Building on the economic benefits and jobs created by getting to yes on major projects and provincial investments in infrastructure, Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier 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 Peace River region.
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 Peace River region:
- $79.6-investment million over the next two years to expand and update post-secondary campuses throughout the province, including Northern Lights College in Peace River.
- $10 million to support new land management initiatives across B.C. and the Peace River region, 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.
- $15 million over three years for trades equipment in B.C. secondary schools so students can explore the trades earlier in their education, including $66,367 in Peace River South.
- An increase to $15 million from $9.75 million for the Bred Heifer Association Loan Guarantee and the Feeder Association Loan Guarantee so ranchers in the Peace River region can buy additional cattle and benefit from current strong North American prices.
- $7.5 million over three years to upgrade BC Wildfire Service facilities throughout the province, creating jobs and improving safety in communities including Chetwynd.
- Invest an additional $4 million across the province and communities throughout the Peace River region over two years in the Provincial Livestock Fencing Program to help B.C. ranchers and farmers keep their livestock safe and businesses thriving.
- Over $860,000 under the Rural Dividend fund for six projects, including $385,000 for the Dawson Creek’s Community Futures Peace Liard Project to provide workshops and support programs to help community members start, sustain and expand small businesses, $100,000 for the Invasive Species Council of B.C. to train and certify workers in five Peace River region communities, $100,000 for the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark Society to develop interpretive programs and improve signage and displays, $100,000 to allow the District of Tumbler Ridge to develop a range of strategic business retention and investment plans, $99,300 for West Moberly First Nations to renovate a heritage conservation and display centre and strengthen its management infrastructure, and $79,816 to help the Tansi Friendship Centre Society in Chetwynd to deliver a training and employment program.
- Investing more than $677,000 in Obair Economic Society, Dawson Creek Literacy Society and the Northeast Aboriginal Business Centre to deliver four skills-training programs for job seekers from communities in the northeast region.
- 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.”
Mike Bernier, MLA for Peace River South –
“Building on our Rural Advantages is a sign that rural communities in Peace River South have been heard by this government. From extended access to high-speed internet, to reducing small business taxes for rural entrepreneurs these focused investments respond to the unique challenges and opportunities facing rural communities, creating sustainable growth and new jobs in rural B.C.”
Sarah Waters, executive director of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark Society –
“I would like to thank the B.C. government for this Rural Dividend Fund grant. It is really going to make a difference with our organization as it will help us in our work to share our program with the whole region as well as allow us to develop our education program and work with local schools. This money also benefits local businesses that work with us and help promote our region.”
Beth Wilson, executive director of the Obair Economic Society –
“The funding provided to the Obair Economic Society through the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers and Job Readiness programs has allowed us to make a positive impact in the lives of people in the Peace region of B.C. The projects we run with this funding help people become employed in a changing work environment. We at Obair know that as individuals prosper so do families, employers, and the community at large. Since 1987 our society has assisted over 8,000 people to make changes in their lives, and I am always uplifted to have played a small part in those positive results. In collaboration with our governments, I look forward to continuing to serve our community.”
- 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.