Anybody notice a lot of federal government officials on the Island lately?
A federal cabinet minister says it is “extremely important” for Vancouver Island to have a voice in the government, but rejects suggestions the recent flurry of government announcements owes something to the upcoming federal election.
Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, made that statement during Tuesday’s media appearance in Saanich.
“I have made that statement many times before, and certainly I look forward to the prospect of the re-election of the Liberal government,” he said.
“Of course, that is something that Canadians will have to opine on Oct. 21. But we certainly will be working hard through the campaign to communicate the work we have done, and the work we plan to do going forward if in fact we are re-elected. And if we are re-elected, I think it is extremely important that Vancouver Island is part of that.”
Wilkinson made that statement after re-announcing the federal government’s first-time home buyer incentive first announced during the 2019 federal budget, and almost exactly 24 hours after he had announced more than $16 million towards a “flyover” overpass at Keating Cross Road in Central Saanich.
Several hours later, Wilkinson stood outside Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site on the West Shore.
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Wilkinson was in North Saanich in late June to unveil a new coast guard ship, and in Saanich in January to announce new funding for ocean research.
Last week, Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, visited Oak Bay. She had also visited the region in April, meeting with regional mayors, and chose Saanich to announce conservation measures in southeastern British Columbia, a fact officially owed to the logistics of staging an event in a snow-covered, high alpine region.
In July, Marc Garneau, minister of transportation and infrastructure, announced $46.2 million to expand the Port of Nanaimo’s Duke Point terminal.
When asked about the recent flurry of announcements, Wilkinson said he “probably comes to Greater Victoria at least every two months” to make an announcement concerning his department or the departments of cabinet colleagues.
“I haven’t been probably for two months, so it’s pretty much on schedule to be here,” he said. “The same is true for my colleagues. We are travelling the country, as we are always travelling the country. At a certain point, once the campaign begins, obviously we begin to focus on a different exercise, an exercise in democracy. But at this stage we are the government, and part of what Canadians expect is we are going to be continuing to do the work that they elected us to do.”
He struck a similar tone, when asked about re-announcing a program — the first first-time home buyer incentive — first announced in the 2019 budget.
“It actually starts on Sept. 2,” he said. “We want to ensure that all of those that have the opportunity to benefit from this in terms of first-time home buyers are aware of the program, and are looking at this as a way to enable them to achieve home ownership.”
When asked whether cynics might interpret Monday’s announcement as an election ploy, Wilkinson shrugged.
“Cynics can say what cynics say, but I would say to you that folks who actually want to achieve home-ownership would like to understand when a program actually begins…so I think it is responsible government to be communicating the work that the government is doing, and that is what we are doing today.”