Local communities look to budget for funding

Money directed towards community infrastructure and First Nations

North Okanagan community leaders hope the new federal budget will benefit the region.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government presented its first financial plan since being elected last fall.

“It’s a good start,” said Akbal Mund, Vernon mayor.

The budget includes $120 billion over 10 years for infrastructure with the primary focus being transit, water, sewer and affordable housing.

Mund anticipates there will be competition for the dollars as virtually every community in Canada struggles with an infrastructure deficit.

“There will be a lot of hands out and the government will likely look at which communities have been supported in the past and which haven’t,” he said.

“It bodes well for Vernon because I don’t remember the last time there were federal funds here.”

The budget also calls for $8.4 billion to be directed towards indigenous people over five years. That will include $2.6 billion for education on resources.

“It’s a step in the right direction and they’re starting to address needs,” said Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band chief.

“You can never go wrong with education.”

Other funding is earmarked for water systems and housing on reserves.

“I’d like to see where the infrastructure money is going. For us, infrastructure will determine our immediate future,” said Louis, adding that he would have liked more focus on economic development.

The budget outlines a national deficit of $29.4 billion this year while the debt is expected to increase by $113 billion by 2020/21.