Before the misinformation escalates any further, I want to set the record straight. The Conservative government did NOT cut Mountain Pine Beetle funding this week. In actual fact, we replaced it ? with a less restrictive program amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars more. And we replaced it shortly after we formed government.
A great deal of confusion has arisen over $11.7-million in federal money that?s been sitting idle for four years. Actually, the money was ?leftover? from a $40-million fund set aside by the former Liberal government in 2002 to address the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic. This federal program actually pre-dated another $100-million which was directly transferred to the province of BC so it could deliver its own three-year program.
As one of those who fought hard for more than a decade to get the Liberals to recognize the magnitude of the beetle infestation, I?m very disappointed that any of that desperately-needed $40-million was not invested. However, the Liberal-designed program was restricted to research and development, and forest rehabilitation.
In the interests of moving forward, when our Conservative government took office, we established new pine beetle funding that can also be directed towards tangible projects and initiatives that both the BC and federal governments believe will help the affected regions and the forest industry.
Specifically, over the next ten years, the Conservative government will be providing $1-billion, or $100-million every year, in Mountain Pine Beetle funding, including funds for projects and activities to help mitigate the epidemic?s impact on local and regional economies. And that is precisely what I remain focussed upon: what THIS government is doing now to counter the impact of the pine beetle.
Our new government is also busy cleaning up the nation?s finances by identifying funds we can free up to pay for the priorities we committed to in the election campaign.
As a result, we have found $13.2-billion to pay down the debt, plus $1.4-billion for affordable housing initiatives. We found that money by identifying allocated yet idle funds (like the $11.7-million) and by cutting programs like the one that saw the federal government providing funding to special interest groups so that they could afford to turn around and sue the federal government.
As for projects and activities that will be considered under the new pine beetle funding, they will be subject to a federal funding process that is consistent, transparent and accountable.
Gone are the days when a Liberal Minister or other well-connected Liberal could make a cheque magically appear. This Conservative government does business differently.
As an MP, I am happy to facilitate opportunities for municipalities in my riding to explain to the relevant federal ministers and bureaucrats the projects they are advocating on behalf of their residents. And I do not hesitate to promote these projects under development in my constituency ? often enthusiastically. However, our government does not intend to circumvent the proper and accountable federal funding procedures in order to cut a cheque.