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Rookie Tory MP backtracks on opposition to budget bill

A screengrab from a Youtube video of Conservative MP David Wilks speaking to constituents about the omnibus budget bill.

A rookie Tory MP from British Columbia is restating his support for his government's omnibus budget bill after publicly musing that he'd be open to breaking ranks and voting against the legislation.

David Wilks issued a statement Wednesday on his website in an effort to "clarify" his position regarding the budget legislation.

"I support this bill, and the jobs and growth measures that it will bring for Canadians in Kootenay-Columbia and right across the country," the statement reads.

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The statement's careful wording is in sharp contrast to his candid assessment of Ottawa politics and the frustrations of Conservative backbenchers that he shared with his constituents at a casual meeting Tuesday morning. Parts of the meeting were captured on video and posted on Youtube.

The Revelstoke Times Review reported on the meeting, stating that the MP vowed to vote against the budget bill if - a "big if" he stressed - 12 other government MPs vote with him.

"I will stand up and say the Harper government should get rid of Bill C-38," he was quoted as saying.

The report also quotes the MP saying that he's hearing a lot of concern about the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that would link the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

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

The Conservative government is a strong supporter of the Enbridge pipeline proposal and the budget bill contains extensive changes to environmental regulations that would speed up the regulatory approval process for such projects.

According to the news report, the audience at the Tuesday meeting included at least one member of the Occupy Revelstoke group and all of the roughly 30 participants were opposed to the sweeping nature of the budget bill.

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In the video of the meeting posted online, the Conservative MP said he and his colleagues are concerned by the lack of internal debate and input that backbenchers have in government policy.

"Certainly it concerns some of us backbenchers [that]the decisions are made predominantly by the cabinet and then they come back to us informing us how this is going to move forward. Some backbenchers, including myself, can go meet with [Finance Minister Jim]Flaherty, or [Natural Resources Minister Joe]Oliver or [Environment Minister Peter]Kent or whomever it may be that you want to meet with, but at the end of the day, in my opinion, they've made up their mind and this is how it's going to move forward and one person is not going to make a difference. One MP is not going to make a difference."

Also in the video, Mr. Wilks is asked how he can approve a bill that contains so many different measures.

"I think you'll find a barrage of Conservatives that do hold your concerns, and I am one of them," he said. "I do believe that some could be separated out."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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