As expected, my first week in the House of Commons as Opposition House Leader has been a busy one. However, despite the demanding pace and the exciting challenges I?m encountering in my new job, the highlight of my week was two opportunities to raise the concerns and issues important to Prince George-Peace River residents.
The first was during Question Period, where I called upon the federal Liberals to stick to their election promise for a new infrastructure deal for Canadian municipalities and their pledge to expand Canada?s army reserve forces by 3,000 personnel. For Prince George, I explained, this would likely result in the funding needed to construct the new Nechako River industrial crossing, and ensure the establishment of a 120-member army reserve unit.
My statement coincided with pre-budget debates that began this week, where MPs can provide their input about the upcoming federal budget. Before it?s finalized, I wanted to register my constituents? fiscal priorities.
In my pre-budget speech I stressed that our riding, like most in Canada, wants tax relief. The federal Liberals have amassed another surplus this year to the tune of $11-billion ? money that came off your paycheques. I reminded the government that just three months ago it supported a Conservative amendment to the Throne Speech calling for tax relief for Canadian families.
Recently, the government managed to ?find? another $96-million to add to the billion dollar-plus gun registry, yet some Liberals still insist there isn?t enough money for tax cuts. If not tax cuts, I asked, what about decent health care, solid infrastructure and good government? Too many residents here can?t even find a family doctor, and many of our family farms are on the verge of bankruptcy, whether due to the BSE crisis, low commodity prices, drought or the heavy rains during harvest.
I also demanded that the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic be considered in this federal budget. Combating the current outbreak registers so low on the Liberals? fiscal radar, they?ve so far allocated a total of just $8-million in federal money.
No matter what economic adversity the businesses and people in our riding face, there remains an optimism and motivation to do even better. With good government and decent transportation infrastructure, the economic possibilities are limitless.
That?s why it?s critical that the federal government acknowledge the importance of safety, maintenance, services and capital needs at our airports in Prince George, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. Yet Minister Anne McLellan hasn?t even bothered to respond to my four-and-a-half month old request for additional customs agents at the Prince George airport to meet the increased demand for international cargo services.
I told the government that my constituents don?t want hand-outs, but neither do you want crumbling infrastructure, a lack of access to quality healthcare, and a declining level of government services to impede prosperity in our communities. Prince George-Peace River wants what most Canadians want ? to know that the tax dollars you worked hard to earn are working hard for you.