Harper playing politics with economic aid package, says MP

  • Jan. 18, 2008 4:00 p.m.

New federal money earmarked for retraining workers in single-industry towns is being held hostage by the budget process, says the local MP. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he was shocked to hear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s $1 billion economic aid package, aimed at communities dependent on traditional industries like forestry, fishing and manufacturing, will only be doled out if the opposition parties pass the upcoming federal budget in March. According to Mr. Harper’s announcement, made on Jan. 10 at a lumber mill in New Brunswick, each province will get $10 million in base funding, while territories are set to receive $3 million. The remaining money in the trust will be divided among the provinces and territories on a per capita basis. Mr. Cullen said he is encouraged by the direction of the aid package, which is meant to support worker retraining, skills development and economic transition in struggling single-industry communities. But he suggests Mr. Harper strip politics out of the occasion and make the badly-needed money available now. Mr. Cullen was in Prince Rupert, where downturns in fisheries have been hard on local fishermen, the day the new federal funding was announced. “Prince Rupert families need money today, not tomorrow, so they can retrain for the future,” he said.

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