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MP David Wilks addresses Bill C-38 critics at Revelstoke meeting

David Wilks addresses his constituents at the Best Western Hotel Tuesday morning. - Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review
David Wilks addresses his constituents at the Best Western Hotel Tuesday morning.
— image credit: Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review

Note: This article has been updated since it was first published online.

Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks said he will vote against the Conservative government's omnibus budget bill, but only if 12 other government MPs vote with him.

"I will stand up and say the Harper government should get rid of Bill C-38," he told a gathering of about 30 constituents at the Best Western Hotel in Revelstoke Tuesday morning.

However, he added that he alone couldn't stop the bill and 12 other Conservative MPs would have to vote against the government bill with him for him to do so.

And that, has zero chance of happening, he said after the meeting.

Wilks made the initial comments to the group of constituents, all of whom expressed opposition to the Conservative government's 420-page budget bill, which lumps together a number of measures, including wide-sweeping changes to Canada's environmental regulations.

Wilks was presented with several letters and a petition opposing Bill C-38. People spoke out against the changes to the Fisheries Act, that would see habitat protection removed from it; and the changes to the Species at Risk Act that weaken it.

They expressed opposition to Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta's tar sands to the B.C. coast. Bill C-38 puts the final decision on pipeline projects in the hands of cabinet.

"We're getting it from all sides on Enbridge. I'm not as convinced as some people are that Enbridge will go ahead," Wilks said.

They called out the Conservative government for cuts to Parks Canada, which include six employees at the Revelstoke unit. The $8 million set aside in the budget to investigate environmental charities was also brought up.

"If you didn't spend $8 million investigating charities, everyone at Parks Canada would still have a job," Meghan Anderson told Wilks.

Claude Awad, an active member of the Occupy Revelstoke group, raised a number of issues around the erosion of democracy and the increasing power of big corporations. He also criticized the government for its spending on the military and prisons and brought up the potential costs of the F-35 fighter jet program. He asked Wilks what the Conservative vision of Canada's future is.

"I look at it from the perspective that of we want Canada to be vibrant and find ways to meet our obligations worldwide, whatever they are, we have to plan for 15 years from now," Wilks replied.

Throughout the meeting Wilks was on the defensive as various elements of Bill C-38 were criticized, notably the environmental changes. That lead Brendan Ginter to ask him if there was anything he liked about the budget bill.

Wilks said he like the idea of one project, one environmental review and cited challenges faced by mining companies in the Elk Valley area where he is from.

He also gave support for the $150 million fund for municipal infrastructure improvements.

Antoinette Halberstadt, a former Revelstoke city councillor and active member of the opposition NDP had some of the strongest words for Wilks.

"Our Canada will be destroyed by Bill C-38 and I will be mourning our Canada," she said.

While Wilks did not speak strongly about Bill C-38 at the meeting, he did speak in favour of it in the House of Commons.

"Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking today on budget 2012, which is going to be keeping our taxes low and returning Canada to a balanced budget over the medium term, which is good news for Canadians," he told Parliament on May 10.

He also spoke in support of the Enbridge pipeline and the changes to the environmental review process.

Claude Awad recorded part of the meeting on his camera.

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