Friday July 23, 2010

Local News


"The Party Is Over"

Infrastructure project debt a burden to future generations

Craig Hill/Voice   


Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and MLA Chilliwack-Hope talk about infrastructure projects Friday.


hilliwack Mayor Sharon Gatez and council members gathered at Sardis Sr. Sec. for a small but heartfelt ceremony Friday to acknowledge the cooperation between the three levels of government to secure infrastructure funding.

Barry Penner, Minister of the Environment and MLA for the Chilliwack-Hope region; Chuck Strahl, MP for the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon and Minister of Indian and Northern affairs; and John Les, MLA for Chilliwack, were each given ceremonial pens for their efforts to get the funding which is paying for local projects such as the Tyson Rd sewer project, the Lickman Rd exchange and for dike upgrades.

The ceremony took place at Sardis Sr. Sec. where the mayor presented each with pens.

Gaetz said that there were ill be 250 homes in the Tyson-Steveston area who will be the beneficiaries of the new sewer line system that is being installed.

She said that residents were so excited about the project that they arrived at city hall with their cheques in hand to pay their share of the new sewage system and pump station.

"You guys would know that this is so important particularly for the people in the Stevenson-Tyson Rd. areas because their sewer systems were right at the end of their shelf life," said Gaetz.

Infrastructure funds are also paying for projects such as the Lickman Rd. exchange and the Vedder diking system.

Strahl told those in attendence that when asked about projects that are a priority in the community from the federal perspective, he always talks about water, sewer and flood protection.

"Those are the three top ones because it's a neverending list ... and if we don't protect the aquifer,

Strahl said the sewer strategy is good and that it "fit all the parameters" in terms of which projects benefitted from the stimulus money. "If we don't service properly then we're going to pay a price later on."

Strahl said the Lickman Rd. exchange project is one of 16,000 under the federal government's Economic Action Plan and talked about how that will help businesses in the area, meaning a more even flow of traffic and goods through the perpetually clogged intersection.

"A lot of them (EAP projects) are seen as part of the key to making a business-friendly environment both on the infrastructure side, taxwise and otherwise and I think we all do our part on all three levels of government, so three good projects and three pretty good levels of cooperation," he said and adding that "It's an excellent example of what voters expect between elections, get together, get something done, and that's what they expect and that's exactly what we delivered."

The mayor presented Strahl with a pen saying that "In the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, here's a pen to write us a cheque," she quipped.

Penner said he and Strahl toured their consituencies looking at the projects which he says have been timed to take place during an economic downtown.

"A lot of the froth has come out of the labour costs and the construction bids that are being recieved, so we're seeing tremendous value around the province for construction projects right now, so it speaks volumes to the wisdom various levels of government in pursuing economic stimulus spending during an economic downturn," said Penner.

"I'd be remiss in if I didn't comment on the environmental attributes of using a sewer system instead of counting on people to properly maintain their septic systems." he said adding that

"Certainly from the Ministry of Environment's perspective we appreciate the move here to a sewer system."

When it was Les' turn to speak, he talked about how good the investments were in the community.

"The dike protection is very important, we've been hard at work over the last number of years making sure that we re-initiated a draught for the sediment removal program from the river this year again that was very sucessful, a little bit of a hard slog but nonetheless it's working."

Les reminded the audience of the amount of work being done on the university campus in Chilliwack.

"That work is well under way and I'm sure you are well aware that I'm very excited about the long-term potential for the community, so all together we're close on something like $15M that's come to this community as a result of this stumulus funding."

Les said it's important to not miss any opportunities and grab the cash when it becomes available for infrastruture, but reminded those in attendance that the funds do need to be paid back.

"We will all congratulate one another today and thank one another for the wonderful work we've done but who's going to do the repaying," he said.

"In about a month and a half there will be about 1200 kids that are going back to school here, it's actually they who are going to have to pay this bill and we need to be mindful of that."

According to Les, the provincial government is $1.8B in debt and everywhere they look they see that spending is above the rate of inflation and that future generations are going to have to pay off the accrued debt with money generated in part from property taxes.

"We are dumping that directly into the laps of our kids and grandkids and all we're doing is adding to that problem until we need to get our debts and deficit under control," said Les "We've got to realize one of these days that the party is over, and we have to start living within our means and develop a strong economy."

Photos below.

Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice




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