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MP Wilks to make case for federal highway rescue truck funding

In November, Kootenay–Columbia MP David Wilks (centre right) joined members of the Revelstoke HIghway Rescue Society to acknowledge their nomination and receipt of a road rescue award from Emergency Management BC.   - Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review
In November, Kootenay–Columbia MP David Wilks (centre right) joined members of the Revelstoke HIghway Rescue Society to acknowledge their nomination and receipt of a road rescue award from Emergency Management BC.
— image credit: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review

Kootenay–Columbia MP David Wilks is visiting Revelstoke on Jan. 22, where he will discuss the issue of the damaged Revelstoke Highway Rescue truck with stakeholders, in addition to providing an update on his lobby for Trans-Canada Highway improvements.

Revelstoke’s highway rescue truck was severely damaged in a crash on Dec. 20, and city officials are looking to other levels of government for help replacing the expensive vehicle.

They argue it’s used extensively on provincial and federal highways, so those governments should help pay for the capital cost of the truck.  Provincial authorities have argued it’s not their responsibility to purchase a new truck.

When asked by the Times Review, Wilks wasn’t able to commit to funding, but his message will likely be welcomed by local groups lobbying for help replacing the truck.

“On Wednesday, I’ll go talk to Mayor [David] Raven and I will go see if there is something that maybe, potentially available for this type of scenario,” Wilks told the Times Review. “Seeing that this riding is unique to Canada because of the the three national parks that we have going through it … I think there may be a case for me to argue, that from time to time, there needs to be some funding available for the capital cost.”

Wilks said any federal solution would likely take the form of a capital contribution, but not operational funding. The MP said if federal departments  – Parks Canada for example – were to be involved in operating a rescue truck, they’d likely want jurisdiction over how it’s deployed. Operating a rescue vehicle with several layers of jurisdiction becomes “really problematic” and wouldn’t work, Wilks said.

He preferred to look for a one-time contribution. “I think that’s what I can do. I can go to maybe the Minister of Public Safety, or the Minister of Environment who oversees the three national parks, and say … a municipal and provincial vehicle is being used within the national parks for vehicle recovery and for motor vehicle accidents involving serious injury.”

The highway rescue truck is one of several topics Wilks with discuss at a noon-hour presentation to the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 22.

Wilks has lobbied with local and provincial government politicians for improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway, including submitting a PowerPoint presentation to the prime minister, and ministers for state, finance, transportation and the environment (the latter oversees Parks Canada).

He’s calling for a long-term plan that will cost in the range of $1–$1.5 billion.

“I said listen, this has to get done, because every year we bury our head in the sand, it costs us more,” Wilks said. “It’s not going to be cheap.”

“Let’s look at a 25- to 30-year plan, let’s be realistic about it, and let’s start it and let’s spread it out over 30 years with the ultimate goal of it being completed within 30 years. What that does from a capital perspective and an operational perspective is it spreads the money out over a long period of time.”

Wilks said this initiative differs from past Trans-Canada Highway initiatives because it focuses solely on the federal section of the highway through Parks Canada, and isn’t as dependent on provincial funding partnerships.

He said a long-term funding plan would provide a legacy that could outlast the government of the day.

Wilks will also present on the federal government’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations. The proposed bilateral free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union is under negotiation. Opponents of the proposed deal deride the plan as a corporate power grab masquerading as a free trade deal. They say it was negotiated in secret and will jack up the price of prescription drugs, pressure privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and restrict how local governments spend money.

Wilks will make the case for the deal.

 

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