Lake Country Mayor James Baker says he was surprised at the results of the federal election but adds that it may be beneficial to Lake Country to work with new MP Stephen Fuhr and the Liberal government when it comes to the district’s ongoing infrastructure shortage.
Fuhr was elected as Kelowna-Lake Country MP in last week’s federal election. He met with local politicians in Kelowna last week and is expected to meet with Lake Country’s mayor and council before he departs for Ottawa, beginning a relationship that will last at least the next four years.
Baker said the fact that the Liberals promised a record amount of infrastructure spending bodes well for the district’s attempts to acquire funding.
“The Liberal platform was good with regard to infrastructure spending so we have to see that some of that comes our way,” said Baker. “Our biggest issue is our Transportation for Tomorrow plan so (we hope) they can continue the grant program like Build Canada and have that relate to what we are doing with our roads and cycling paths and other infrastructure like water and sewer.”
Baker said the district has had good success securing money from senior levels of government at both the provincial and federal level in the past with the key being the grant applications sent in by the district.
“You need a strong proposal and you need to have plans in place,” said Baker of the keys to accessing infrastructure money. “It is imperative that we can access this money. We are such a fast-growing community and we have a lot of deficits in our infrastructure.”
Fuhr will leave for Ottawa on Nov. 1 to be sworn in and get his office set-up. Since the election he has been busy fielding phone calls from well-wishers and his new constituents and getting organized, including a quick meeting with the City of Kelowna. He also plans to touch base with Lake Country on its specific needs this week.
“Infrastructure was a big part of our party platform,” said Fuhr. “We were the only party in my opinion that had the fiscal plan that addressed the problem. Our economy lacks jobs and growth and infrastructure jobs are the solution. Lake Country has its own needs so I need to meet with them and find out what their priorities are. I’m going to make sure Kelowna and Lake Country get the resources they need that are available from the federal government.”
The Liberals campaigned on deficit budgets to increase funding for infrastructure projects right across the country as municipalities grapple with the fact that much of its infrastructure is outdated and in need of upgrades.
In Lake Country, the district is moving forward with its 20-year Transportation for Tomorrow Plan, a document that sets the groundwork for what needs to be improved on a year-by-year basis. However, there is no set funding plan in place for what is an estimated $30-million plan.
At its council meeting on Oct. 20, council directed staff to investigate a hybrid tax/property tax funding program for the strategy as opposed to direct property taxes on Lake Country residents and approved a further study on the financial plan costing $5,000.
While the financial plan may not yet be set, Baker said the fact the district is working towards having a plan in place to help deal with their infrastructure shortage can only help access federal money.
“We do have the need for infrastructure and we have the plan in place that will enable us to get the work done in the timeframe that the money is available,” said Baker. “We’ve had good success previously with the governments in power and I’m sure our MP will be looking to get things coming this way.”