Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, announced funding for Campbell River trades education as well as for projects in six rural communities on the North Island Friday.
“It is a key commitment to building and diversifying economies in rural communities all across the province,” Thomson said.
Over the next three years, the government has committed $716,400 for trades equipment in Campbell River secondary schools to provide opportunities for students to explore trades earlier in their education.
They have also committed $7.5 million over the next three years to upgrade BC Wildfire Service facilities throughout the province, including the Quinsam fire base.
As part of the second intake of applications for the Rural Dividend Fund, six North Island communities have been awarded funds for projects.
The Regional District of Mount Waddington will receive $500,000 to establish a strategic economic development plan to create jobs in the forestry sector.
The Nanowakolas Council Society will receive $100,000 to deliver job readiness and skills training to youth.
Zeballos was awarded $91,720 to develop local walking trails.
The Dzawada’enuxw First Nation will receive $90,000 to hire and train local workers and develop an overnight accommodation business in Kingcome Village.
Port Alice has been designated $80,000 to support the redevelopment, expansion and increased services of a campground.
The Port McNeill Kids in Motion society is receiving $10,000 to develop a summer camp geared for local youth with a focus on physical activity, health and nutrition.
MLA for the region, Claire Trevena wasn’t impressed with the funding announcement, saying it will help a little bit, but it won’t be enough.
“It’s concerning that we are just getting rural dividend money, one, just before an election and secondly, what communities really need is a fair share,” she said. “They are the resources of our province, they are the backbone of our province and yet what they get are these little hand outs…when what you really need is a fair return on the resource that has come out of those communities.”
Along with the funding announcement, Thomson revealed the governments new rural economic development strategy, Building on our Rural Advantages.
Thomson said that the strategy’s key initiatives are to enhance skills training, increase economic competitiveness, attract new investment, expand opportunities for youth and partner with aboriginal communities.
“I know how important it is for our government to move forward with the rural economic development strategy,” he said.
According to the press release, the strategy and investments are expected to support up to 26,000 direct and indirect jobs with an overall impact of $2.8 billion to provincial GDP. Initiatives include $40 million to expand and enhance high-speed internet, extending the $25 million per-year Rural Dividend Fund another year and $150 million for the Forest Enhancement society of B.C.
The strategy also includes phasing out provincial sales tax on electricity purchases by April 2019 and reducing the small business tax rate to 2 per cent from 2.5 per cent effective April 2017.