The federal government has responded to criticism and agreed to expedite its $1 billion aid package for one-industry towns hurt by economic slowdowns in forestry and other trade-sensitive businesses.
When the aid was announced in January, it was to be included in the new federal budget, to be introduced this month. Quebec Premier Jean Charest joined federal opposition parties in calling for the aid to be approved immediately rather than risk being derailed by a possible defeat of the budget and an election.
Monday the minority Conservative government agreed to introduce legislation that would fast-track the aid, which gives $10 billion to each province and divides the remainder on a per-capita basis.
Bob Simpson, the B.C. NDP forest critic, called for a clear plan to spend B.C.’s share of the aid to help communities reeling from mill closures.
“The communities who depend on the forest industry for their survival need the government to finally take some action and ensure this federal money goes directly and immediately to those who need help most,” Simpson said.