Building on the economic benefits and jobs created by getting to yes on major projects and provincial investments in infrastructure, Premier Christy Clark and Minister of State For Rural Economic Development Donna Barnett today released the Province’s rural economic development strategy, detailing immediate investments and a long-term action plan to support thriving rural communities.
Building on our Rural Advantages: B.C.’s Rural Economic Development Strategy outlines the Province’s three-pronged approach to build, strengthen, and diversify rural communities. These investments are expected to support up to 26,600 direct and indirect jobs with an overall impact of $2.8 billion to provincial GDP. Targeted initiatives include $40 million to expand and enhance high-speed Internet and an extension of the $25-million Rural Dividend Fund to reinvigorate and diversify more local economies. These will ensure British Columbians in all regions of the province have the opportunity for well-paying jobs and a high quality of life in their community.
Rural communities throughout B.C. will also benefit from immediate targeted investments through provincial economic development programs including the Rural Dividend Fund, Youth Trades Capital Equipment Program, the B.C. Side Roads Program, Connecting British Columbia Grant Funding, and the Canada – B.C. Job Grant.
To strengthen the Province’s ongoing commitment to support rural communities and in recognition of the unique challenges and opportunities they face, MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin Donna Barnett was recently appointed Minister of State for Rural Economic Development. Building on our Rural Advantages delivers on a key priority in the minister of state’s mandate letter.
The rural strategy is a key commitment of the 5-Year Jobs Plan Update, which recognized the need for focused action to support rural communities. The new targeted actions outlined in the strategy build on the significant investments in Balanced Budget 2017 and respond to what government heard directly from British Columbians living in rural communities. To that end, the strategy includes immediate investments that will lay the foundation for economic diversification in rural B.C.:
- Invest $10 million in 2017-18 for multi-year projects to manage invasive plant species that can cause significant economic and environmental damage in B.C., and to replace Crown-owned range fencing.
- A significant $40-million investment to extend high-speed Internet access to rural and remote B.C. communities, bringing faster broadband speeds that will create new economic opportunities and lay the foundation for new investment and jobs in B.C.’s burgeoning tech industry.
- Extending the $25-million Rural Dividend Fund for a fourth year to support the strength and sustainability of small rural communities.
- $150 million for the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia to plant tens of millions more trees, which will help fight climate change and create over 3,000 jobs in rural British Columbia.
- Begin phasing out provincial sales tax on electricity purchases by reducing it to 3.5% on Oct. 1, 2017, and eliminating it by April 1, 2019. This will improve business competitiveness and economic performance, especially for resource industries that are key to rural B.C. such as commercial agriculture, forestry and mining.
- Reduce the small business tax rate to 2% from 2.5%, effective April 2017, which means B.C. will have the second-lowest small business tax in Canada.
Premier Christy Clark –
“B.C.’s rural economies and natural resource industries are at the backbone of our economy, and are shouldering the risk posed by the global downturn in commodity prices. These challenges require immediate action to support our rural communities and a long-term plan that builds on our rural advantages to create jobs and diversify our economy.”
Donna Barnett, Minister of State for Rural Economic Development –
“Creating the conditions for rural British Columbia to grow and thrive is a key priority for our government. Building on our Rural Advantages gives rural British Columbians the tools to shape their own future, and reflects the importance we place on the workers, families and businesses who reside in in the rural areas of the province.”
Ken Tourand, president and CEO of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology –
“As B.C.’s Aboriginal public post-secondary Institute, NVIT delivers programming in approximately 20 rural and remote communities every year. This strategy, and the Province’s investment in $40 million to improve Internet connectivity in rural communities, will provide new opportunities to rural British Columbians who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the skills training and educational resources. These investments are critical to increasing quality of life and economic opportunities in rural B.C., and will go a long way to encouraging young people to learn and build their careers in communities like Merritt.”
Craig Pryor, manager, Valemount Community Forest Company –
“The Rural Dividend Grant we received is a major step to rebuild our manufacturing industry that collapsed in 2006. It allows the Valemount Community Forest to access up to date knowledge on our wood supply and gives us confidence to sustainably maximize our fibre flows. We are very grateful for the support from the BC Rural Dividend Program and are excited to begin the project”.
Clarence Louie, chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band –
“The B.C rural economic development strategy outlines a strong commitment to partnering with First Nations to ensure full access to development and growth opportunities. I am looking forward to working with the province to ensure this strategy creates new opportunities for the Osoyoos Indian Band in areas such as agriculture, eco-tourism, commercial, industrial, and residential development.”
Pat Corbett, past chair of Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association –
“The Province’s rural economic development strategy recognizes that every community in B.C. benefits when our rural communities are strong. These targeted investments throughout rural British Columbia will provide real and substantial benefits to communities throughout Cariboo-Chilcotin.”
David Formosa, mayor of Powell River –
“I would give the rural economic development strategy an ‘A’ grade. A group of rural mayors asked the provincial government to exempt the resource industry from the PST on electricity – and the Province delivered. This change and other investments in this strategy to support economic diversification are great news for rural communities like Powell River that rely on B.C.’s natural resource sector.”
Val Litwin, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce –
"As B.C.'s largest and most broadly-based business organization, our strength lies in our province-wide network of businesses that hail from every nook and cranny of B.C. The targeted actions in this strategy, like reducing the small business tax rate, increasing access to skills training and breaking down the barriers to doing business will drive innovation and growth in rural communities that ultimately strengthen B.C.'s entire economy."
- The Province will invest $3.6 billion in economic development activities targeted at rural communities in 2016/17. These investments support key initiatives including capital investments, improving connectivity and transportation infrastructure, providing close-to-home skills training, increasing economic competitiveness, attracting new investment, expanding opportunities for youth, and partnering with Aboriginal communities.
- The Province invests over $2.2 billion each year in total skills training and education for rural areas across B.C.
- As of March 2017, the Rural Dividend Fund has provided communities of less than 25,000 residents with nearly $24 million to reinvigorate and diversify local economies.
To find out more about the BC Rural Economic Development Strategy, visit: https://bcjobsplan.gov.bc.ca/b-c-s-rural-economic-development-strategy/
To find out more about the BC Jobs Plan, visit: engage.gov.bc.ca/bcjobsplan
To find out more about Balanced Budget 2017, visit: bcbudget.ca
To find out more information about the #BCTech Strategy, visit: bctechstrategy.gov.bc.ca
To find out more about career planning and B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, visit: workbc.ca/blueprintbuilder
To find out more about the BC Rural Advisory Council, visit: gov.bc.ca/ruraladvisorycouncil
A backgrounder follows.