaching out to this region.

Conservative Mel Arnold has been consulting with municipalities, regional districts and First Nations so he can provide input to the Liberal government before the federal budget is unveiled in March.

“We can say this is a consensus from the communities around the riding. This is what people on the ground are looking for,” he said.

On Friday, Arnold met with the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“The goal is to hear from you about what’s important to you in the budget so we can make a submission on behalf of the riding,” he said.

Among the issues raised was the need for infrastructure money, including possibly for a sewer treatment plant along Swan Lake and Greater Vernon’s master water plan.

A push was also made to have Ottawa assist communities obtain corridors abandoned by railway companies.

“It’s insanity to lose a corridor that could be used for fiber optics or light commuter rail in the future,” said director Kevin Acton.

Arnold was also urged to push for a national housing strategy.

“It’s so difficult for people to buy a house,” said director Catherine Lord.

Other items suggested to Arnold included funding for social agencies and the need for increased focus on mental health programs.

The need to fight invasive mussels from entering local lakes was also discussed and Arnold says it may be the focus of a private member’s bill this fall.

“If the government hasn’t moved forward on that issue, I will look at that,” he said.

Director Mike Macnabb encouraged Arnold not to get caught up in the partisan component of Ottawa.

“We’d like you to work with the government and not necessarily follow the party line that, ‘Everything you (government) do is wrong,’” said Macnabb.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested that Liberal promises prior to the election may have to be adjusted because of economic uncertainties.

“They are finding out that budgets don’t balance themselves,” said Arnold.

“We need to be seen as stable to attract investment. It will be international investment that drives the economy.”