By Dan Rankin
New Perth-Wellington MP John Nater sat down before Perth South Council on Mar. 1 as part of a tour of the riding’s municipal councils to introduce himself and remind everyone of the federal services available to them from his riding offices in Stratford (at 59 Lorne Avenue, Unit A) and Harriston.
At this time of year, Nater said, they are seeing a large number of Canada Revenue Agency cases. “Anything to do with regular tax returns, benefit programs, so, child tax benefit, universal childcare benefit, disability tax credit,” he said. He also encouraged Council to point residents his way if they have issues with programs such as the Canada Pension Plan, employment insurance, retirement or disability benefits, old age security, immigration issues, and, generally, “anything to do with citizenship.”
Their Stratford office is in the same complex as MPP Randy Pettapiece’s office, Service Canada and OMAFRA, he said. “So, if we can’t help you, we can probably set you up with someone who can.”
After highlighting a few issues coming up in Ottawa in the near future, such as the federal budget on Mar. 22, Nater heard some questions and comments from staff and Council.
Treasurer Rebecca Clothier told Nater that the municipality has recently been denied funding on two separate occasions for the reason that the projects they had proposed “didn’t meet eligibility requirements.”
“Infrastructure funding is a huge challenge for us,” she said. “We don’t have transit. We don’t have ports. So, I think it’s imperative that the funding be distributed equally between urban and rural areas. Because to say that that’s an avenue for us to pursue, when really we don’t have anything that qualifies, really isn’t fair.”
“I agree completely,” said Nater. “That’s why I’m a big fan of the gas tax fund at the federal level. It provides that flexibility for municipalities to choose a road or bridge or culvert rather than be pigeonholed into a water/waste water project.”
He said he would be in favour of expanding the gas tax fund. “I think it’s the most efficient way of providing funds,” he said. “It’s equitable. It goes to the communities. I’d love to see that expanded. I’m not sure it will be.”
In the federal budget, Nater said he hopes the government follows through on the significant infrastructure commitment they ran on. “I’m hoping it will be an equitable distribution to both rural and urban ridings,” he said. “We’ll see what comes of that. My one concern with the infrastructure fund is that, as of right now, there’s not a difference between large cities and small rural communities. When you start funding an LRT project here and a subway there, it eats up that $20 billion fund pretty darn quickly. I’ll be intrigued to see where that money ends up going.”
Deputy Mayor Jim Aitcheson told Nater that, as he has found that “funding tends to go to areas that have representation,” he hopes that Nater will be “less confrontational than our provincial representative.”
“I am an opposition MP but I don’t see a reason why I can’t be collaborative and cooperative,” Nater replied. “We’re all representing the same people.”
Responding to a question from Coun. Bill Jeffrey, Nater said he is not in favour of proposed Cap and Trade environmental regulations. “The goal is to reduce carbon output,” he said. “It will effectively be a tax. That’s the way it’s being set up. It’s going to make a lot of things more expensive, especially when it factors down to diesel fuel, gasoline, home heating fuel – all that is going to increase in cost and I’m not in favour of that at this time.”