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Posted: March 3, 2017

Rural Economic Development Strategy released

$128,000 being invested in East Kootenay

By Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

Premier Christy Clark and Minister of State For Rural Economic Development Donna Barnett today released the province’s rural economic development strategy, detailing immediate investments and a long-term action plan to support rural communities.

‘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.

The investments mentioned 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, an Office of the Premier and Minister of State for Rural Economic Development press release related.

Rural communities throughout B.C. will also benefit from immediate targeted investments through provincial economic development programs including the Rural Dividend Fund, Youth Trades Capital Equipment Program, the B.C. Side Roads Program, Connecting British Columbia Grant Funding, and the Canada – B.C. Job Grant, the press release said.

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,” Clark stated.

With the release of B.C.’s rural economic development strategy, the province is making immediate investments of $14,315,524 through the Rural Dividend Fund to help rural communities diversify and strengthen their economies, including $128,000 for three projects in the East Kootenay.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council Society will receive $100,000.00 for the development of a comprehensive market access strategy that will enhance the value of locally produced goods and create new economic opportunities.

The City of Cranbrook will receive $20,000 for a feasibility analysis of intensive fibre recovery from Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) treated lands. The grant will also support the evaluation of an economically viable model for addressing low-value biomass recovery in the WUI impacting the City of Cranbrook and other interior, rural communities.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett

The Elkford Women’s Task Force will receive $8,000 to gather information on childcare resources in the Elk Valley and make it available through a brochure and online. This project will benefit families in the Elk Valley area.

These are three of 109 grants being awarded to 42 local governments, 27 First Nations and 40 not-for-profit organizations throughout the province for single and partnership projects.

“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.,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald (BCNDP) doesn’t see things that way, wondering what advantages rural British Columbians get from the province’s chief economic driver, Lower Mainland real estate.

“I think people understand the B.C. economy is primarily based around real estate in the Lower Mainland. It’s not an economy that broadly benefits a lot of people,” he told e-KNOW, adding many challenges remain for rural British Columbians.

“The suggestion it (B.C.) is booming is more propaganda than anything else,” Macdonald said, noting the timing of this announcement.

“It’s pre-election,” he said. “This government is always in a constant campaign mode. This is full on pre-election. And there isn’t much in it that is very substantive.”

Macdonald also said the strategy’s claim about job creation “is fictional” and sees “an element of a slush fund” for the BC Liberals in the Rural Dividend Fund.

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