Leaders Announce Three New Federal-Provincial Agreement

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell announced three important federal-provincial agreements today and hailed them as evidence of the exceptionally “collaborative and effective” relationship between their two governments.

“These agreements reflect our Government’s commitment to the federalism of openness, an approach to federal-provincial relations that relies on respect for jurisdiction and productive collaboration to get things done for Canadians,” Prime Minister Harper said. “The positive working relationship between Ottawa and British Columbia is an excellent example of the success of our new approach. Our Governments have worked together very effectively on a number of important projects during the last two years.”

“Prime Minister Harper is acting on his commitment to give provinces the flexibility to tailor programs to their particular circumstances, recognizing that there can be different ways across the country to meet common objectives,” Premier Campbell said. “The federal government has given us additional tools to help forest workers in response to global economic forces, invest in public transit infrastructure, and enhance public safety. I thank his government for the commitment they have made to British Columbia.”

Through the new agreements, the Government of Canada will provide new federal funding over the next three to five years to assist workers and communities in the ailing forest industry, expand public transit, and hire more front-line police officers. The funding represents B.C.’s share of the national Community Development Trust, Public Transit Capital Trust 2008, and Police Officers Recruitment Fund. The two leaders also discussed a pilot project that will be undertaken by the new, federally-funded Mental Health Commission of Canada to deal with problems of homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse among residents of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

Community Development Trust monies will support forestry-related provincial initiatives to provide skills training and upgrading for laid-off workers, provide transition assistance to older workers, and create new job opportunities in the forest dependent communities. The Public Transit funding will be directed to the Evergreen Line linking Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam, and connecting with SkyTrain, as part of the province’s ambitious plan to double public transit ridership and significantly reduce auto emissions. The Police Officers Recruitment Fund will improve public safety and security by putting more officers on the streets, particularly to combat organized crime and gang violence.

Prime Minister Harper made the announcements during a speech to the Business Council of British Columbia about the federal government’s balanced approach to fiscal and economic policy. The Prime Minister noted that over the course of three budgets and two economic statements introduced by the Government and passed by Parliament, roughly half the fiscal allocations for the five years between 2006 and 2010 have gone to tax cuts, with the remainder evenly split between debt reduction and new spending.

”In these uncertain economic times, Canadians want lower taxes, less debt and carefully targeted assistance that helps workers, families, communities and businesses build a better future,” the Prime Minister said. He also praised Premier Campbell’s Government for moving to lower corporate tax rates, as the federal Government has been urging all provinces to do, saying it was necessary to strengthen the Canadian economy against short-term international economic turbulence and set the conditions for long-term prosperity.

“History has proven over and over again that a balanced approach to fiscal policy, based on low taxes, minimal debt and disciplined spending, creates a sturdy foundation for a strong, successful economy,” Prime Minister Harper said. “And broader economic policies must be shaped around building strong, long-term fundamentals that are forward-looking, not bailouts of yesterday’s problems.”