As the elected representative for all constituents of the Okanagan-Shuswap, I hear the priorities of the people I serve. This may sound rudimentary but is in fact quite challenging when the priorities of a constituency are diverse. To illustrate this, at one of the all-candidate meetings in the recent election I heard not only from the Okanagan College Student’s Union who wanted more funding for a post-secondary school, but also from a gentleman in the forum who wanted more funding for health care and a senior wanting more funding for seniors. Although each of these requests is legitimate and our government would love to fund everything for everyone, it was worth reminding ourselves that ultimately “government money has only one source, the taxpayer”.
Along these lines, there is a fine balance between reasonable tax levels and excessive tax levels. Our government has reduced taxes in Canada to the lowest level in 50 years while still putting more money into your hands which enables you to set your focus on your individual needs. My job, as well as the job of my colleagues, is to set priorities and distribute taxes your government receives to provide effective, efficient and necessary services to Canadians. However, a challenge we face as government is ensuring we do not spend taxpayer dollars providing services to citizens which they can reasonably provide for themselves. Corporate taxes also reflect this same principle and reasonable corporate tax levels and government funding of free enterprises are carefully measured.
Investing in our economy results in jobs and wealth creation. A good example of this is the forestry industry in British Columbia. During the economic downturn, our government asked the suffering forestry industry how we could help them recover. The answer was to invest in research and development of new wood products, and help to open new international markets for their products. Our government took action and in the 2009-2010 budget, allocated approximately $125 million to address these priorities. This investment has provided many fruits for the industry. Where three years ago, 70% of all wood products were shipped to the USA and 30% to other markets; today 30% is shipped to the USA and 70% shipped to new markets. During the economic downturn, 24 mills in B.C. were either shut down or on limited operations. Today, all 24 mills are moving forward at normal capacity.
The largest local forest company in our riding, Tolko Industries Ltd., has confirmed the success of our investments and applauded the results. We were encouraged to hear that the decision to invest and partner with the industry was the right one.
Our 2011-2012 budget continues on this balanced approach as we fund services to Canadians or make investments in the economy. No, not everyone received what they wanted in the budget but it did address your priorities by a reasonable measure.
Colin Mayes, MP Okanagan-Shuswap