Area member of Parliament John Weston said some elements of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's recent budget has some impacts for the Sunshine Coast.
Among the initiatives either expanded upon or newly created in the budget, presented Feb. 11, are the expansion of the recreational fisheries partnership program (RFPP), new programs aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and rewarding Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers and ground search and rescue volunteers with a special tax credit. There are three RCM-SAR units that serve the Sunshine Coast: Gibsons, Halfmoon Bay and Pender Harbour and a very active ground search and rescue team on the Coast.
Available to those who perform at least 200 hours of service during a year, the special tax offers a 15 per cent tax credit on $3,000 of income for ground, air and marine search and rescue volunteers.
The government created the RFPP -which aims to help non-profit groups partner with federal officials on watershed and marine conservation habitat enhancement projects - with $10 million in the 2013 budget. This year, Flaherty - at the urging of Weston and other MPs - expanded the program with $15 million in new funding over the next two years.
Flaherty's budget also allocates some $44 million to combat prescription drug abuse in Canada. Weston, one of the sponsors of a 2013 private members' bill to create a national prescription drug drop-off day, said policing agencies and health-care professionals throughout the riding have helped lead the way in the fight against the abuse of opioids such as OxyContin. Such drugs can have positive effects when used properly but are often abused, leading to addiction and harmful side effects.
During the first, unofficial national prescription drug drop-off day last May, more than two tonnes of unwanted prescription drugs were collected and properly disposed of, Weston said. A similar event is being proposed this May.
"I've gotten together with pharmacists and doctors who have strongly supported the concept of disposal of unwanted prescription drugs," Weston said. "I think this will become part of the government's policy and not necessarily have to become a statute."
Weston was on the Sunshine Coast last Wednesday (Feb. 19) where he met with members of the Sunshine Coast Regional District and District of Sechelt and was a guest speaker at the Rotary Club of the Sunshine Coast-Sechelt.
- With files from David Burke, Squamish Chief
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