Parks Canada received a major boost from the federal budget last month when it was promised $391 million over the next six years.
The money is to be allocated towards improving highways, bridges, dams and other infrastructure and comes as welcome news for residents of Eastern British Columbia and Kootenay/Columbia MP David Wilks.
“I’m delighted, I truly am. It’s not too often that you can get, within a budget, an actual commitment from the government on a certain part of your constituency that will be improved upon,” he said.
It remains unclear how the money will be spent, but road improvements through Glacier National Park has been identified as a high priority project.
Wilks recognizes that it will be his challenge to ensure that the highways receive proper attention.
“Now it’s my job to see how much money I can get of that $391 million,” he said. “Realistically I would like to be able to secure $80-100 million of that. I believe that’s a realistic request.”
Twinning the Trans-Canada Highway all the way through Glacier is a massive project that was estimated by Parks Canada to cost $1-2 billion, but Wilks believes it is important to get started as soon as possible.
“You have to start somewhere,” he said. “Whether it’s Yoho, Glacier or Mt. Revelstoke we need to get to the point where we can twin that highway. It’s the gateway to Vancouver…we need to have it more free-flowing.”
Developments on Highway 1 east of Golden, Wilks argues, have been a tremendous success, which only furthers the idea that more highway upgrades are generally worth the massive price tag.
“When you look at the improvements made on the Trans-Canada Highway (east of Golden) I don’t think there was anyone who could argue to say that it hasn’t been 100 or 200 percent better, if not 1000 times better.”
It is not yet known when decisions will be made regarding the allocated funds or exactly how much of the $391 million will be given to Parks Canada each year.