Fund that contributed to projects like Elk Falls Suspension Bridge in danger of running out of money

The Strathcona Regional District is calling on the federal government to step in and help save a program that has made projects such as the Elk Falls suspension bridge and airport runway extension possible.

The board decided at its Nov. 28 meeting to request that the Canadian government consider topping up the Island Coastal Economic Trust which is running out of money.

The Trust, commonly known as ICET, was established in 2006 by the provincial government with a $50 million base.

Those funds, which have been instrumental in helping coastal communities complete economic growth-generating projects, are dwindling.

Line Roberts, ICET’s chief executive officer, told the regional board of directors at last week’s board meeting that approximately $3.7 million is left.

Noba Anderson, Cortes Director, wanted to know if resolutions at the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities and the Union of BC Municipalities to renew ICET’s funding had any effect on the province.

“You’re getting near the end of your endowment,” Anderson said. “Has there been any word at all?”

Roberts replied that ICET is still waiting to hear back.

“We have not had any formal word about anything but I think this is a good opportunity time-wise seeing what the economic conditions have been in the province for the past five or so years,” Roberts said. “The economy is doing well this year, so there’s definitely a window of opportunity. Whether it happens or not, I don’t know.”

Roberts acknowledged the support ICET has received from the local area, noting that the number of voices the regional district has certainly helps.

The City of Campbell River, with the support of the Strathcona Regional District, brought forward the resolution to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities this spring calling on the province to renew the Trust to its original, $50 million level.

The resolution was brought to the city council table by Coun. Charlie Cornfield, a former ICET board member, last January.

At last week’s regional district board meeting, Cornfield affirmed his support for ICET.

“The model is extremely efficient and an excellent use of taxpayers’ dollars.”

It was Cornfield who brought forward the motion to lobby the federal government for an ICET top up.

“With the announcement that the federal government is looking at funding infrastructure (for municipalities), this would be an excellent opportunity for them to come in and support what previously had been a provincial initiative, so getting the feds to come in and do a 50/50 share,” Cornfield said.

That would be welcome news for Roberts.

“I’m hopeful that we will having funding in the long term,” she said. “That’s the vision we’re working with.”

ICET has provided more than $44.3 million to communities on the Sunshine Coast and on northern and central Vancouver Island since its inception.

It has made a total investment of $5.6 million, through 21 projects, in the Strathcona Regional District.

In Campbell River, ICET grants have included $2.3 million for the airport runway extension, $250,000 for the Downtown Revitalization project in and around the St. Ann’s block, as well as $325,000 for the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge and $153,000 for Tidemark Theatre improvements.

ICET claims that it has leveraged $4.7 of economic development investment for every $1 of the $50 million originally invested by the province.