The B.C. government has tabled its 2022 budget, and sadly it does not address the key issues facing our Interior communities.
When we look at funds in the budget for disaster recovery — whether it be from flooding or wildfires or the heat dome — we see some numbers, but no details on what those numbers will translate to on the ground. I will be seeking more clarity on this in the Legislature during the upcoming budget estimates process, which allows for more detailed questioning and debate.
The 2022 Budget falls short in supporting our communities in more ways than one. There is little investment to address the immediate needs of our rural communities, like our health care staff shortages, additional supports for mental health and addictions, or investments that will bring greater connectivity to our rural communities.
There is also little support for our various industries that will help bring jobs and opportunities to our communities.
The NDP’s mismanagement of old-growth deferrals will blow a $1 billion hole in forestry revenues over the course of the fiscal plan, and yet the only support offered for the workers who will be losing their jobs is $185 million over the next three years to help transition displaced workers into retirement.
With spring planting just around the corner, many of our farmers and ranchers are still anxiously waiting for the supports outlined in the Agriculture Recovery Fund to help them repair their machinery and rebuild their farms and ranches.
Thankfully, though, there is amazing work being done on the ground by local groups and organizations. The Hell or High Water concert and telethon, hosted by a wide variety of musicians, dignitaries, and local residents to raise money for the people of Merritt, Lytton, Princeton, and Abbotsford, as well as the surrounding First Nations communities, will be held on March 13.
Events like this are what will bring our communities the support they need to truly put them on the road to recovery.