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'Disappointing' federal budget leaves several B.C. asks unfilled


Provincial politicians are expressing disappointment the federal budget didn't allocate specific dollars for key infrastructure projects, and that a more robust plan for housing wasn't detailed.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, who is developing a "housing refresh strategy" for B.C., said he had impressed upon the federal government the importance of housing.

"We are building our strategy regardless of what the federal government was going to do. Certainly was hopeful they would recognize that housing is one of the (top) issues," added Kahlon.

He said the new policy would be made available soon.

Housing is a big priority for Premier David Eby connecting to issues like homelessness, public safety and mental health and addictions. Yet, ministers here say they didn't see anything that would expedite and fund more homes.

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said that was disappointing.

"We wanted a partnership. It's very hard to do everything we want to do without partnerships, so it's very important," Conroy said.

Also missing was any reference to the George Massey Tunnel replacement, and the Belleville terminal in Victoria. Not only is the Massey key to cross-border trade, it's the biggest traffic bottleneck in the province.

When the NDP formed government, it scrapped a BC Liberal plan for a bridge, opting for another tunnel instead. The Liberals are criticising the government for not acting fast enough, as Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming said a deal wasn't necessarily off the table.

"We wish that it was explicit in the budget but it doesn't mean there isn't funding consideration there. We heard the importance heard by (Dominic LeBlanc, federal infrastructure minister) and on two occasions the important expressed by Prime Minister Trudeau," he added.

There is excitement for a robust plan to get Canadians off their fossil fuel dependency.

The federal budget has funding to allow small businesses to get money to start clean energy projects. Plus, Crown corporations like BC Hydro will be eligible for tax credits, allowing them to build up a renewable source of energy.

Evan Pivnick, a policy manager for Clean Energy Canada said the money is a significant step towards renewables.

"We're going to talk wind, we're going to be talking solar, and I think we're going to even hear BC Hydro start to talk about that a lot more. I think there's also going to be a big conversation around Indigenous nations and the role they play in this. It's going to be hard to see in B.C. any project really going forward that doesn't have a substantial share, or in fact, full ownership by an Indigenous nation," Pivnick added.

Electrification, exploring hydrogen power, and mining for materials used in batteries are all industries that can get a boost as demand for power is expected to grow.

"We're trying to do the system we built in the last 100 years. We're trying to double or triple it in size in the next 20 to 30 years. It's a monumental undertaking, this starts to at least put those serious resources on the table to grasp that," explained Pivnick.

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