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MP Weiler checks in with Sechelt Chamber

Outreach events on housing, economic development, and the federal budget to come.
John Henderson Patrick Weiler
Patrick Weiler answered questions addressing key concerns for Coast businesses during a Feb. 3 Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce-hosted Zoom call.

Local Member of Parliament (MP), Patrick Weiler answered questions addressing key concerns for Coast businesses during a Feb. 3 Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce-hosted Zoom call.

One of the first discussion topics raised by event host and chamber board chair John Henderson was the local housing crisis. 

“Our real focus is on building more (housing) supply and working with municipalities,” Weiler said. He pointed to developments in the $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund, designed to help municipalities build housing more quickly by streamlining their own processes and looking at innovative ways to get more homes completed. He encouraged participation in a national online summit to advance conversations on how to speed up the creation of affordable housing.  That event is scheduled to be held with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in late February. The MP’s local constituency assistant, Donna Bell told Coast Reporter that she can assist groups interested in taking part, if they email her at [email protected].

Weiler said that the federal government is “also looking at ways to increase housing affordability by controlling speculation."

In response to a question about infrastructure funding for local governments, he said that the Canada Community Building Fund, previously known as gas tax funding, would be continuing.  He said that the form of that program extension may change, with his government “looking at new ways to get funding directly to municipalities."

On the heels of recent local government public budget consultations in our area, Weiler said he would be organizing online input opportunities for his constituents on the upcoming federal budget. His goal, he said, is to hear from the community and “to make sure that this budget is going to address the concerns that the Chamber and local business have.”

“The last couple of years have required unprecedented spending on the part of the federal government…the upcoming budget will be a very prudent budget…spending will be going down.”

The MP said that the Coast will not be one of the eight locations for satellite offices for the new Pacific Economic Development Canada agency. However, he is looking to organize a local outreach event with the minister responsible, Harjit Sajjan. Weiler said he wants to ensure information on programs available from the agency, including tourism relief funding is provided and to emphasize how the new agency can work with established economic development supports like Community Futures and Island/Coastal Economic Development.

Concerns about labour shortages, on the Coast and nationwide were raised during the event. When questioned about bringing skilled workers into the country, Weiler admitted that 1.8 million immigration applications were currently backlogged. To help address that situation, he outlined that new immigration processing systems are being implemented and 500 additional staff have been hired. Even with 2021 setting a record for the number of new immigrants welcomed, the MP said there are an estimated 800,000 unfilled jobs in Canada. He noted that developments within the temporary foreign workers program have resulted processing times being reduced to two week for new applications from previously approved employers.

On the subject of affordable childcare, Weiler said that federal signed agreements in June 2021 in which each province committed to reducing childcare costs by half by the end of 2022. Further reductions to bring costs to a $10 per day rate within five years were also committed to. Weiler said that while cost reductions have already been implemented in Alberta, it is up to the BC government to implement changes locally, as well as to create the 40,000 new spaces that it committed to.