Building on the economic benefits and jobs created by getting to yes on major projects and provincial investments in infrastructure, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett today announced immediate investments and a long-term action plan outlined in B.C.’s rural economic development strategy that will create jobs and economic opportunities in the Kootenays.
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 good-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 the Kootenays:
- $15-million investment for trades equipment in support of youth trades programs throughout the province, including $69,007 in Southeast Kootenay.
- Invest $79.6 million over the next two years to expand and update post-secondary campuses throughout the province, including College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.
- $270 million over three years under the Side Roads Program to support rural road infrastructure across the province, including $1.5 million through for sealcoat on the Fording Mine Road near Elkford, providing direct jobs and improving transportation infrastructure.
- The recently completed $2.2-million project to replace the Irishman Creek Bridge on Highway 3 east of Yahk.
- $128,000 through the Rural Dividend Fund for three projects, including $100,000 for the Ktunaxa Nation Council Society to develop a comprehensive market access strategy, $20,000 for a City of Cranbrook study on the viability of recovering wood fibre from the wildland-urban interface, and $8,000 to help the Elkford Women’s Task Force create a database of local childcare providers for working families.
- Rebates of up to $3,500 through a new Livestock Tag Reader Rebate Program so small ranchers in the Kootenays 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.”
Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East –
“Building on our Rural Advantages shows our government is listening to the concerns of rural communities in Kootenay East. These focused investments respond to the unique challenges and opportunities facing rural communities, creating sustainable growth and new jobs in rural B.C.”
- 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.