Campbell River will feature a new federal economic development office, which could help more voices from throughout the region be heard in Ottawa.
The creation of Pacific Economic Development Canada (Pacifican), a B.C.-specific offshoot of Western Economic Diversification Canada, was announced by the federal government on Aug. 5. As a part of this initiative, eight new offices will be created throughout the province, including a ‘service location’ in Campbell River.
North Island—Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wrote a letter to the Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly in February asking for one of the new offices to be located in the riding. She followed this with a call to constituents to support her request with letters of their own.
“It just feels really good that they listened,” said Blaney.
The new Campbell River service location will help local people share the realities they face in the region back to Ottawa directly, she said.
“What I think is so important in this, in the changing economies of Canada, is that rural and remote communities need to be represented more strongly,” said Blaney. “We need to have people that are actually working in our communities, sending that information back to Ottawa, so that Ottawa isn’t so disconnected.”
The announcement is a good news story for Campbell River and the North Island, said North Island MLA Michele Babchuk.
“It just recognizes that economic development piece — and having that office close by is something that is needed in the north end of Vancouver Island,” said Babchuk. “This is a great first step, and I’m just waiting to see what they get to bring to the table.”
The decision shows recognition of the challenges faced by the region’s three largest economic sectors of forestry, aquaculture and tourism, said Mayor Andy Adams.
“Having a development officer here and close by and working with the City of Campbell River, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) and the North Island communities will be critically important as we look to reinvent, recover and rebound,” said Adams.
The City of Campbell River has been holding internal discussions to help Pacific Economic Development identify a potential site for the new office, said Adams. It will be located in proximity to city hall and government and business offices in and around the city’s downtown core, he added.
A local federal economic development office, for which the city has advocated for about a decade, could help strengthen collaboration between levels of government, said Adams.
“Through the SRD and our relationships with the electoral areas and the other municipalities, in addition to the Mount Waddington Regional District and the Comox Valley Regional District, we have good collaboration locally,” he said. “Where we need the improvement of liaison is through the provincial economic development and federal economic development, so that we’re all operating on the same page.”
Blaney said she will continue to advocate for such a collaborative approach.
“We know that when we look at all levels of government funding, especially provincial and federal, they’re looking for cooperation (and) they’re looking for communities coming together,” she said. “So having an office in our region doing that work will be very important.”