Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo is enjoying political life and the accomplishments his government has made during the past year.
“It’s been a great year, with significant highway and infrastructure improvements,” he said, noting he was particularly pleased with the Malakwa Bridge project, which was on time and on budget, as well as the advancement of the Perry River bridge project.
Also high on his satisfaction list is the $162.7 million improvement for six kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway and a new Salmon River Bridge.
“Transportation Minister Todd Stone said this is the single largest infrastructure project outside of the Lower Mainland in the last 10 years,” said Kyllo, who is also pleased construction will begin in the spring on 33 new units at Enderby Memorial Terrace – a collaborative project between BC Housing and the Enderby and District Senior Citizens Society. Another significant project, he said, is the new $7.4 million roundabout at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 97A.
“Last year, the province announced $30 million over three years,” he said of a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure fund for intersection safety improvements. “There’s only $10 million a year and to have $7.4 in the Shuswap is exciting.”
As well as celebrating his government accomplishments in the Shuswap, Kyllo defended the Liberals on a number of fronts.
“We have been producing natural gas for about 60 years and there has been no report of fracking affecting drinking water,” he said, contending water reservoirs are about 100 to 3,000 feet below the Earth’s surface, whereas the majority of fracking takes place at a much deeper level.
Kyllo maintains fracking, which has been used in B.C. for “upwards of 60 years,” has provided cost-effective access to resources and the opportunity to sell the resources elsewhere. Solar, he says, is not as cost-effective.
In answer to fierce opposition to expanding the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Kyllo says that before the company began carrying oil to Vancouver in 1953, most of the commodity arrived in the port by tanker.
“Saying no to pipelines is saying hello to increased tanker traffic,” he says, noting the benefit to B.C. and Canada in getting products to other markets without going through the U.S.
He says along with the pipeline’s approval, the federal government has approved $1.5 billion in funding for increased marine monitoring and skills response.
“It’s up to B.C. to work with the feds on insuring safety guards are in place,” he says.
The province has also been working with Ottawa on a new federal health accord, which was unanimously rejected by provincial premiers during the week of Dec. 19.
“In B.C., 42 to 46 cents of every dollar is spent on health care – that’s astronomical, up to $18 billion,” Kyllo said, noting Health Minister Mike de Jong was making a case for increased funding for this province, which has an older age demographic.
“Because B.C. is so beautiful, people retire here, putting higher cost pressures for health care,” Kyllo says, pointing out the province believes it is underfunded by $350 million when age demographics are taken into account.
Kyllo defends the practice of charging B.C. taxpayers for MSP premiums when other Canadian provinces do not. He says it contributes only $2.4 billion, or 14 per cent of the total cost of health care. As well, he noted that out of 4.7 million British Columbians, one million pay reduced premiums or nothing at all.
Defending the Liberal government’s drive to maintain a balanced budget in order to access the best borrowing rates, Kyllo says, Victoria will present its fourth balanced budget in 2017.
“We are on track to have our entire operating debt written off in 2019 and that’s the first time since 1954,” he says. “There’s no better gift we can give our kids than that.”
Regarding the year ahead, Kyllo says he never takes his position as MLA for granted. He says there are some “pretty significant” developments to unfold and a fairly extensive list of projects.
But, as much as he thrives on political life, Kyllo says family is more important.
Prior to Christmas and looking forward to spending time with his family, he said “the real big news is we had a couple of grandkids last year and we finally got a grandson after 27 years of girls arriving in the family of four daughters and five granddaughters.”