Central Okanagan MPs grab some free publicity before election writ is dropped | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Central Okanagan MPs grab some free publicity before election writ is dropped

West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom (left) and Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr pose for a photo at a federal funding extension announcement for the Rose Valley water treatment plant in West Kelowna, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2019.
September 10, 2019 - 3:50 PM

KELOWNA - The two MPs representing Central Okanagan ridings got some free media coverage in West Kelowna today just ahead of the formal election campaign when they no longer will be attending such funding announcements.

The event in West Kelowna today, Sept. 10, falls within the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding held by Conservative MP Dan Albas, but it was Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr who got all the glory.

Hosted by West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom, the announcement was for a two-year extension to the Rose Valley water treatment construction project that’s funded 50 per cent by the federal government.

While Milsom thanked Albas and MLA Ben Stewart for their lobbying efforts, he singled out Fuhr for particular praise for lobbying Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

“MP Fuhr provided unwavering support for our cause,” Milsom said. “In fact, we’re told that MP Fuhr called Minister Champagne’s office so much about this matter that his number is now blocked by the Minister.”

Fuhr appears to be banking on these efforts to pry loose federal money from his own government. In his official launch of his re-election campaign, Fuhr said: “In the last four years we went above party lines and delivered over $160 million of vital investments right here, in our home.”

When asked by iNFOnews.ca about today’s announcement (which is not part of that $160 million) being good timing, Fuhr agreed.

“I’ll take the timing, sure,” he said, noting the next funding announcement he has scheduled is for Okanagan College tomorrow. He did say he knew about the treatment plant funding extension six or seven weeks ago but it took some time to arrange the announcement.

Since he expects the election writ to be dropped this week, that will be the last opportunity for that type of publicity before the Oct. 21 election. But it will likely add to his $160 million tally which, he says, is probably low and that the money is much more than the previous government brought to Kelowna-Lake Country.

For his part, Albas told iNFOnews.ca that he arranged a face-to-face meeting at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention between Acting Mayor Stephen Johnston and other members of West Kelowna council  and Champagne which, he said, was extremely helpful in securing the extension.

Albas would not give an estimate of how many federal dollars he helped bring to his riding but agreed that he shared the credit for the West Kelowna project.

Work on all infrastructure projects was delayed for a year because of fires and floods, Fuhr said, but because West Kelowna had to find and buy land rather than use provincial land, the Rose Valley project could not be finished within the infrastructure program’s deadlines.

Senior governments are paying $41 million towards the project, with the federal government’s share being 50 per cent ($24.7 million) and the province’s share being 33 per cent.

Milsom said the final costs aren’t yet known. The land added $1 million and other changes have to be made to the project because of the new location. Ratepayers will make up the rest of the cost.

The water treatment plant will service about 18,000 people once West Kelowna Estates, Pritchard and Sunnyside are included.

 — This story was corrected at 8:20 a.m., Sept. 11, 201,9 to clarify who was at the meeting that Albas arranged with Champagne.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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