The conservative government released its federal budget on February 12, bringing good news for the Elk Valley. According to Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, the budget includes several projects that benefit the area, including a tax credit for search and rescue volunteers, legislation against cross-border price discrimination, and additional funding for a seniors program.
“One that’s fairly interesting to Fernie and Cranbrook certainly is legislating against unjustified cross-border price discrimination,” commented Wilks. “Some companies charge higher prices in Canada than in the U.S. for the same goods beyond what could be justified by higher operating costs.”
Located so close to the border, residents from Fernie often cross into the U.S. to shop. The hope is that in regulating prices, people will be encourage to shop locally and on this side of the border.
“What we’re going to try and target is making sure there’s some more fairness with regards to things that are significantly cheaper in the United States than they are in Canada,” said Wilks.
Significant to the Elk Valley is $10 million set aside to improve and expand snowmobile and recreational trails over two years.
“Although we don’t have snowmobile trails per se in British Columbia, that’s more confined to Ontario and Quebec, what it can do is help all of those not-for-profit groups that want to improve recreational trails,” said Wilks.
He felt this could be a funding opportunity for resurrecting the Coal Discover Trail that links Fernie and Sparwood, as well as several other trails around the Fernie area.
Funding was also given to a cause that hits close to home for Wilks.
“One of the things close to my heart, and it does have some effect in Fernie, is the Special Olympics. We are providing an additional $10 million over four years to Special Olympics,” said Wilks. “When my wife and I used to run the bowling alley [in Sparwood] it was significant for Special Olympics bowling, so it’s close to my heart and I’m glad to see that they got additional funding.”
Other budget items that are of interest to the Elk Valley are a $3,000 tax credit for search and rescue volunteers, interest free loans for people entering a Red Seal Trades apprentice program, and an additional $5 million per year for the New Horizons for Seniors program.