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.
To strengthen the Province’s commitment to supporting rural communities and in recognition of the unique challenges and opportunities they face, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA 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.
With the release of Building on our Rural Advantages, the Province is also making targeted investments that will benefit rural communities throughout B.C., including Fraser-Nicola:
- $10 million to support new land-management initiatives across B.C. and Fraser-Nicola, including range fencing repairs and multi-year invasive plant management projects with partners such as regional weed committees, the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association and Ducks Unlimited.
- $79.6 million investment over the next two years to expand and update post-secondary campuses throughout the province, including Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in Merritt.
- $15 million over three years for trades equipment in B.C. secondary schools so students can explore the trades earlier in their education, including $106,200 in Nicola Similkameen and $82,987 in Gold Trail.
- $2 million invested in a provincial Rapid Response Fund, including $165,000 to connect workers in Merritt affected by the Tolko sawmill closure with training opportunities at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.
- Over $500,000 invested under the Rural Dividend Fund for seven projects throughout the Fraser-Nicola region, including $100,000 to support development of the City of Merritt’s economic action plan, $100,000 to develop and upgrade ORV trails in Logan Lake, and $100,000 for the Town of Princeton to create a one stop centre for business development and support for entrepreneurs.
- $60 million in funding for a long-term fix on Highway 99 northeast of Lillooet which will ensure that local Aboriginal communities such as the Xaxli’p and the other St’at’imc communities have reliable access to services and employment opportunities.
- An additional $4 million investment throughout the province over two years in the Provincial Livestock Fencing Program to help B.C. ranchers and farmers keep their livestock safe and businesses thriving.
- Provide rebates of up to $3,500 through a new Livestock Tag Reader Rebate Program so small ranchers can purchase equipment to enhance food safety and food traceability protocols.
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.:
- 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.”
Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola –
“Building on our Rural Advantages shows our government is listening to the concerns of rural communities like Lillooet, Ashcroft, and Merritt. These focused investments respond to the unique challenges and opportunities facing rural communities, creating sustainable growth and new jobs in rural B.C.”
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.”
Neil Menard, mayor of Merritt –
“Diversifying Merritt’s economy is one of our top priorities, and B.C.’s new rural strategy is making significant investments in our community through the Rural Dividend Fund and other programs to help us achieve this goal. We are looking forward to working with the provincial government to turn their long term vision for rural communities into reality.”
Julie VanKoll, president of the Merritt & District Chamber of Commerce –
“Our vision is to support small business development in the Nicola Valley. Targeted actions in this strategy like reducing the small business tax rate, increasing access to skills training, and breaking down the barriers to business and trade will help rural communities like ours attract the new investment and new talent we need to grow.”
- 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.
Stephen SmartPress Secretary Office of the Premier Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 778 389-6202
Bill AndersonCommunications Director Minister of State for Rural Economic Development Government Communications and Public Engagement Email: email@example.com 250 888-3381
With the release of B.C.’s rural economic development strategy, the Province is making immediate investments of $14,315,524 through the Rural Dividend Fund to help rural communities diversify and strengthen their economies, including $588,717 for seven projects in Fraser-Nicola.
Logan Lake will receive $100,000 to establish, upgrade or enhance a series of ORV trails and other trail expansion work.
Merritt is being awarded $100,000 for retention and attraction initiatives from the City of Merritt's Economic Development Action Plan and other related city plans.
Cache Creek will benefit from $32,000 to hire a consultant to develop an economic action plan to identify and analyse Cache Creek’s economic characteristics through community, local government and stakeholder engagement, analyse the local economy, and identify key opportunities that would grow and diversify the economy.
The T'it'q'et Administration is being awarded $100,000 for the completion of a comprehensive feasibility study and market assessment to grow the capacity and financial viability of the community’s agricultural and food businesses.
Lillooet will receive $56,717 to revitalize the Bridge of 23 Camels Gateway Pull-out, remove and replace damaged trees along the main street boulevard and salvage a large, historically-significant tree on the Miyazaki Heritage House property.
The Town of Princeton receives $100,000 to create a one stop centre for business information and development support for entrepreneurs wishing to start a new business, or grow their existing business.
Antares Project Services LLP will benefit from $100,000 for the development of 1.5 kilometres of trail outside Lillooet. Project includes trail network, signage, utility upgrades, and tour bus parking area.
These are seven of 109 grants being awarded to 42 local governments, 27 First Nations and 40 not-for-profit organizations throughout the province for single and partnership projects.
In February 2017, $756,591 in project development grants was awarded to help successful proponents develop strong single-applicant, or partnerships projects, that create or retain jobs and support economic diversity in their communities.
The $25-million-per-year Rural Dividend Fund was extended for a fourth year in Balanced Budget 2017. Funding is available in four categories:
- community capacity building;
- workforce development;
- community and economic development; and
- business-sector development.
Through the first two rounds of Rural Dividend funding has provided nearly $24 million to support projects that will diversify and strengthen the economy of rural communities throughout the province.
The third application intake will run from April 3, to May 31, 2017.