Kootenay Columbia MP Rob Morrison stopped by the monthly regional district meeting to hear feedback from local mayors and area directors as part of a tour of the riding.
Sparwood Mayor David Wilks kicked off a few brief suggestions, outlining challenges with rural policing as well as securing federal infrastructure funding for smaller communities, speaking as both a former RCMP member and the region’s Member of Parliament.
“I think there’s a time and a discussion to be made with provinces going to their own provincial police force,” said Wilks.
Morrison, also a former RCMP member, said its time that the RCMP let provinces and regions select their own members.
“Priorities for hiring in Ottawa are different than priorities for Cranbrook, or our Kootenay-Columbia riding,” Morrison said. “…Rural policing is different, it’s not like policing in Montreal or Calgary or Vancouver and I think the RCMP has gone away from that a bit and I think we need our police officers wanting to be in our communities and staying here.”
Wilks also touched on the challenges of securing federal infrastructure funding for smaller communities such as Sparwood, using the example of an unsuccessful bid for a grant that would have gone towards a water line replacement.
“Let’s face it, we’re not a Liberal riding, so that diminishes the opportunity somewhat, I can tell you personally that’s what happens,” Wilks said. “So the next thing that happens is, you hope you get that grant and if you don’t get it, well then you apply next time.
“I think there’s an opportunity for the government to move away from the grant process for infrastructure requirements for communities across Canada, whether that be Toronto or whether that be Sparwood, or whatever — it doesn’t matter — and go towards something similar to what the gas tax is, where you have a guaranteed fund of money that you’re getting every year, for asset management.”
Dedicating one per cent of the GST toward asset management for municipalities across Canada was an idea Wilks said he brought forward when he was an MP.
“It would be billions of dollars,” he said.
The predictability of funding would be better than the current system, Wilks added, contrasting it to a lottery.
“I think, luckily because of the minority government, we do have a little bit more of a stick than we did when it was a majority government,” Morrison said. “It is a lottery and I’ll be fighting for all of the infrastructure funding throughout Kootenay-Columbia, as much as we can get.”
RDEK board chair Rob Gay also raised the challenges of securing federal funding for rural fire departments, noting that some funding streams aren’t eligible for capital projects such as building a fire hall or purchasing a new fire engine.